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I was just a kid...
by Amskies (wash_over_me)
at July 10th, 2006 (01:38 pm)

current location: mah room
And I'm Feeling: pensive
Inspiration: Candle in the Wind - Elton John

Um... I'm not really sure about posting this. So I'm going to see what reactions it gets and then decide if I'd like to leave it or not.

I'm taking a writing class at the Art Institute of Chicago for my summer activity this year. (AKA, what I did to avoid getting a job.) We were asked to write a personal narrative as our main assignment, a story we've always wanted to tell but couldn't, or didn't have a reason to, or anything like that. A story about something hard we'd been through. This is what I wrote.

I'm sorry about the lack of indenting. It just didn't work.

WIP?: Yes
Criticism?: Yes, please

“Amy?” Nick’s voice came through the phone. 11:30 PM. The guys were out partying, and I knew the phone call had to be about that. Nick calls me for no other reason.
“Yeah. Hey Nick. What’s up?” I answered him coolly, trying not to panic until I heard what was going on. That’s a hard task though, because I know there are a huge number of horrible things Nick could say next.
“Uh, Jimmy’s pretty gone right now. Lots of beirut. We called Safe Rides to take him home, but I thought you might…” I sighed a little with relief, but rolled my eyes as he continued to ramble about the situation. I could tell he was stoned, and his voice sounded airy as he spoke. “Anyways, they’ll be here to get him soon.”
“No. Fuck Safe Rides, they’ll leave him to sleep in his driveway. I’ll come get him. Where are you?”
“Uh, let me put someone sober on the phone to tell you.”
It was simple enough. They weren’t far and how much could he possibly have had to drink? The back door was open when I arrived at the unfamiliar house, and loud music accompanied by the smell of weed and alcohol was casually drifting out. Nick appeared in the doorway, grabbing my arm to lead me through the crowded house. The back door opened into a narrow hallway, and two seconds after I had come in, Andrew jumped out of a side room to block our path. Why does he show up everywhere I do? He stumbled, laughing drunkenly to himself, and began to shout over the music.
“Hey! Look everyone! Amy’s here! Hey! Hey, Amy! What are you doing here?”
“Hey Andrew. I’m just here to get Jimmy.” Please get out of my way. I’m begging you. Just get out of my way.
“Don’t you want something to drink? Come on! Come play beirut! I’ll be your partner.”
“Fuck you, Andrew.”
Nick is waiting for me at the foot of the stairs, and he nods toward them as I walk over. I look up just as Jimmy comes stumbling down the stairs, dropping all his weight against me. He’s messy and barely keeping his eyes open. He grins stupidly. “Amy, you’re here,” he observes, slurring “you’re here” into a single word.
“Yes,” I answer, trying not to sound as furious as I am. “And now we’re going home.” He looks serious for a moment, nods, and falls over.

“Four Norridge teens were killed in a drunk driving accident early this morning. Only a few weeks after their high school graduation…”
On any other afternoon, a passing thought in my head would have gone something like “Well, that sucks,” or “Serves them right for being so stupid.” But today this headline on the afternoon news hits a little harder. My mother is crying. My sister is crying. I have watched my nanny and her daughter drive away from our house, devastated. My nanny’s son, Eder, had been in that car.
I tuned out the sobs and listened to the story. The four recent graduates of the Norridge public high school had been at a local bar with no one less than one of their senior high school teachers, who was buying the minors celebratory drinks. (An “innocent graduation celebration,” he would later claim to a reporter.) The four boys had then left the bar around 1 AM and gotten into a Camero which had been given to one of the boys as a graduation gift from his parents not three weeks before. Within 20 minutes, they had driven the car over 100 miles per hour the wrong way down a one-way street and hit a tree. All of this happened less than two blocks from Eder’s home.
It never happens to you, or anyone you know. It’s someone else’s friend. It’s someone else’s neighbor. It’s someone else’s son, sister, father, aunt, grandmother, cousin. The anti-drug commercials warn you that you could always be the next victim. School health teachers try to tell you the same thing. But I had never been convinced. I had seen the headlines on television before I left for work that morning and wondered if maybe Eder had known the boys, but never once did it occur to me that it could actually have been him in the car.

At that moment when I saw Jimmy standing at the top of the stairs, trying to negotiate his way awkwardly between steps, all I could think about was seeing Eder’s body, laid out still and ghostly at the funeral. I knew Jimmy was in no danger that night because I had come to take him safely home, but what would happen the next time when I wasn’t there?
Reality had set in. It could happen to me. It could be my friend. It could be my neighbor. It could be my sister. It could be anyone. There were still a few moments of denial, though. Eder couldn’t be dead now. He had spent the previous year fighting Leukemia and here now, after winning the fight and graduating high school, one fated night destroyed it all in an instant. Thinking about it at first, I felt nihilistic. Nothing matters if everything could just be taken away in a second. What else would be taken away?
I steadied Jimmy as we traced our way back out of the house. I smiled at Nick and gave him a quick thumbs up.
Andrew laughed, appearing in front of me yet again. “Going so soon?” He was waving a joint around absentmindedly as he spoke. He pointed it at Jimmy. “Straighten him out, Amy.”
“You’re an asshole,” I replied wryly. But as much as I meant it, a part of me was grateful to his idiotic self for breaking my train of thought.

