Car Crash in Reverse

Nonfiction by Aram Mrjoian

Before T. scrambled across a stranger’s yard with blood gushing down his forehead, and L.’s jaw was wired shut, so that for years you scanned her face for subtle changes in its landscape, and V.’s fractured femurs left her in a wheelchair for weeks (later on crutches); before the telephone pole demolished the grin of your station wagon and the front end caved in, resembling the yawning mouth of a crocodile; before the airbag pummeled its acrid taste into the cracks of your bleeding lips and rattled your neck with a full-face sucker punch; before you took a left turn too widely while you glanced past your friends crammed in the backseat, unbuckled, cozy, elated in evading curfew; before you veered onto the dim-lit street headed downtown for cheap sandwiches and wet cans of pop, ready to dig the last crumpled dollars from your wallet; before careening out of the empty middle-school parking lot, thirsty for what the rest of the night held; before you plopped down in the driver’s seat, when the car was parked and empty, the warm engine dozing in the first minutes of morning; before declining the joint passed your way on a row of squeaking swings, insistent on driving sober; before the cool night crept over the six of you as you hid from homework and midterms and the mundane stresses of the fleeting weekend, still believing that nothing could go wrong, the crepuscular chill of possibility sending goose bumps across your forearms in the wind; before patiently descending the ladder from the roof of the school, where you had boosted one another high enough to climb atop its lower tier and ascended in single file to its damp summit; before the months of wreckage, you were simply overjoyed to be out, after hours, beneath the unclouded night sky, stretching to reach a little closer to the stars.

Aram Mrjoian is an editor-at-large at the Chicago Review of Books, an interviews editor at the Southeast Review, and the assistant managing editor at TriQuarterly. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Millions, Kenyon Review online, Longreads, Joyland, Colorado Review, and many other publications. He earned his MFA in creative writing at Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in fiction at Florida State University. Find his work at arammrjoian.com.