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When you awake, your first memory is that of your body smashing like glass. Your body aches. You blink several times, and the world begins to come into focus. White light fills your eyes, and confusion floods your mind. A voice comes from the corner of the room. “Are you awake?”
You clear your throat in an attempt to speak, and all that comes out is a gurgle. Finally, a person comes into your view, and you see a disappointed look on the face of your mother.
What have you done? You run through your memory of the previous night, and all you remember is pain. A look of disgust comes from your mother, before she drops a set of keys on your lap.
“Are you done now?” she asks. “Do you understand now?”
The clinking of the keys brings your memory back, and you realize just what you have done.
It began the night previously, you realize. You and Mom had gotten into a furious argument, and you had stormed out. You said you would be back later, after a party. Oh, you partied all right.
Your friends drove you to a party at a stranger’s house. The house was bursting at the seams, and there were people everywhere. One of your friends wandered off to find her boyfriend, and another wandered off to find her jock friends. You found the keg in the corner, and you spent the night partying, dancing, and drinking. Around three am, the party thinned out, and you met up with your friends in the front of the house. It was decided that you were the most sober, and, somehow, you became the driver. The keys were thrown in your direction, and you caught them.
You cruised through town, and you had no idea how much you were swerving. Bright lights filled your view, tires screeched, and your body smashed, just like the glass you had been drinking out of the entire night.
You clear your throat again, and you find some courage from within to ask your mother, “What happened? Am I going to be okay?”
“Oh yes, you’ll be fine. They pumped your stomach, and you’ll be sore for a while from bruises, but you’ll be fine.”
“But, but what happened?”
“You were driving down Elm the wrong way. Fifty miles an hour down a one-way street with a speed limit less than half that!”
Your face pales, and tentacles of dread clutch at your stomach. The room becomes very still, and you finally realize where you are. You’re in the hospital, and your mother is in the visitor’s chair. The room has the silence of death, but you wouldn’t even be able to hear a pin drop, as your breathing quickens. You can feel your heart thudding a thousand beats a second, and you know, you just know that the world has fallen out from under you.
Minutes pass, then hours, then days. Finally, you can see your mother’s face again, and she answers the question you couldn’t bring yourself to ask.
“Your friends will be fine.”
A wave of calm begins to pass over you, as you realize you have not become a murderer, but it halts at what your mother says next.
“You almost hit the Williams.”
You give your mother a look of confusion, and she elaborates. “Mrs. Williams was in labor. You almost hit their car.”
In that moment, a wave of horror passes through you, and it chills you to the bone. Mrs. Williams has lived down the street from you for as long as you can remember, and she’d been pregnant for the last nine months. Oh, dear God.
“But, but they’re okay? We…I didn’t hurt them?”
“No, they’re fine. Baby Williams was born a few hours ago.”
You realize just what you have risked, in one night of partying. The thousands of arguments and the thousands of pleas for you to stop and slow down have led to this. You’d been drinking for over a year, moving way to fast. Your mother had pled with you so often, to please, please stop. Don’t do this anymore. She’d gone the intervention route, she’d given you pamphlets, and she’d spewed statistics about drinking to you at every opportunity. She’d gotten rid of all the alcohol in the house; she’d taken away your keys.
It’d never sunk in before this moment. You almost killed them and their baby. You. Almost. Killed. Them.
The light bulb that your mother had prayed for finally went on. Your mother asks again, “Are you done now? Do you understand now? Will you stop?”
You nod, and you realize an argument that has lasted over a year is over. The fight has gone out of you, and all that remains of thousands of slammed doors, is a submissive child, staring at her mommy, begging for forgiveness.
The months have passed slowly since the accident, and you’ve been sober since that day. Your friends are still moving at the speed of light, but you’ve found new ones. When you look into the mirror, you see a new girl. You live your life with a different philosophy now. No longer do you think that if you can do something you should. You think back to that night, and you know that your life could have ended that night, both physically and metaphorically. You could have died. Your friends could have died. Even if you had lived, you could have killed your neighbors, on the way to the hospital to give birth to their son.
You met their son a few weeks after the accident. He’s a happy infant, and the Williams brushed off your apologies. They don’t look at you any differently, but you know they should.
Had they died, you wouldn’t have been able to live with yourself. You wouldn’t have been able to live with the knowledge, that you went to a party, got drunk, drove, and killed a new family. You wouldn’t have been able to live, knowing you killed a family from such stupidity. That knowledge cut through you like glass.
Your new philosophy tells you to slow down. Think. Think of the worst possible outcome that could come from your actions. Can you live with that? If you can’t, you don’t do it.
Drinks are a thing of the past, and you’re a new person, but you know you’ll never forget the day the world fell out from under you, and you were finally, for the first time in over a year, so very, very sorry.