The black sheet fell off of my tiny, rusty, old Volvo. The red paint was almost completely gone at this point, but even through the rust that crusted the doors and hood I could see the deep red color that the car used to be. What remained of the windshield was coated so heavily in dirt that you couldn’t see through it, but enough of it was cracked and missing that you could see into the front seat of the car where I had so many memories…
My feet carried me forward. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in shock. At a loss for words. Unable to take my eyes from the crunched-up metal in front of me. In front of everyone. There wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t know what it was. They all watched me as I approached the stage and climbed the stairs. I didn’t blink as I studied the rotting frame of the car and the decaying front seats over the torn up and dusty dashboard. I ran my finger gently over the harsh rust that disguised the door handle.
“It’s a piece of art. A reminder for the current students and future students at BSHS,” Therese was saying, but I didn’t hear a word of it. I was sinking too far into the memory of that night – the party. I had hidden the memory so far in the back of my mind that I was struggling to remember… whose party was it?
I hadn’t noticed that Harry followed me up to the stage. “Where did you get this?” He hissed under his breath at Therese, trying to turn her away so that they didn’t fight right there on the stage in front of the crowd.
“Where it’s been since her accident… the junkyard, duh.” Therese pushed past Harry and grabbed the microphone again. “Let’s all thank the artist for her contribution, shall we? Scotlan Ray, everyone!”
Therese clapped ecstatically. I still didn’t know what to feel or say. Check, please? I thought. Timeout? I looked sideways slowly at Harry who was standing on the other end of the car, watching… waiting… worry flashed across his eyes. “Scotty?” He whispered. He started to reach his hand out to me, but the look on my face made him stop and lower his hand.
I lifted my toes up and spun around slowly on my heels to look at the group of students I graduated with. I was a little bit relieved to see that Therese was the only one clapping. The disturbed looks on the faces of my other fellow students was almost comforting. Therese expected everyone to point and laugh at the depressing pile of car that represented my high school years, but no one did. Maybe they had a little more sympathy for me than I always thought they did. My arm trembled as I held out my hand for the microphone. Therese was thrown off by my action but quickly passed it to me.
I breathed slowly as I scanned all of the faces in the crowd. I was finally beginning to recognize everyone. People from my classes, people I sat with at lunch, people I saw at the convenience store after school… They knew me too. They knew what happened to me and my little red Volvo.
“I…” My voice was shaky. “That’s the shittiest artwork I’ve ever seen… but I’m glad the school has it now. I hope no one ever has to go through what I did.”
Harry’s warm hand slipped around my lower back. He kissed me lightly on my temple, distracting me as he took the microphone from my hands and passed it back to Therese. “You’re a bitch,” he said to her, looking her dead in the eyes and not letting go of the microphone until she stared back into his. “You’re an immature little girl. When will you realize that this isn’t a game anymore?”
Harry had spoken the trigger words. The first part of the memory flashed in front of my eyes.
“When will you realize that this isn’t a game anymore, Scotlan?!” My mother screamed. A tear rolled down her cheek as she stared at me from across the kitchen. I sat coolly at kitchen table, staring at my horrible grades and her bottle of vodka that I had just finished. I had never heard her so upset in her life. She wasn’t angry at me. She was upset because of me. “Do you really think that all of this drinking and sleeping around and not caring in school is going to matter next year? College isn’t going to want you if your grades are in the toilet! This is real life, Scotlan!”
I studied her; the messy hair, the dirty pajamas, the runny eye makeup… I wanted to scream at her. Ever since my father left us, she had become some sort of undead thing that just laid like a decaying blob on the couch and watched reruns of The Bachelorette. I wanted to tell her to stop living her life through me and to let me do what I wanted. But instead, I walked to my room. I locked my door. I texted Harry that I was coming to get him.
“Want to go to Tyler’s party?” He replied. I didn’t care.
My mother slammed her fists on my bedroom door. “Scotlan, don’t you dare leave! Don’t you dare or you are grounded for the rest of your life! Do you understand me!?”
Grounded? I don’t think she even knew what the term meant. I had never been grounded before. I grabbed my purse and walked across my floor to the double doors that opened to the back lawn. Never in a million years had my mother thought that allowing me to have doors to the backyard would be an issue, but it was. I snuck out all the time and she knew it. I turned the lock on my door, making sure my mother could hear it. I waited for her to react from the hallway.
“Scotlan!” She screamed, but her anger had turned to pleading. “Scotlan… please,” She sobbed. I heard her slump against the door. I could picture her with her hands covering her face as she struggled to breathe through her choked sobs. “Where did I go wrong with you?” She cried. Her voice became more and more quiet. “I just want the best for you…”
My eyes began to water as the first part of the memory ended. “Mom?” I whispered. I covered my mouth with my shaking hand as I looked at the car once more.
