When I was in high school, I drove a 1990 Blue Geo Prizm that was once my Mother's. It passed through the hands of all my oldest brothers, going through rites of passage of unruly boys, and then it was passed to me. This Geo could turn on a dime, and was the perfect car to drive around town with all your friends crammed inside, spinning cookies and driving far too fast. I never ran out of gas in it or had it break down on me. I never brought it home past curfew or kissed any boys inside of it. I miss that car sometimes. It's a car of my past, my ever passionate teenage youth, and I sometimes let those memories slip to the side.
Today at my internship, my boss told me about his 16 year old daughter. She had just gotten in a fender bender in her mom's car, losing all her rights to driving it. My boss laughed at how minor the mistake was, and how adamant the girls mother was in keeping her from driving again. "It's not like she totaled it," he said. It was in that moment that I was reminded of being 16, of the last time I drove the Geo.
"I totaled my car when I was 16," I said.
It was November, around Thanksgiving. The Challis air was cold and crisp, and even though winter was sure to have begun, snow was hard to stick. I spent the day with friends, taking in all the free time I could before a day of family time and wearing fat pants while eating. My brother Sean was in town from school, and much to his displeasure, I shared some mutual friends with him. So I spent the evening with people older than me who didn't have to worry about being home on time.
My curfew approached, and it was time to go. The sky was dark with a new moon and I drove home in a daze you can only accomplish while on a road you know like the back of your hand. It was only eleven o'clock, but I felt numb. My house, six miles out of town, was past dark emptiness and houses with large fields. Enrique Iglesias sang, "I can be your hero, baby," on the radio and I stared at the road without seeing, my foot like lead on the pedal. I stared ahead at nothing, when that nothing turned into something. Two white eyes and the gleam of a long thick snout were in front of me, and I gasped.
I only had time to gasp. The loudest sound I'd ever heard coupled with my body being suspended forward by my seat belt were what came next. Complete confusion, glass, and a bruised knee. I finally realized that words were spilling out of my mouth in a constant stream, a mantra of "Oh God, Oh shit, Oh my God..." I pulled my car to the side of the road, it moving forward not by any pressure on the gas pedal. The engine and radiator were broken. No, still rolling forward from my initial speed. I couldn't see out the front window. What was wrong with my window?
Glass was all around me, but I wasn't cut. There was something on the hood. Was it a body? A limb? Why couldn't I see it? I reached for the glove box and grabbed a flashlight, my headlights dimming. The window was shattered. Thats why I couldn't see. And it wasn't a body on the hood. It was my hood, rolled up. How foreign it looked, not smooth and disappearing from site.
Where the hell was I? I drove this road in my sleep and I had no idea where I was. I opened my door to the cold night air, wearing only a t-shirt but not knowing it. No lights around but my flashlight. And I heard it. Mooing. Mooing from hundreds of cows, moos of forlorn brethren deep in sorrow. Moos of mothers crying out. Crying, because I had killed one of them. I had hit a cow. A black cow. At 60 mph. And they knew it, they all knew it and they were angry with me.
I looked across the road and there was the dirt driveway leading to the ranch house. The driveway was less than 100 yards, but it felt like a mile. I ran the whole thing, cows mooing on either sides of me. I ran harder, worried one might come at me in its rage. I don't know if I've ever been more bewildered and scared in all my life. Glass in my hair, hands shaking, I knocked on the ranch house door past my curfew, past eleven o'clock. "I hit one of your cows."
"You thought the cows were mooing for you?" my boss asked, shocked by the story, but entirely amused by this distinct point.
"Yeah, I really did. But they were actually mooing because all of the cows had just been weaned that day." I had actually hit a teenage cow that had broken out and was searching for his mom. A 500lb cow as opposed to an 800lb one. All of the cows were just calling for eachother.
"Thats the writer in you," he said smiling. "The cows were mooing for you, because in your world, the world revolved around you. Such a writer's way of thinking.
"But you are so lucky. People are killed by accidents like that. You have a guardian, you have an angel. You must be destined for important work in your life. You were saved for a reason."
I was surprised my boss said that. I used to think that. I really used to believe that through all the crazy close-calls I've had, the cow-incident included, I was saved for a reason. God wouldn't let me die, because I had a purpose. Sometime in the last couple years I've forgotten about that. I've taken my place in the rat race and put my serial number on, and accepted mundaneness.
It's nice to be reminded of those times when life had purpose. To remember 16 and be thankful for the ambition and faith that was so blind and unbridled. I'm glad that someone told me today what used to be true to me, because it makes me want to believe it again. It gives me hope that there is something more.