Taking The Back Roads Home

Red. That’s what I saw, milky red, flooding my vision and turning the world into carnage around me.

Where am I?

It took a moment for me to gather my memories, I think maybe I’ve hit my head but I can’t be sure at first, but then it comes back to me.

The party, the shots, and the joint we smoked before taking off. She was laughing in the passenger seat, her hand wrapped tightly around mine, and I couldn’t stop looking into those eyes. Her eyes are the last thing that I remember before waking up like this.

I must have wandered off the road, or hit a deer, something had to have happened for us to end up this way. The clearer my vision became, I saw what I’d brought upon myself. The girl that I’d left the party with was slumped against the dash; a spider-web of cracks ran menacingly along the passenger side window. There was blood in those cracks.

What was her name? I couldn’t remember. Sara? Sasha? It definitely started with an “S,” or at least I thought it had. I shook her gently at first, but the moment my hand felt her cool skin, I knew she was gone. How long had we been here? Had anyone seen us or called for help? I knew I shouldn’t have been driving tonight, fuck! My dad would fucking kill me, my scholarship to State would be gone for sure, I’m looking at vehicular manslaughter, maybe worse, a DUI for sure?

I tried to get control of the growing panic within, to assess the situation and figure out exactly where we stood. I climbed out of the driver’s side window of my Chevy, I’d tried the door but it was pinned at the bottom by a small drainage culvert. I regretted taking the back roads home now, but I knew I shouldn’t have been driving and didn’t want to risk getting pulled over by the goddamn cops and NOW look at me.

The truck had slammed into the ditch, its ass-end was pointed into the air like a rusted-out obelisk, red taillights sailing into the void of darkness. I’d been hauling ass too, I knew that, I must have missed my turn a mile or so back and driven straight off of where the road dead-ends. If only she could’ve kept her damn hands to herself none of this would be happening, I’m usually fine to drive when I drink!

My leg had a fierce ache to it, but I was mostly just banged up. Poor what’s-her-name in the truck got the bad end of the stick on that one; I don’t remember her putting on her safety belt. She must have bounced around the cab a little bit if that were the case, poor thing. She’d still be here if she could have stopped holding my hand and breathing heavy in my ear, that’s just asking for something bad to happen.

No one had heard the accident it seemed, the night was quiet out here in the fields, save for the ugly chuffing sound that the still-hissing engine was making as it leaked from the radiator. I saw no house lights turning on, no concerned flashlights running down the road, not even another set of headlights. There was a house about a mile south, but they wouldn’t have heard a damn thing from that far away this late at night.

She’s dead and they’re going to blame me, it’s going to be my fault!

I made the decision to do what had to be done, what needed to be done. She was dead, right? She was already gone but why should that fuck up my future, right? What would it hurt if I just tossed her into the passenger seat and say she was supposed to be the designated driver, she said she would give me a ride to a buddy’s house to sleep it off and then I’ll just have to deal with the underage drinking charge, maybe the pot if I have to take a piss-test. I might even be able to keep my scholarship if I play my cards right, but I couldn’t worry about that now.

I shuffled around in spite of my bad leg, dragging her limp body across the bench seat of the truck and leaning her against the steering wheel. I tried not to look at her, to just pretend I was moving hay or straw or anything but the body of some dead girl from seat to seat like some sick game of musical chairs.

The police believed the story. I had been drinking at a party, when I was supposed to be at a buddy’s house, and had too much. The girl, who I later learned was named Sarina, offered to drive me home. Thank god she came to the party alone or I’d have been royally screwed. She was probably planning on driving home drunk herself if she hadn’t left with me. She’d gotten turned around on the back roads while I was in my inebriated state, and then crashed my truck into the ditch, killing herself and injuring me. Injuring is a pretty strong word, it was a sprained ankle that would sideling the rest of my football season.

My parents were understandably upset with me, how could I have been so irresponsible, why would I let a drunk person drive me home, I should have known she was drunk, I shouldn’t have been drunk. I told them I tried to be responsible, that I was too drunk to realize she’d been too drunk, I tried to do the right thing. It was the perfect story and it was all going according to plan. Except for one thing.

I knew her body was lying in the morgue. I knew that it would be there until at least Monday with her caved in skull and her eyes rolled back enough to show mostly the just the whites. I knew it wasn’t possible that she was standing there just out of view, just in my peripherals. It’s like that flash of movement that you see out of the corner of your eye, but when you try to track it down you can’t find it no matter how long you stare and wait for something to happen. But she was there. She was hiding somewhere just out of view.

I ignored her for days, I kept telling myself that it was stress from the accident; she’d go away when enough time had passed. Everyone feels guilt when they do something wrong, but I shouldn’t feel guilty because she knew the risks and she should have known to keep her hands to herself when someone else is driving!

The longer I ignored her, the more I saw her. In my dreams, in class, at the grocery store with my mom, I saw her everywhere and nowhere, because any time I tried to focus on her she was gone, like a mote suspended at the corner of your eye. If you could only blink it into the right position, you could see it, but you can never get the position quite right and it goes zooming off towards the other side of your eye.

I feel sick most the time these days. It’s like she’s leeched onto me and is reminding me of what I did to her. It was an accident; she was already dead, though! I think any rational person would do the same in my situation right? She never tries to harm me, or frighten me, but she does. She makes my head hurt, it aches so badly when I see her. She scares me, too. Not because she looks dead and twisted, because she does, with her half-caved in head and rolled up eyes. It’s because of the sadness that radiates from her. It’s because I know that I took her life, and used her to save my own. I should have told the truth, but it’s been so long now that it’s just a part of life for her to be there in my periphery.

She watches me drinking alone in my room from the vodka bottle that I hid from my parents under the loose floorboard near the bed. I tell myself that it’s not real, but if I think about it long enough, I know it is. I know she’s there and wanting the truth from me. I can’t tell the truth now because it’s gone too far and I have so much to lose if I tell them the truth. I can’t throw my life away over some dead girl that picked the wrong car to get into!

So I drink, and she watches. Her sadness fills me completely, I just want the guilt and the pain to go away, and I can’t stop drinking. Please make her go away.

Written by Justin Allen
Category: Sad Stories

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