“Scotlan,” Harry breathed, realizing that the memory was beginning to consume me. He knew what would come next. I whimpered as he wrapped one arm around my shoulder and scooped me up with the other. I buried my face in his shoulder, letting free more and more tears to run down my face and drip into his shirt. I didn’t dare raise my head to look at anyone as Harry carried me out of the gym and into the hall. Only when I felt the fresh air from the outdoors did I dare raise my head and sob. Harry sat me down on the front hood of the Celica and squatted in front of me. He peered up at me and took my hands in his. He spoke to me calmly, but I heard nearly none of it.
“Scotlan, look at me, beautiful girl. Scotlan, remember therapy? Remember how I went with you? I need you to look at me and talk to me. Let’s talk, okay? You can do it…”
I opened my eyes slightly. The bright sun poured into them, forcing more hot tears from the corners of my eyes. The intense light made my eyes feel tired like I just lifted weights with my irises. I watched Harry as he kissed the backs of my hands and spoke to me softly, trying his absolute hardest to get me to forget all about the car and the memory, but I couldn’t. “Harry,” I choked. “Harry, I just left her… she was… crying and I left-“
I started to sway back and forth. I hadn’t cried in so long that I was becoming dizzy. Before Harry could catch me, I rolled off of the hood of the Celica and onto the hot pavement to vomit. I clutched the sides of my stomach as nothing but water was forced out of my body.
Harry picked me up again and placed me in the front seat of the Celica. He sprinted to the drivers side and was on the highway back to our house before I even knew it.
I just left her… the words rang in my ears. I left her sobbing on the other side of my bedroom door and took off to Tyler’s party with Harry. Harry and I danced. We played beer pong. We smoked a joint. We danced more. The more I thought about my mother and her words… “Where did I go wrong with you…?” The more I drank. Beer. Liquor. Fruit punch spiked with something. If it was in a red cup, I was drinking it. If it would make me forget about my problems, I was downing it.
I couldn’t remember anything else from the party, and I’m not sure I wanted to. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut as Harry flew into the city and past taxis and small vans. Harry slammed on the break as a light in front of us changed to red and cars started to sly through the intersection before us. I knew he wasn’t trying, but it was like everything Harry was doing was triggering parts of the memory. I tried to stop it. I didn’t want to remember… but I couldn’t help it.
The memory started to play in my head again. I slammed on the breaks at an intersection where the red light glowed in front of me. Next to me, Harry jolted forward and gripped the part of his stomach that was covered by his seat belt. “Christ, Scotty,” He slurred. “I really think you should let me drive.”
I frowned at him a belched loudly. “I am not as drunk as you and I’m the better driver anyway and its my car so no.”
Harry swallowed and grimaced from the taste that was still in his mouth from all of the different alcohols he had consumed that night. “Look, Scotlan, you should talk to your mom-“
“No, Harry, I won’t.” I cut him off quickly, raising a finger to his limp lips. “I hate her and she’s clearly disappointed in me and with my life so I don’t need to talk to her.” I almost hated drunk Harry. He always wanted to play Doctor Phil and address my problems, the same problems I was drinking to forget about. “I hate her and I never want to see her again,” I stated, my head spinning as I waited for the light to turn green. Why was it taking so long? My phone buzzed in my purse between Harry and I, but I was too out of it to pick it up. A small ding let me know that I had a voicemail and Harry picked up my phone to let me listen. When he put the device on speakerphone, my mother’s voice came through the ear piece.
“Scotlan, honey, it’s your mom. I just want to let you know I’m so sorry and I love you. I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I want… well, I need you to come home. I’m out looking for you. Please, if you go home at least text me and let me know. I really do love you so, so much.”
More tears ran down my face as I thought about her voicemail. I dug in my purse for my phone and slowly pulled the small device out. I scrolled through my voicemails to the very last one and tapped on it for it to play. I held the phone up to my ear and waited…
“Scotlan, honey, it’s your mom. I just want to let you know I’m so sorry and I love you-“
Finally catching on to what I was listening to, Harry grabbed my phone from me. “Scotlan-“
“HARRY GIVE IT BACK TO ME-“ I nearly jumped out of my seat and onto him to try and get my phone back. I pulled at his light blue collared shirt and sobbed.
“SCOTLAN I can’t let you do this to yourself!”
