I’m going to call this one “Todd” because I think that’s a good generic boyfriend name. Like my clump of roosters, The Todd Nebula. I dated a Todd once, and I will have to call him Todd as well in a different story so I don’t reveal him as the real Todd.
I met Todd at a cafe and I was on the outs with my current boyfriend, so when he asked me out, I said “sure, why not?” I was in that perfect window to say yes to something like that–a week on either side, and I might not have. I think I was excited that he had a car (or access to his mother’s), was a couple of years older, and didn’t really know anyone from my high school. At this point I was making a big push to get to know other people and older people. He talked a good game and hadn’t lost his job yet, so I couldn’t tell that he was kind of a scrub. I also didn’t know what a terrible, terrible driver he was.
We hung out that night, but I was with a friend. Todd and I got along well and he was the first person I had ever met who was a casual and persistent hugger, which is a daily part of my life on the West Coast now (ugh), but at the time was kind of novel and foreign. He asked me out for the next week and I agreed.
Since it was the 90s (this is my all-purpose excuse for my youth now: “It was the NIIIIINETIES!”) we decided that our first date was going to be to get piercings. What? Yeah. You know how when you start dating someone if things go well there’s a lot of tab A into slot B, or some configuration of slots and tabs going on? Let’s get piercings so it will hurt to have sex and there will probably be crust and weeping. And the piercing experience we would have would have been like this, because the 90s had not yet arrived in my shitty town. God I was stupid…er.
It was February and snowing, but I think it had melted into awful grey sludge that day, or at least wasn’t snowing heavily. He picked me up and we drove across town while trying to banter and get to know each other in that first date way. He tried to hook a left in one of those “yield to oncoming traffic” lanes…but did not yield. A car going at least 40 slammed into us on the front/right side of the car, breaking the axle and crumpling the front end. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly I didn’t really have time to react, so I think maybe I tensed up less than I would have if I was braced for impact. My knees slammed into the dashboard and bruised heavily, but as stupid as I was then, at least I was wearing a seat belt.
The passenger in the other car was not so lucky. She was not wearing a seat belt and I could see the horrible spider web in the windshield where her head had cracked it. An ambulance came to take her away. I kind of hung back since I wasn’t the driver and there wasn’t much I could do. I was adrenalined out and not thinking, so I actually asked the cop if I could smoke IN HIS PATROL CAR. “Are you even OLD ENOUGH to be smoking?” he asked me. Answer in my head: “As long as you can work the lighter you’re old enough.” What I said out loud: nothing. Real answer: No.
So, 20 minutes in, the date appeared to be over. The cop wanted to take us home, but Todd had other plans. “Let’s have him drop us off at my friend’s house,” he whispered. Uh…was this normal? Don’t you usually go home after a car crash? I didn’t know. I did know if I told my mother about any of this, it would become my fault somehow and I would never be allowed to go out with Todd again, so when I came home that night she was in bed and I said nothing. I wonder what it’s like to have a mother you can actually share life events with?
We went to the friend’s house, where there was a small party in progress, and now we had a story to tell. I sort of felt like we should go home and have a quiet thinking period about the girl and her smashed head. All of this made me uneasy, the moving on and partying but that was my time to learn what I was okay with and what I was not. That’s important at 16 if you’re dating or not, I know. More on this time to come, whenceforth he will be known as Car Crash Todd.