At the time I thought life was simple and easy. You live and you die. Maybe you work and start a family, maybe you don't. But no matter what I thought, I knew we would all end up the same way. Joining the hunt in the better hunting grounds always seemed odd to me and I didn't much care for the notions of our loved ones sitting atop a cloud and looking down at us. My mother had believed in all that. I never believed any of it. Dead is dead and mostly 6 feet under, too. Life was simply the thing you did before you were gone. Life wasn't as precious as old people felt it was. Oh, how wrong I was. I still felt immortal - that's how young I was! I was nineteen and I had learned nothing about life and its cruelty. No one close to me had died and nothing horrible had ever happened. To me, wars were nothing but a part of history and death the inevitable thing somewhere faraway in the future. I didn't see myself dying any time soon. Actually, I didn't really see myself dying at all though I believed in it being inevitable. All this held true all the way until my 20th birthday, November the 18th 2011. What happened that day, haunts me to this very day.
The day started much like any other Friday for a teen-aged party-animal does. I would have refused to get up and go to campus if I hadn't known that I had a lecture held by a guest lecturer. They were usually a lot more fun than our professors, who I rarely listen to – Why should I bother with some silly notes? Surely someone else would print me theirs!
I've gone through the events of that day billions of times to see if doing something differently would have altered the end result. There were only a few things that might have changed the events that would follow. The whole day in its tiniest details had drawn itself ever so slowly into my consciousness, probably for the rest of time. I had had black coffee and smoked almonds for breakfast. I had done a smoky-eye look and I could probably even tell someone the names of the shades and brands I had used. I had left my cell at home and had to run back for it. I remember the two sets of clothes I had worn and how I had done my hair for the day. The bus driver hadn't answered my cheery “good morning!” and my best friend's hair had been a shocking shade of magenta. The guest lecturer had worn a T-shirt with the print “AC/DC” across his chest and his name was Markus Lehtinen. These were all things I wouldn't normally pay attention to but guilt does amazing things to a person's memory. Markus had lectured us about music's ways of affecting our subconscious – This is to say that I was studying psychology.
During the lecture everything had been so calm and quiet. I had actually taken notes! My friends had been texting me the entire lecture with questions about the clubs we would hit later that night. The clubs I now wish I hadn't agreed to go to. But I was such a sheep, following the herd wherever it took me. Looking back I have come to realise that I wasn't very mature at the tender age of twenty. I had been surprisingly shallow and obnoxious. It wasn't a surprise that I did what I had always done that day – I followed. I texted my friends back and answered their questions rather cheerfully, not knowing what the future had in store for me. The lecture ended and I was more than ready to do something else with the rest of my day. “Happy birthday, Luna!” my peers said to me as they passed me by, and my answer to each and every one of them was always the same “Thanks! I'll see you at Mist tonight!” Mist was our club. It was dark and mysterious like we thought we were. The music was always amazing and the dance floor just full enough.
I was so absorbed in my own thoughts while giving automated responses to everyone that I didn't notice Diane catching up to me before she started talking. “Mist tonight, huh?” she asked me with that beautiful face of hers turned into that of a mischievous little imp. She fiddled with her long red curls, I wasn't sure if those locks were dyed and permed or not. “Yeah, Mist. Like every Friday”, I muttered. Diane looked bewildered as though I had said something odd. “I mean, it's fun and all that.. But we're always there”, I tried to put noticeable pressure on always. Diane's green eyes widened in shock and so did my own grey ones. Had I just said that, I asked myself over and over again. Diane opened her mouth to say something but luckily for me, our friend Tom interrupted the conversation by asking: “Going to the gym?” We looked at each other and nodded. Nothing more to say or do.
At the gym I put on earphones and listened to very loud music. I didn't want to take part in the conversations going on around me. I nodded to anyone, who seemed to greet me and went on with my workout. If I had known it would be my last, I would have worked harder. But as we all know, you can't predict the future. After the workout I went home to get ready for my birthday “party”. I styled my chestnut hair into wild curls and put bright green polish on my nails. I did my eyes with a shimmering green shadow and put on a black mini dress with black boots and green accessories. “You look amazing, L”, Tom told me as I picked him up in my green Volvo. I smiled back and laughed, “I know!” Next on my list of people to pick up was my gorgeous best friend and her ever changing hair.
“Magenta?” I asked her horrified. “Sure. It's awesome, isn't it?” Anna smiled and twirled showing off her new edgy look. I tried to smile back but only managed half a smile. I couldn't stand her new hair. The colour clashed with her skin but at least it was better than the lavender she had gone for before. I was tired of never knowing what she'd look like. “Do you even know what your real colour is?” I asked and tried to keep the disdain from my voice. She looked stunned for a moment. That moment was long enough for guilt to drip in. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked such a thing”, I muttered only to be greeted by her grin and laughter, which were quickly followed by the words, “This is my real colour now, silly!” I let it go.
