Tough Times for Teens


Makaila Fenwick

Drinking and driving: there are stupider things, but it's a very short list.

—Author Unknown

I grew up in a small town outside Savannah, Georgia where no one locked their doors at night and the main entertainment was Friday night high school football. The only crime to speak of was the occasional speeding ticket and maybe every once in a while a fight would break out at the one and only bar in town on a Saturday night. It's just a sleepy little town where parents want to raise their children away from the crime and danger of a big city, and where teenagers dream of leaving to find something bigger and better.

All that changed for me on one muggy summer night in July. It was my eighteenth birthday. My best friend Lisa's parents were going to be out of town for the week, so Lisa and my other two best friends, Kim and Jewel, decided to throw me a party at Lisa's house. My parents thought I was going out to dinner with Tyler, my boyfriend, then going over to Kim's to stay the rest of the weekend. Tyler came by to pick me up at six. My parents always said the same thing to Tyler before every date: "Drive carefully. You are driving around with precious cargo in your passenger seat." My mom gave us hugs and sent us out the door.

When Tyler and I arrived at Lisa's, the party was already in full swing—Lisa's house was packed. We had always liked going to parties and hanging out with our friends, although nether of us drank alcohol or did drugs. However, a few days before, Tyler and I had decided to maybe have a few drinks at the party. As soon as Kim and Jewel found out I was drinking, they both joined in. After about three margaritas and some other random drinks people just kept handing to me, I was pretty drunk, so I quit to look for Tyler. By the time I found Tyler, I was feeling sick and I wanted to go home. But we had a problem: Tyler was just as drunk as I was, if not more. When I told Tyler I needed to go home because I wasn't feeling good, he said he was fine and he'd take me home. Even as drunk as I was I still knew better, we both knew better then to drink and drive. At that point I just didn't care—all I could think of was how much I wanted to go home.

With some difficulty, Tyler and I made it out to his car. I don't remember getting home or much after, for that matter. I do remember my parents running outside in their pajamas and how scared they both looked. My mom helped me to my bed and my dad put Tyler to bed on the couch.

That night, after puking up my guts, I finally fell asleep and had a bad dream:

It's early morning. I wake up to my parents crying. Kim, my friend since we were five years old, has been killed in a car accident. After Tyler and I left, Kim, who had more to drink than me, got into her car. She didn't put her seatbelt on, didn't turn her headlights on, and headed towards the highway to go home. She was going about ninety miles per hour and driving on the wrong side of the road. Kim never saw the truck coming. The driver, who also wasn't wearing a seatbelt, didn't see her in time to swerve. They hit head on. Kim died immediately, and the driver was thrown through the truck windshield and was in a coma.

I woke in the late afternoon, screaming out Kim's name in a cold sweat with tears running down my face. My mother rushed into my room and held me until I stopped crying.

It's been eleven years since that night, and I haven't touched alcohol again. Every year around my birthday I have the same nightmare over and over again. I see my parents crying while they come into my room to tell me what happened to Kim. The only difference is that now my mother isn't around to hold me until the tears stop and tell me it really is a nightmare, not just the alcohol fogging my brain. Because Kim really did hit that truck. I later learned the driver's name was David, and he was in a coma for a week before he died. He left behind a three-year-old son, who was named after him, and a wife seven months pregnant with a little girl.

Whenever I look back on that day, I wonder if Kim would have been drinking if I hadn't. I wonder if she would have driven home if she hadn't seen me do it first. What would have happened if I hadn't made the choice to drink that night? Would Kim still be alive? Would David? I know Kim made the choice to drink and drive that night, but a part of me will always feel responsible for what happened.

I may not have changed the world with my story, but I do hope that by sharing it I make people realize the responsibility they have to themselves and to everyone else out there. Don't ever think that your choices are yours alone. Every choice, whether good or bad, is like a pebble dropped into still water—each ripple represents someone your choice affects. That's quite an impact, isn't it?

(932 words)