“Harry!” I cried. “Harry please!” My cheeks were soaked with tears. I reached across him for the phone, but he tucked it into the door pocket on the other side of his body. Harry glanced at me for a moment before the light changed and shook his head. His concern showed clearly on his face but I was oblivious to it. I was beginning to remember the last little bit of that night. I tried to fight it. I closed my eyes, but that only made the memory come back faster.
I punched the steering wheel of the Volvo, feeling hot and heated. I hated my mom, especially after leaving me a voicemail like that after all that she screamed and yelled at me. I was a disappointment to her and that’s all I could think about. She “went wrong” with me and that made me feel like a failure. “Why is this light taking so fucking long!?” I yelled. Before I could think clearly, I slammed on the gas. The light was still red for me, but I didn’t care. I gunned it into the middle of the intersection and gripped the wheel tightly. Harry was shouting at me in the passenger seat, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. I just wanted to get away from the intersection. My small Volvo carried us forward, pushing us across the lanes and straight into the driver’s side of another car. The momentum from my Volvo carried both my car and the car I hit forward, but not before a third car slammed into my rear bumper. I closed my eyes as the windshield shattered, the windows around us burst into a million pieces as my small, red Volvo was crunched up. The airbags exploded into mine and Harry’s faces, administering a rapid and painful slap to our faces but protecting us from hitting the dashboard or the steering wheel.
Finally all of the movement stopped. I laid still for a moment, slumped in my front seat with my eyes closed. My neck was killing me and so were my legs. I looked down to see that they were crunched into the front part of the car. I hoped to God that nothing was broken. Harry was sitting up beside me, rubbing his neck and glancing at his trapped legs as well. “Are you okay?” He croaked, his raspy voice almost inaudible over the ringing in my ears.
I nodded slowly and gulped. Someone ran up to the drivers-side window and peered in. Judging from the blood on his face, it must have been the man who hit my bumper. “Are you okay? What the fuck were you thinking?!”
I wasn’t so much in a drunken state of mind anymore, but rather my brain had just stopped working.
“We’re trapped in here,” Harry explained, motioning toward his and my legs. The man nodded and ran off back to his car. I looked in the cracked rear-view mirror and watched as he found his phone and started to dial 911.
“I hope that woman is okay,” Harry said, trying to look into the car crunched up only three feet in front of us. I hadn’t thought to look at her. I squinted into the car, trying to find her over all of the car parts that were everywhere. Finally, I saw her. Her blonde curls just like mine.
“Harry…” I whispered hoarsely, my eyes widening. “Harry, that’s…”
The man returned from the car behind us. “The ambulance is on their wa-“
“That woman!” I nearly screamed. “Check on that woman-” I wiggled my feet all around as the panic set in. I had to get free. I had to check on her myself. But I was stuck.
The man rushed over to the car and reached over the debris to the woman. “Ma’am? Are you okay? Ma’am?” He lifted her head and revealed her face.
I forced myself out of the memory. I was done. I didn’t want to remember anymore. I screamed and covered my face with my hands. I had to get out of the car. The Celica hadn’t even stopped moving when I tore out of the passenger seat and jammed the keys into the lock of our front door. I sprinted into the house and screamed again, clutching my head. I couldn’t get the picture of my mother out of my head. Her voice played over and over in my head… “Scotlan, honey, it’s your mom. I just want to let you know I’m so sorry and I love you-”
“Scotlan!” Harry called as he dashed into the apartment, leaving the front door open. I nearly slipped as I ran into the kitchen and whipped open our medicine cabinet. I knocked bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen until I found the old depression pills I used to take. I shouted at Harry as he rushed at me, struggling to get to the bottle before I could gulp a handful down. When the cap finally came off, I was so shaky that pills went everywhere. I grabbed a few from off the counter, and shoved them in my mouth, but Harry forcefully grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me to him. I gagged as he shoved a finger in my mouth and pulled the 7 pills out. Harry grabbed the rest of the bottle and poured the pills down the drain. He scooped the rest of the pills into the trash quickly and threw the now-empty bottle across the room. “You think overdosing is going to help you?! I didn’t even know those were up there!!”
Angrily, I punched him in the chest. I punched him again. And again. And again. And once more. And then I sobbed. I leaned against the cabinet behind me and started to slide down to the floor, but Harry caught me and picked me up. Even though I had probably just bruised his chest with my bony knuckles, he held me so lovingly that I almost couldn’t stand it. Harry sat down on the couch and held me on his lap. I curled up into a ball and sobbed, harder and harder. Harry rocked back and forth and shushed me softly. He kissed my forehead over and over, whispering “It’s okay… it’s okay…”
“I killed her. I killed my mother, Harry. I-“
“Shhhhh…” Harry gripped me more tightly. “Scotlan, you can’t say that.”
