My contacts were beginning to burn as I blinklessly watched my phone, waiting for the text.
“I’m meeting up with him,” I yelled to my mom as I fluttered out the door to my ruby-red Hyundai Elantra. If I hurried, I could just about make it to the ice cream shop where my sometimes-more-than-a-friend was closing up for the night in time to see the Easton Heritage Day fireworks.
Something about finally getting to watch fireworks with a possible boyfriend seemed so romantic. The glimmering display, the obvious spark metaphors, the sly snuggles and squeezes while everyone else is looking at the sky – it’s the stuff of fantasies.
Rerouted due to the festivities, I swerved up roads I never traveled before. I turned up the volume to hear my stereo a bit louder – a Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s album, a band that he had introduced me to.
Before I could even get to the chorus of the harmonica-happy “As Tall As Cliffs,” an overwhelmingly white light swallowed my car. It came from my driver’s side and thrusted my car in a direction perpendicular to where I was headed. A T-bone collision, they call it.
I felt each vertebrae slide out of place one-by-one in slow motion, as if my spine were performing “the wave.” The denouement was at my neck – a final wrench that caused my neck to now sit at a negative 11-degree angle. A perfect neck is at a positive 45.
My car then careened toward a curb. I quickly turned the wheel the opposite direction, but my axle snapped – my steering wheel no longer worked. I only came to a complete stop once my car drove up the side of a tree, tipping on its side to a fetal position.
Sitting sideways, my airbag now decided to deploy, expanding like a marshmallow in a microwave. The airbag dusted the air with cream-colored powder. I looked to my left, my driver’s side door flush to the ground, green summer grass pressed against the glass.
“Darling I’m tired, and I should be leaving…” my stereo sang, despite the wreckage of the vehicle it belonged to. Damn, I needed to think. I shoved my palm on the knob, muting the soundtrack to the relationship that led me here.
With gravity pressing my shoulder against the window, I pulled out my phone and called my family before even trying to escape. I used the center console as a step stool to reach the passenger’s side door, but it was too heavy for me to push open on my own.
“Unlock the door!” a man’s voice bellowed, almost angry in its frantic nature. I did, and the door popped open, revealing the sunset-swirled sky. Fueled by adrenaline, I pushed myself through the door as if it were the womb, being born again. And, not unlike the first time I entered the world, a strange man caught me as I jumped out.
Once my feet touched the ground, I began to tremble. I tried to steady my hands as I texted the boy, hoping he’d come to my rescue. Maybe this perilous situation would suddenly make him realize his feelings for me. He’d clench me in his arms and kiss me with eyes pressed tight, realizing how much time he wasted not making me his girlfriend sooner.
The sky was beginning to darken when my family arrived. My mom sat by me on the curb that had wrecked my axel just minutes before. She stroked my long brown hair as if she realized she came close to not being able to do that again. I welcomed her maternal touch, but grew angry as I pieced together what just happened: the other car ran a stop sign.
As firemen circled my car, attempting to disable my still-blaring car horn, I heard pops and crackles in the distance. I pressed “enter” on my phone, illuminating its screen – no new messages, no revelations of love, no heroic prince.
Seeing the fireworks would elude me yet another year.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @jenelley