It was silly of me to be the driver on my own birthday, I see that now. But I didn't realise it at the time. Don't drink and drive, that's what they say and as a stupid, irresponsible teenager, who thought she was an adult, I had never followed the rule. There I was, driving, because I'd volunteered to be our dedicated driver. Too bad dedicated driver seemed to translate in our heads as drunk driver. It was a miracle that we hadn't managed to kill ourselves or others on our booze filled trips.
We drifted from club to club drinking progressively more and more. We went from water to cider to tequila to vodka. It was crazy and we probably were, too. Nearly regular Friday night for us and I say nearly, because things were about to go horribly wrong. We arrived at Mist at 10.15PM according to my phone. Walking in I felt awesome, sort of indestructible like nothing could hurt me. The music was deafening and the air filled with excitement. Mist's trademark scent had always seemed to be tobacco, alcohol and sweat – A combination that sounds extremely disgusting but is actually pretty awesome. I saw friendly faces and people I knew would befriend us quicker than I could say hi. In the moment I wondered why I had been annoyed about coming to Mist again. “This will be the best birthday party ever!” I shouted over the music to Anna, who just grinned at me. For a dedicated driver I was already way too deep in the liquor. We danced with men and women who we had never met and, probably, would never meet again. Everyone there was fine with taking that chance. If something was meant to be, surely you would meet again somewhere outside Mist.
Mist could never become the central point of our lives - that is what we vowed. We drank and danced more. I was later told by others that I had made out with someone in the Northern corner. I didn't remember the encounter. The rest of my time at Mist was more of the same until I decided it was a good idea to drive my friends home. What followed drew itself all across my life and is one of the few things I truly remember from the time I was wasted.
“This is fun”, Anna screamed in delight from the back seat a little while after we had left Mist and were headed to the highway. I had 120 kilometres per hour on my meter and I wasn't about to slow down. Tom had dozed off on the front seat after calling shotgun. He was blissfully unaware of everything we did with my Volvo. Diane sat with Anna in the back. She was laughing wildly, enjoying herself. Her laughter caught on and soon I was laughing, too. For a change we weren't fighting but instead having fun. Anna burst into song and we joined in. Our voices were far from unison and nowhere near pitch perfect. Some of the horrible out of tune notes we sang made me flinch and take a tighter hold of the black (fake)leather wheel.
Diane and I quieted down pretty quickly. Even when drunk we had a certain uncertainty of our own musical talents and enough shame to avoid showing them – Anna didn't possess these qualities. She moved on to “Happy Birthday”, which is what she was singing when we saw the truck. I was certain that I was driving just as well as I normally did. Turns out, your drunk mind isn't as smart and coordinated as it would like to think. Anna kept on singing and Diane seemed to be about to fall asleep. I smiled behind the wheel and kept a straight line – at least so I thought. The truck was coming at us at 120 kilometres per hour and we were, without knowing it, going at it with the exact same speed. The crash happened suddenly and violently. Tom didn't even wake up.
I remember screaming, “No, no, no. This isn't happening!” I don't know why I remember that. I remember the way the first impact of the crash felt. Sometimes I still wake up at night screaming. I still remember how it felt to hit my head on the wheel and to remember in that moment that none of the others had worn seatbelts. I remember the car starting to turn immediately after the impact and myself thinking that if I were to survive I would study my ass off. Unfortunately for me, I was heard and my wish was granted. The car turned over a few times and I was disoriented. I saw just blood. I could feel something thick and warm etching slowly down my face. I thanked every god I knew for having landed back in upright position. Then everything went black.
I woke up to bright lights and steady beeping of a machine. I was hurting all over and then it all hit me. I had been in a car accident with my friends. I had been driving drunk. I was surprised that I wasn't handcuffed to the bed. I fell back asleep and the next time I woke up I was questioned by doctors to establish that my brain was still working as it should. All the silly questions I had hated suddenly made sense to me. They let me recover for a while before telling me that none of my friends had survived. I was mortified. This had been my fault and I knew it. I saw how the nurses looked at me. Later I would go to jail for manslaughter and drunk driving. My licence would be suspended. But no punishment could have been worse than what I did to myself.
After that night I fell from social butterfly to “damaged goods”, literally. I knew I should have known better than to drive drunk. I will never believe any of the excuses others have made for me. It was my fault. My style changed from beautiful and confident to the mouse in the corner. I would forever regret the events of that day, and I had no idea how that day would affect the rest of my life.
Friday the 18th of November 2011 was the day my best friends died. It was the day that ruined my life and the lives of those who loved all four of us. It was truly a day of regret.