High School can get pretty crazy all by itself with its coming of age, right of passage insanity. But in 1983 the entire world around us seemed to be loosing their marbles as well. The death toll in Ethiopia reached 4 million. The U.S. embassy in Beirut was bombed killing 63. Civil war broke out in 4 different countries, 6 world leaders were assassinated, and 73 women were hung and fed to the lions in Iran for learning to read. Richard Ramirez would kill his first victim two blocks from my house, and the Brinks truck in Heathrow airport would get robbed of 37.5 million dollars.
It was my senior year and the thought of life beyond school weighed heavy on everyone’s mind. I had already enlisted in the Army, and living on my own in a studio apartment above the garage of a friend’s house. Tragedy seemed to settle over my home town of Riverside, California in a haze of darken gloom.
That year our head football couch was taken into the orange groves that ran between my house and the school and executed. In those same rows of citrus trees the bodies of two teenage girls would be found raped and murdered just a month apart from each other. War would break out between the Mexican gangs in Casa Blanca and the Urban gangs in Compton. Hell’s Angels would be brought in to keep the blood from spilling over into the suburban neighborhoods. And four of our schools most popular students would be killed in a drunk driving accident on the way to prom.
Then there was the Three Mikes. We were four of the most different personalities you could possibly group together. There was me, the die-hard metal head. There was Mike the New Romantic, Mike the baseball star valedictorian, and Mike the grease monkey. We were drawn together by two common threads. We were all seniors looking to blow off steam, and we all worked the night shift at the United Artist theater.
It was common for us to head down to the Castle Park pinball and mini golf after work. Kids from all over town would congregate there and hangout. It was a meeting place to organize parties or beer runs. We would also go to set up drag races. One of the Mikes had a supped up lime green Plymouth and loved to race it. So one Friday night we met up with this kid from La Sierra High who had a yellow Chevy Camero. They had set the place and the time and the stakes, two hours, Victoria Lane and a hundred bucks.
Soon after the trunks opened and the beers started flowing. I however couldn’t stay. I had a date of sorts. You see there was this girl who I liked all through school and before it all ended, boyfriend or not, I was going to make a move. I bought this beautiful heart-shaped necklace and was going to meet her outside of her work when she got off to give it to her. I knew her boyfriend was out-of-town camping with his parents and I was planning on taking advantage of that window. So I left the castle parking lot and headed to the mall.
Funny things happen when a spider makes a web, they rarely account for rain. The drops fell and the camping trip was cut short. Needless to say, the girl got the necklace, I got the shaft and the boyfriend got the girl. But at least I tried, it would take me a few years to respect that, but for the time being I was going to sit on the steps outside of the plaza and sulk.
Just then the Three Mikes pulled up, they were well lubricated and ready to tear up some pavement. The driver of the Camero wanted four bodies in the car to even out the weight difference. So I got into the backseat and we headed out to the rose-covered lane. When we arrived we pulled up along side the other car and within seconds a flag was dropped and in a cloud of burnt rubber and smoking asphalt we were off.
Now I thought we hit the tail end of the car in front of us, and I don’t know if the alcohol was the cause but I figured it was a factor. But the police report said that the front left tired hit the curb doing 90 miles per hour snapping the tire rod which caused the car to turn sideways and flip several times before hitting the trunk of a huge Florida Palm.
The Mike driving had hit his head so hard against the dash-board that he broke his back, his collar-bone and both shoulders. He would be in traction at Riverside General for eight month and have a steel cage screwed into his temples for an additional six. The Mike in the passenger seat flew from the side windshield and was crushed between the car and the road. He died instantly. The Mike next to me in the back repeatedly hit his head against his knee caps breaking the bones in both legs and fracturing his skull. He would suffer from internal bleeding in the brain and never fully recover.
As for me? Well I pushed open the mangled door and walked away. No cuts, no bruises, nothing. The police never did believe that I was in the car. They said no one could have escaped that crash unscathed.
I stood in that hospital waiting room with the families of those boys in total shock. No family came for me, I don’t think any was even called. I was like an onlooker to an act playing out before me. Life can change in the blink of an eye. If I had not gone to give that girl that necklace I would have been drinking too, and therefore not sober and clinging to the roof of the car like a scared cat but instead yelling and cheering along side the Mikes.
That was the first of two major automobile accidents I would walk away from untouched. The first of only two accidents I would ever be involved in.