This is the second half of a story started here.
It was the most unforgiving turn I’ve seen in my life…a life that’s given me the great fortune of a ride down the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to San Francisco. The damn thing was 180 degrees and it was flat around a cliff that rose from street level to the sky, giving no indication of the intensity at which you’d be reeling around to the left.
We were driving too fast, admittedly. We were joyously on vacation and as typically overzealous as a group of teenagers might be expected to be, and we hit that turn way, way too fast.
It all happened too quickly to comprehend and so slowly I’ll never forget a millisecond I spent rolling over in that Lincoln Sabre.
I wasn’t wearing seatbelt, the only one so stupid, if I remember correctly.
I remember slapping my arms to the side of the car for a grip as the automobile, having slid for a few seconds in the gravel divider, caught the grassy edge outside the pavement and bucked out towards the sky, all four of us immediately frozen in the moment before an experience you realize might change or end your life. I held out for the crash, pinned to the car door and front seat divider.
We only rolled over once…not fully around but plunked on our top, car upside down.
The crunched windshield was inches from my forehead, and I was still clutching the tan leather armrest with all my might as things settled.
Stunned, us boys yelled at the girls to confirm they were okay. Yelled again to confirm again and then again.
Alive? Alive…everyone alive? Hurt? Everyone’s okay?!
Things felt smoky and dangerous and we wasted absolutely no time crawling out the back left hole where there’d been a window. The tough part was getting everyone unbuckled.
We’re so lucky sometimes. All of us. You. Me.
Sometimes we’re just so damn lucky.
Four of us sat alongside the barron county road, shocked and crying, terrified of every adult that would undoubtedly enter this experience with nothing but heresy and judgement. Four of us, humbled. Me, wondering why God (or, whatever) had spared me without restraint.
The car radio was still playing Layla. The Derek and the Dominos’ Layla…the aggressive, haunting, screamy version of one of rock’s greatest songs. It was nothing short of torture, sitting there terrified, sirons in the distance, knowing the world was about to assess the total destruction of our adolescence.
We were smart enough to feel stupid about ourselves.
We understood the adult perspective, and it was accurate: we were complete fucks.
I stood up when the piano outro to Layla began, ominous and as if pronouncing the end of an era. Scared and vibrating with shock I walked over to the car, crawled back through the shattered window we’d pulled ourselves through minutes earlier, and found the goddamn cd player ignorant of the gravity of our current predicament. I found it and I yanked it from its wires.
I yanked off the plastic cover and slapped the spinning disc off its cradle.
As I shuffled back out of the car, white smoke wafted by me from the overheated engine and an ambulance rounded the turn in a much more reasonable manner than we had.