Written By: Anthony Luciano
Let’s face it. At some point during a night of drinking, everyone thinks they’re a “good drunk driver”. I can tell you from experience that isn’t always true. Hell, 99% of the time it isn’t true at all. Everybody around you will tell you not to drive drunk. Because it’s dangerous. You could hurt somebody. Or hurt yourself. But what they don’t say is that someone else can hurt you if you drive drunk. And I, unfortunately, know this from experience.
A few years back, I spent a lot of my free time drinking and smoking with my friends. And if they weren’t available, I would take the time to do it alone. I wasn’t in a good place back then. Mentally, physically, financially. I wasn’t really in a good place at all. I guess you could say being faded was my escape, as it is for a lot of people. There didn’t have to be an occasion or a reason. Waking up and making it out of bed was reason enough for me.
This particular night of debauchery was part of a celebration, however. My good friend, let’s call him Jeremy, had just gotten accepted into his dream school. He would be leaving us all behind to go pursue his dream of being a neurosurgeon. Come to think of it, for how smart the kid was, I can’t imagine why he would ever spend as much time around us as he did back then. But our small group was tight. And although we were losing a very important part of it, we were all over the moon for him.
“Let’s take a drive downtown and park at the end of the road, take a walk to the top, and drink our way back down to the car!” I said, taking a hit from the bong that was passed to me. “I dunno, man.” Jeremy started, “I’m going to need to save all of my money for the trip. It’s across the fucking country!” I held my hit in for a few seconds and replied through my smoke-filled lungs, “Fuck you, man! That’s no excuse. Don’t be a pussy.” I exhaled and fell into a coughing fit, waving my hands towards the girl sitting next to me and trying to pass her the bong.
Angel was Jeremy’s best friend out of all of us. They’d known each other since elementary school. She blew the smoke out of her face from the corner of her mouth and placed the bong on the coffee table. “Yeah, Seven,” Everyone called me ‘Seven” in our little clique. I guess it’s kind of short for Stephen? But seven is also my lucky number. I’ve got seven letters in all three of my names! I like to joke that my mom hit the jackpot with me. She doesn’t find it very funny. “If he’s gotta save, he’s gotta save. And it’s not like you’re going to be able to pay for all of us…” She finished under her breath.
The room fell silent for a minute. I hadn’t been working for close to nine months now. Crashing in my parents’ basement and living off of their leftovers wasn’t my proudest achievement of the last few years and Angel knew it. “Wow. Okay. You don’t have to come, you know? You guys can ‘celebrate’ alone together some other time.” I said ‘celebrate’ with air quotes because everyone was pretty sure there was more going on than just a close friendship with those two, though they denied it through and through.
Jeremy threw one of the pillows from the recliner he was sitting on at me. “Shut the fuck up, dude. She’s not wrong! But I’ll just set aside some cash and we can go next week or something. Maybe we can just bring along our own drinks to… Supplement the bars on our way down.” He was giving me a look that said he knew I was going to agree, but needed to hear it from the horse’s mouth. He had his shoulders shrugged, his eyebrows raised and his mouth wide open. “Fuck yeah! Let’s fuckin’ do it!” I threw the pillow back at him and we enjoyed the rest of the night over some Mario Kart 64 and arguing about who would beat who in a fight between Groot and Swamp Thing.
You guys don’t need to argue about it. I know Swamp Thing would kick Groot’s ass. It’s a no-brainer, right? Tell that to Jeremy and Angel. Those two always took each other’s side no matter the argument. Over the next week, I took a few odd jobs to save up some drinking money, called my girlfriend to let her know the plan and planned out all of our stops. When the night finally came, I texted everyone that I would be on my way and hopped in my dad’s shitty old Chrysler Lebaron to pick everyone up. My girlfriend got called into an emergency shift at work and told us she would meet us later in the night.
I was bummed to have to be the third wheel, but just wanted to have fun with Jeremy and give him a proper send-off. I picked Angel and Jeremy up at his place and we headed downtown. “Alright you guys. Here’s the deal.” Jeremy opened up his backpack. It was lined with a couple dozen single-shot bottles of all different types of liquor and a few tall cans of beer. “I figure we can pregame a little on our way up to the first bar and just kind of.. I dunno. Feel it out? He said shaking the tiny bottles next to my ear. “Sounds like a fuckin’ plan, brother!” Angel rolled her eyes with a smile and shrugged. “Whatever you wanna do, J. This is your night.” “This is our night.” He corrected her.
So we did just what Jeremy planned. And I may or may not have pregamed a little harder than the others on our way up the road. I don’t quite remember getting to the first bar. But as the night went on, Angel and Jeremy ordered me waters over drinks sometimes and overall kept me in check. We had a great night playing darts, sneaking drinks into the bars, dancing with the street performers and overall just enjoying life. I think it was one of the few times that I felt happy that year. As we passed a large fountain, Angel pulled out a few coins from her purse.
You guys wanna make a wish? She handed each of us a coin and we turned our backs to the fountain. Angel and Jeremy flipped their coins over their shoulders and looked at each other, smiling. I started to realize then how much I was going to miss Jeremy always being around. I closed my eyes, made my wish and tried to flip the coin backwards. I must have not had enough water at our stops, because I completely lost my balance and fell ass-first into the cloudy, freezing water of the wishing fountain. “Oh come the fuck on!” I said, slamming my fists into the water around me.
Jeremy and Angel about pissed themselves laughing. Jeremy collapsed onto the edge of the fountain, clutching his stomach. “Oh my fucking God! I can’t believe that! No matter what else happens tonight, this was the perfect way to say goodbye. Ho. Lee. Shit!” “Don’t worry, guys. I’ll help myself out.” I sobered up pretty quickly when I hit the water. And I wasn’t having as much fun anymore. I had my last bit of cash and cell phone in my pockets. And now they were both equally useless.
