2012 Sobriety Rocks Honorable Mention Writing
by Paul Kirkwood
It's amazing what the human brain is capable of, what it can accomplish when pushed. Its performance rarely crosses over to the extreme; a catalyst is usually required to set the synapses to a heightened pace between the neurons. They call this catalyst adrenaline, and, when induced into the brain, it has a tendency to distort one's perception, from the sharpness of objects, to the passage of time, to the ability to recall obscured happening from the past in astounding detail. This is defined as the "experiential" state of mind, opposing the "rational" state of everyday experience. Entering into the experiential state of mind often requires one to be in a highly dangerous situation, whether it be a fireman in a last ditch attempt to avoid the plummeting, flaming beam, or a policeman in a shootout watching shell casings fly by in a state of hyper-lucidity…
…or, perhaps, a teenager staring straight into the headlights of an oncoming Dodge RAM 2500 extended cab. I've done the math. My Volkswagen is small and far too frail of a vehicle to provide an acceptable cushion against the momentum of three tons of metal going sixty miles an hour. I recognized those lights. I had seen them as the truck that was casting them drove into the party. I was blinded, but the resurgence of that image was even more searing than the blinding luminescence of the beams.
Like I said: experiential. It's part of the reason I'm able to relate this to you during the short span of roughly one second, the last second I have in this life. Who knows, maybe I might get lucky, and escape with my life intact at the cost of a few limbs or my cognitive functions. I doubt it, though.
They say that your life flashes before your eyes when…Ah, I'm sure you've heard it before. I'm not exactly sure how they can be certain of this. An experience can only be related to the masses with surety only if said experience was…well, experienced. A state of mind that precedes death cannot be impressed upon anyone by a corpse, so how can they be certain that such a thing even happens?
I suppose I'm being picky. Now that I mention it, it seems that my memories are cloying for attention. To be honest, I'd be glad to take my mind off of those headlights. I'd better get started; I don't have much time left.
Half a second, actually. I wouldn't want to leave them hanging.
Now, where to start? Early life, perhaps? Yeah, I'll skim it: Born out of wedlock. Adopted by a couple that was unable to have a child of their own, followed by a quick montage of home video shots of me growing, filling out my baby clothes, coming to terms with the jealous family pet. The usual.
My parents were kind, gentle, respected and respectful. They weren't overly prying, and they were judicious with the resources that they had. I suppose their examples should have instilled within me a sense of morality, a list of scruples designed to keep my conscience in the clear. They did, but everyone stumbles at least once in their life when Conscience slackens the reigns of inhibition. I guess we're always counting on the ledge of Second Chances to grab hold of when we do, so we don't plummet into an irrevocable spin cycle spurned into being by our mistakes. But what happens when time runs out and there are no more second chances?
Well, then, I guess our metaphorical hand keeps on falling through insubstantiality, doesn't it? Insubstantial reasons and justifications, insubstantial assurances that this was the only time we would ever take a sip.
I'm struck by the irony. It was the only time I would ever take a sip.
One fourth of a second.
Let's not delude ourselves: Sure, I had a choice, but peer pressure works its ways on you. Its most dangerous aspect is not that it forces you to do something against your will, but that it convinces you to do so. It's not coercion. It's a whole other concept, a sure-set human emotional principle of inner fallacy, the meaning of which can't be ensconced within a word. But we try. And I at least have the knowledge that I realized where I went wrong.
It's as simple as a request. "Come with us," they said. "It'll be fun!" I was dubious, having never taken a drink before. Consequently, I never posited any merit to the state of intoxication that my peers did. Oh, well, you never know how something feels until you try it, right? On that note, experientialism does have its merits, but intoxicated driving isn't an experience you want to try.
A tenth of a second now.
I felt…apprehensive when I arrived at the party scene. Not being sociable or gregarious, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of meeting new people, people I'd only know whilst uninhibited. But my friends were hot-to-trot, and I was goaded into thinking that inebriation was a thrill. One cup, two cup, three cup, blue cup; all followed in quick succession, the somewhat tasteless (to me, anyways) aspect of beer failing to impress me. I sipped slowly over the course of two hours to avoid an upended stomach. I traded it for an upended car instead.
I'm running out of time.
The police had come! They approached quietly, coasting their cars down the dirt road until they were right on us. They forgot the back road, a path by which my vehicle was currently stationary. My aim was uncannily precise as I jammed my key into the ignition. I held it in the start position for too long, and grinding noises erupted from the mechanisms within. But I didn't care. The road was bisected by another dirt path I could take directly to the highway. I roared down the bumpy course, jarring coins and other miscellanea from the cup holders. The rear end spun out of control as I turned the corner, the frictionless tires miring me in the center of the road.
I was blinded by headlights.