My father had driven us to the funeral, I remember. The car was silent as death. I don’t remember the details of the day: what the weather was like, how many people were there, how long it took. But I do remember my nanny. She is standing alone near the grave, staring at a photograph of her only son. In all my memories of her, even from my toddler years, she is always happy. Cheerful and energetic, laughing and joking with her gentle Hispanic accent. But today, she looks drained and empty with her eyes glassy and red. I didn’t want to look at Eder in the partially-open coffin, but as I walked towards Nanny I couldn’t avoid catching a glimpse of the body’s pale, still face.
My nanny reaches up and hugs my sister and me together, her second daughters who she has loved like her own since our births. She begins to cry, and I can’t bear it. My sister and I sob and tell her we love her. How could something so terrible happen to the nicest woman in the world?
I had never been close with Eder. To be honest, in single-digit ages we hadn’t gotten along well at all. But the effect of his death on the people I loved made me feel deeply for the loss. All I could think of how much worse it would feel if it was someone closer to me in that coffin. Teens think they’re indestructible. On that day, I felt more fragile and vulnerable than I ever had before.

As I help Jimmy buckle his seatbelt in my car, I imagine, however much I try not to, what Nick’s phone call could have been. Jimmy’s pretty gone right now… Jimmy’s pretty gone… Jimmy’s gone. We pull away from the house, and Jimmy grabs my hand. He asks me, slurring, if I’m mad at him. I begin to cry. “No, don’t cry!” he says, his head falling gently against the window. “Don’t cry. Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.” I brush his hair from his face and tell him I’m not mad, but will be in the morning.
“Fuck,” he sighs, and passes out against the window.

We stood at the grave, each of us holding one our nanny’s hands. I remember that even though the emptiness in her expression was still there, she looked beautiful. It was my first funeral. The strangers around me were whispering prayers in Spanish. I didn’t know the prayers, and I hoped that wherever he was, Eder wouldn’t mind my silence. People were stepping forward and placing roses on the coffin. I had been holding one at my side, gripping it tightly despite the thorns. My sister glanced at me, urging me to move. I was afraid to let go of Nanny’s hand. I was afraid to get closer to the grave. I was afraid to acknowledge that this was it. As soon as I let that flower fall from my hand, I had said goodbye. It was the last interaction I would ever have with him, and then he’d be unreachable forever. Maybe if I keep holding onto it, they won’t bury him. Maybe if I stall long enough, he won’t ever leave.
My sister’s eyes fell on me again. I squeezed my eyes shut for just a moment, and then took an awkward step forward. My feet felt numb against the ground. I reached toward the pile of flowers and slowly unwrapped my fingers from my rose’s stem. It fell and bounced gently, but the rustle of flowers as mine completed the pile echoed in my ears like thunder. That was it. He was gone.
I prayed that it would all be over; that I could go home and tell everyone I knew how much they meant to me. Others turned away and began the walk back to their cars. My nanny clutched our hands for what seemed like hours before walking away with her family. My sister took my arm to lead me to the car, but halfway I turned back, just as they began to cover the grave. Who is going to be next? I thought pleadingly. Won’t anyone learn something from this? My sister tugged me, and I began to sob.

It took five or ten minutes to reach Jimmy’s house. I pulled into the driveway and helped him into the house. He stopped at the foot of the stairs, eyes glazed over a solemn expression. “Amy thank you,” he slurred. “Don’t be angry, I’m sorry.” I couldn’t answer him. I just walked out, but I didn’t let it go. I couldn’t let it go. Seeing him like that stung somehow. I knew he wouldn’t remember any of this the next day, so there was no use in trying to do anything about it now.
“What happens when I’m not there to take you home anymore?” I had asked him the next morning, on the brink of tears.
He had hugged me and laughed gently. “Don’t worry. I’ve gotten this far ok.”
“You’re an idiot,” I had whispered into his shoulder. He laughed more.
“I’m going to be fine. I promise.”


Posted by: happyeaster (happyeaster)
Posted at: July 10th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)


It's really hard for me to critique personal pieces, because no matter what I say, I feel like I'm stealing a part of the author's voice, but I'll try not to.

I really didn't see any problems with it as far as effective story-telling goes. It was beautifully narrated. You did an amazing job weaving the two stories together.

My comments minor criticisms are below.

I didn’t want to look at Eder in the partially-open coffin, but as I walked towards Nanny I couldn’t avoid catching a glimpse of the body’s pale, still face.

I think that sentence would be more effective without "body's."

My nanny reaches up and hugs my sister and me together, her second daughters who she has loved like her own since our births.

I think "since our births" sounds awkward. Maybe "since we were born."

“Amy thank you,” he slurred.

You need to insert a comma after "Amy."

Posted by: Amskies (wash_over_me)
Posted at: July 10th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)

I agree with the first two comments, but the left-out comma was a stylistic choice to try and emphasize the fact that he had slurred the sentence together.

Thank you so much for your comments! Oh, and that is the greatest icon I have ever seen. :)

Posted by: happyeaster (happyeaster)
Posted at: July 11th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)

Fair enough. That's almost poetic of you.

I love my icon to pieces. :)

Posted by: fin (lessthangreat)
Posted at: July 10th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)

I like the way you alternated between stories. I took a creative writing class in 10th grade, and she'd always advise that we try that when we have two very important stories to tell in one. I love what you did with this.

As for the situation, I hope things get better.

I love you and your writing.

Posted by: Amskies (wash_over_me)
Posted at: July 10th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)

I love you and your writing too, but I love you more. xox

Posted by: Cat, but I prefer God. (chasingtherain)
Posted at: July 11th, 2006 12:58 am (UTC)

Words can't describe how amazing this just was.

Posted by: Amskies (wash_over_me)
Posted at: July 11th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)

You really liked it? :o)

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