“I’m sorry, man. That was just too fucking funny!” Jeremy placed a hand on my shoulder to prop himself up. “If there’s anyone that can pull off a fall like that, it’s you!” “Whatever, dude. Whatever helps you sleep at night knowing you’re leaving me in this shit-hole of a town.” He looked taken aback by my words. “What the fuck? Look. You know I’m just trying to make a livi—“ I cut him off and scooped him up into a sopping wet bear hug. “FUUUUCCCKKKK YOU, MAN!” I yelled, laughing. He tried to fight me off, but he was laughing too hard. Angel wasn’t as into the joke as we were.
I set him down and he punched me in the shoulder. We headed back towards the car to get back to my parents’ place and finish of the night with some more video games. “Did you guys not see that person staring at us earlier..?” Angel finally squeaked. “No? Who are you talking about?” I asked her, turning around and stumbling backwards down the sidewalk. “Never mind.” She shrugged. “Maybe I’m just crazy.” Jeremy snatched my keys out of my hands as we got to the parking lot. “I’m a much better drunk driver than you, Seven. Don’t even try to fight it.” “Nobody said I even wanted to drive, nerd! Shotgun!” I ran around to the passenger side. Angel slinked into the back seat behind Jeremy.
We started our way towards my parents’ but seemed to catch every red light. And then I got a great idea. “CHINESE FIRE DRILL!” I yelled, throwing my door open at the next light. Jeremy and Angel laughed and jumped out of their seats. We all ran around the car in the empty street until the light turned green and hopped in through whatever door we were next to when it did. Jeremy and I ended up in the back seat and high fives each other through heavy breaths. “Fuckin’ awesome. You know the way back to my place, Angel?” “No. But Jeremy does. She said, reaching for something in her purse.
“Fuck that. If anyone is going to give directions, it’s Seven. It’s his parents’ place, anyways!” He laughed. I looked up into the rear-view mirror ready to guide Angel back when I noticed something was a little off. She was in the passenger seat. And we were already heading the wrong way. I nudged Jeremy with my elbow and pointed to the front seat with my chin. “Who the fuck is driving my dad’s car?” I whispered to him. He laughed, confused. “What are you talking about, man? Angel is…” He trailed off when he noticed her looking at the driver’s seat, terrified.
A hooded man looked at me through the rear view mirror with a wide grin on his face and placed a long, bony finger up to his lips as if to shush us. He had piercing, yellow eyes. His hood masked all of his facial features other than that smile and those eyes. And he smelled terrible. Like packs of rotting, long-since smoked and discarded cigarettes. “What the fuck!?” Angel whimpered. She went to scream, and the stranger reached out, lightning quick, with his hand, covering her mouth.
I could see all of the tendons and veins throughout his hand. And he grasped her face tight. “Ssssshhhhhhh….” He hissed, squeezing tighter. She let out a muffled scream and tried to fight off his grip. Jeremy reached over the center console, grabbing the steering wheel and jerking it to the right. The car veered off into the trees on the side of the road, crashing head on into one. I remember the squealing of the tires and the look of joy on the man driving’s face in the rear view mirror as we impacted with the tree. The crash must have knocked me out.
I woke up a few minutes later to the smell of… Pennies..? Something metallic joined the air with the smell of burning rubber and gasoline. I rubbed my head and looked around the wreckage. Angel was dead in the passenger seat with her jaw broken horribly and her cheeks sliced open. The windshield was a mess of shattered safety glass with a large hole in the center. My vision took a second to clear up enough that I could see through the smoke and darkness. Jeremy was wrapped around the tree along with the hood of the car.
I fought against the back door and stumbled out into the open field. I collapsed after making it 15-20 feet from the accident, landing on my knees and vomited the contents of my stomach onto the grass below me. The alcohol burned my throat along with the bile and I fought the urge to black out again when I heard footsteps come up beside me. I could barely breathe with that familiar cigarette smell mixing with my vomit inches from my face. I looked up to see those piercing yellow eyes and too-wide grin looking down at me. He once again raised a bony finger to his lips to shush me and let out a labored, breathy laugh.
He then turned around and disappeared into the trees. Someone passing by on the road up the hill must have seen the burning vehicle. A woman and her husband came running down the hill towards me. She began screaming for him to call 911 and telling me not to move. “You might be hurt!” She said trying to stay calm. She knelt next to me and I passed out again. I awoke a while later in a hospital bed with my parents on the couch in the room. My mother ran to my bedside and kissed my forehead. The doctors said I was lucky to be alive.
The wreck was deemed an accident due to Jeremy’s drunk driving. I tried to tell the police that he wasn’t the one driving at the time of the accident, but I guess since he had been thrown through the windshield and his ‘girlfriend’ was in the passenger seat, that was evidence enough for them to disregard my ramblings of a mostly faceless, hooded man attempting to kidnap the three of us. I still blame myself for all of this.
It’s been three years since then. I haven't so much as smelled alcohol. I’ve physically recovered from the accident. I ended up making it out with a broken shoulder and a pretty severe concussion, so the recovery didn’t take long in itself. Mentally, though, I don’t think I’ll ever recover. I still see that smile in my nightmares. And some nights, I swear I can see those piercing yellow eyes in the shadows around my room. No matter how good of a drunk driver you think you are, please just don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk. You might hurt someone. You might hurt yourself. Or if you’re lucky like me, someone else might hurt everyone involved.