I sobbed again into his shoulder. I could say that though. It was true. I killed my mother and it haunted me every day of my life. He rubbed my back slowly and began to slip my heels off of my feet. He dropped the shoes on the floor next to the couch and continued to rock me.
I remember after we were free from the car and after we were away from the scene, I punched Harry as hard as I could. Why would you let me drive? I screamed at him. How could you let me do this? I blamed him for the whole thing. I punched him over and over in the chest until he grabbed my wrists and nearly hit me back, but he stopped, yanked me into his chest, and he held me and rocked me just like he was doing now.
“Harry,” My voice cracked as I struggled to calm myself.
“What is it, baby girl?” Harry whispered into my hair.
“I think I’m going to vomit…”
Harry let go of me and remained on the couch as I walked to the bathroom. I clutched the either side of the toilet as I waited for whatever was left in my stomach to rise up out of me. I watched tears roll off of my cheeks and drop into the toilet, sending ripples to all edges of the water. After about ten minutes and thankfully no vomit, Harry knocked on the door. “Scotty, are you okay?” He asked softly.
I slouched down against the wall behind the door and groaned. Harry opened the door slowly and peered around the room, probably searching for another empty bottle of pills. The relief showed in his face when he saw none and he crouched down next to me so he could brush my hair behind my ear and wipe the tears off of my face. I wrapped my arms around his neck and allowed him to pick me up, expecting he would take me to his or my bed, but instead he stepped into the empty bathtub and laid back with me on his lap, leaning against his chest.
I can’t recall how long we sat in the bathtub, Harry holding me in his arms and rocking me back and forth as he hummed songs or kissed my forehead or rubbed my back. I fell asleep at one point, the most comfortable I had been in months. My head was buried into his neck. I could smell my cologne on him which, strangely enough, calmed me. When he thought I was completely asleep, he began to whisper things to me.
“Remember when I first got the Celica and I had to teach you to drive stick shift? You were so angry at me…” His chest rumbled as he chuckled soundlessly, trying not to do anything that he thought might wake me up. “But I wanted you to keep trying because you looked so beautiful that day and I didn’t want us to do anything else or go anywhere where someone could see you. I had to have you all to myself.”
A tiny grin made its way to my lips, but I didn’t say anything because I wanted Harry to keep talking like he thought I was asleep.
“I remember the day my mom met you too. She told me that I wasn’t good enough for someone like you.” He rubbed my back. “I always think about that day we took a trip to Central Park and that man was blowing bubbles in the middle of the sidewalk. You danced for like 30 minutes in the bubbles. Everyone who passed just watched you. They were jealous because you looked like you didn’t have a single care in the world.”
I loved thinking about that day. Harry and I skipped a day of school in the 11th grade and just took off to Central Park. It was beautiful and warm out, so we mostly just laid out in the grass and told each other stupid jokes, but it was one of the most relaxing days of my life.
“I don’t think I ever told you this,” Harry continued whispering. “But I broke Todd Lewinski’s nose. It was the day after he made you cry. He told everyone some horrible lie about you… I can’t even remember what it was, but I had never seen you cry so hard before. I broke his nose. He told everyone he got hit during football practice but really, it was me.”
Todd Lewinski told everyone he made a sex tape with me and that he was going to reveal it. I was so scared that he was telling the truth that I just sat down and cried to Harry. I didn’t know what else to do.
“I know I usually get a lot of attention, but I would be no where without you.” Harry sighed and combed his fingers through my hair softly. “I wish you could understand how much you mean to me. I wish I could explain it in words. I wish I had the guts to tell you when you were awake and staring at me with those gorgeous eyes of yours. I’ve never been scared of anything before in my life, but the thought of losing you terrifies me.”
He hugged me closer and buried his nose into my hair.
“My mom was right. I’m not good enough for you, but I hope you never figure that out. I led you into this life and I can’t apologize enough for it.”
I was about to sit up and protest, but I remembered Harry thought I was asleep. He would lose his mind if he knew I heard anything he just told me, even despite how close we were. He had never shared anything like that with me before and it killed me to know that he thought those things. I’d be lost without Harry. I don’t know who I would be or how I would have gotten to be where I was in life without him.
My therapist right after high school asked Harry to come to therapy with me so he could learn to calm me down and take my mind off the accident if it was necessary. He succeeded this time, definitely taking my mind off of my mother, but he laid me down on my bed and left me alone to think about everything that he had just told me. I couldn’t tell if it was just my inner romantic’s overactive intuition or something that was actually happening, but I couldn’t help but think that Harry’s and my relationship had done a complete turn-around in the last two days.