The grass stuck to my ankles, making them itch. Sweat ran in rivulets down my cheek. It must have been 120 degrees. I should have cut the stupid grass when it was not so hot, but there were better things for a seventeen year old to do in July. Only a little more to go as I looked over at my newly bought used car that was just waiting to be driven for the second time. The next day my family was leaving for a trip to Glass Lake, and I was not going. The thought of being home alone, freedom, left the dull ache of excitement in my stomach and I smiled to myself. My sisters will spend the entire week exploring the old resort, as I once had done. I was hoping to do some exploring of my own with the newest guy in town who had taken quite an interest in me. I stopped the mower and ran to my mom, who was calling me from the house.
Those next few seconds in time are frozen; they are ones I will never forget. I will not forget the smell of chocolate chip cookies that flooded my nostrils as I entered the kitchen. I will not forget how the sun’s ray shone through the door wall, and how my tears bounced off the sunny yellow patterns of the kitchen linoleum, as my mother told me James and Melissa had been in a terrible accident. Through my sniffles I asked, eventually, if they were dead. The answer came slowly that Melissa was fine but James was in a coma. This was not happening. James, my best friend since elementary school, was barely alive. We had just gone together to pick up my new car, and he even pitched in the last hundred dollars. We celebrated with ice cream and gossip about his new girlfriend Melissa. Would I ever hear his laugh again? James was blonde, strong but certainly not a jock type. He had just graduated top of his class,at our high school this past June, and was expected to attend the local engineering college in the fall. He was everything you could ever want in a friend.
The information about the specifics of the accident came slowly. There were rumors of drinking among my friends, which Melissa adamantly denied in private. But the truth proved hard to hide, thanks to TV news. The footage played again and again. Melissa, in the foreground talking to a cop, rubber legged and still obviously drunk. The smashed car, the broken tree, and James’ bloody body being pulled from the wreck wide eyed. It would be two years before I saw those blue eyes again.
Our family vacation was put on hold because his family needed us now. My parents did their best to keep me from the hospital. It angered me and I wondered why I was old enough to stay home alone but not old enough to go to the hospital. After all he was my best friend! When I finally did go to visit James, after an ample amount of foot stomping and pleading with my parents, it was just days after the accident. I entered his room half expecting to see his smile and hear him recount his hospital adventures. However, I did not see James at all. Just a body wrapped in bandages, a face so swollen and stitched, that for a moment I thought I had gone into the wrong hospital room.
The only sign of life in the room was the ventilator, which breathed for him. The sound of mechanical breath would haunt my day dreams and nightmares years into my adulthood. I remember holding his hand and understanding why my parents did not want me to come. Years later I was glad I had come that day and days after – holding his hand, reading the high school newsletter, and the local sports page. We waited, we prayed, we hoped, and then we gave up hope. Two years later, almost to the day, James woke up. He was smiling, with no front teeth, hungry and still my best friend. I never saw Melissa again, and I hope I never will. That was the summer that lasted two years. It began for me in the hopes of losing a bit of girlish innocence, but in the end I gained my adulthood and what it truly meant to be a friend.