My father sold Oldsmobiles in 1965, and as a favor to those customers in our immediate community, he would take their car in for service and leave his own ride at home. On this particular day that ride was a 442 which was beautiful and strong. In a time when muscle cars were a reality, this one was a behemoth and when I saw that he left the keys on his dresser, I thought I should take it out for a spin. Never mind that I was only 16 and would not have my driver’s license for another year. I was somewhere between crazy and emotionally challenged, so I grabbed his keys and fired that beast up.
Drifting through our residential neighborhood I decided to pick up my friend David, who was the son of a dentist. I tell you that so you would know that it was a nice neighborhood and I had intelligent friends. Not all of their friends were particularly bright, and on this day David made a bad choice when he agreed to go for a ride with the likes of me. He seemed impressed that I was driving this car and perhaps the cool factor overtook his common sense. He had no idea what was in store for him as I continued to casually cruise our neighborhood, deciding to head back to his narrow street where many children played, and all was safe and well.
His street was very narrow with cars parked on each side. This created a very tight fit for two cars heading in opposite directions. As such, the speed limit was only 15mph. I wanted to do something crazy that day; needed to, because taking my father’s car apparently was not enough. Driving without a license came with little risk, so I decided to up the ante some.
As I turned onto David’s street I wanted to see what this bad ass car could really do. Putting my foot all the way to the floor I heard two distinct screams. The first was the engine opening up and firing all 8 cylinders in unison. The second scream was coming from David…..non stop…..panicked and freaked. I saw the speedometer read 95 mph when, *out of the corner of my eye, something tiny dashed into the street. I know this because I hit that small girl, who was chasing a soccer ball. As she flew into the air, already broken beyond repair, my windshield shattered and David stopped his screaming about the same time his head went right through my windshield. My father’s ruined car continued to travel down the street careening off parked cars until it came to rest with two broken boys inside, and a dead and blood soaked child 100 feet behind us. I was not dead, but already knew enough to wish I were.
I was awakened by angry voices and the sound of sirens. I ached terribly and had a broken skull and several broken ribs. I could not see as I was covered in my own blood, but that did not stop the pummeling I was taking from what turned out to be the murdered girl’s father. David was also in bad shape and in addition to having lost an eye; he lost a good deal of his functioning. Today they call it a traumatic brain injury. Back then they called it manslaughter and it was added to the list of things I was charged with. None of it mattered to me, as I could not crawl past what I had done to that little girl who turned out to be six years old and was named Amy. There was a great uproar to have me charged as an adult, even as I lay in a hospital bed for 3 months healing from my self inflicted wounds. The large scar on my forehead didn’t matter either, as I saw myself as the monster I had now become.
After much legal wrangling, I was charged as a Juvenile and agreed to all charges and was sent to the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, in the Bronx, until my 18th birthday. The horrors that occurred there are almost beyond description, but I was always aware that I was deserving of whatever evil that might come my way.
Who knows what I may have become, if I had not acted so stupidly that day. David’s parents successfully sued my father and ruined him financially. My father walked out of my life and I never saw him again. When Amy’s parents had their day in civil court there was nothing left for them to seize. I would have gladly given them anything they wanted, but I was lost to the world, and was so depressed that I had little to offer other than my sorrow and incarceration. And all they really wanted was their sweet child alive again.
There is no hate as deep as self hate, and my adult life has been marked by alcohol and drug abuse, broken relationships, lost jobs, constant relocation, and several suicide attempts. I take nine medications, and my best dreams always involve my own death. It is only in these dreams that I feel release and freedom. Once, not long ago, I had a dream about little Amy. In this dream she was telling a monster that she has forgiven him, but when I woke up I was trembling and knew that I was never going to forgive myself. One day I was an attractive and athletic 16 year old, and the next day I was forever broken, hideous, and alone.
* This story is true, up until the point where Amy ran into the street. No child was killed that day, and at the end of David’s dead end street I slammed on the brakes, and slid to a stop. He exited my car in a hurry and ran home. I casually drove back home and left the keys where I had found them on my father’s dresser. Life continued for me as it was, and it took many years before my impulsive and potentially deadly behavior of that day became clear to me. As part of my working life, I once taught employment modules in a prison for youth. They were there for a variety of stupid acts, including theft and vehicular homicide. I always saw part of me in their faces, and would look at them knowing that they were not as lucky as I was that day.
© 2013 Michael Fiveson