Crash and Burn
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This story will make you cringe. And we’re sorry. It’s about when someone’s girly parts get them into a crazy situation. It’s not sexual. But it’s still something to maybe not listen to over your Bluetooth with a car full of party people. Or maybe it is. We’re not here to judge your parties…
This is a story about a girl who can keep a secret. Especially if it’s embarrassing . Most especially is if it’s about… herself.
Holly was in high school and a year into her first relationship with her first boyfriend when she first realized there were some, um, downfalls to sex. There were things that hadn’t been covered in health class. Like peeing after the deed. Or what you said the person when you were finished… um… thank you? Or, maybe some basic hygiene tips for the man involved? She had been feeling very grown-up having this boyfriend but, in retrospect was a bit, well, unprepared.
Which is how, after a very fun and acrobatic weekend when his parents were out of town, she found herself painfully itchy… Down there. Super itchy. Off-the-walls, no ignoring it, deep in the pits of Hell with no relief anywhere in sight- type of itch. She was embarrassed. She was scared. And she had zero idea of what to do. She was deeply unhappy with her present circumstances, to say the least. And, it got worse: Her mother was out of town and there was no way on God’s green earth that she was going to share her situation with her father. He would turn red and leave the room if someone even mentioned a bra. So, like all the generations before these last two, she had to figure this out on her own.
She cursed her boyfriend as she shuffled into the local Rite Aid in her down parka and baggiest of cargo pants, rapidly snatching a package of cream in an aisle she vowed to never step foot in again, and brought it to the counter with a bright red face and a large package of Sour Patch Kids. This was her first mistake. Not the Sour Patch Kids. Those made her feel just the tiniest bit better although she couldn’t be sure if that was from the sugar or the act of biting the heads off of the tiny men. The mistake was the cream.
See, Holly had the most sensitive skin of anyone she knew. If she so much as brushed up against a wool blanket or a dirty dog or walked by the perfume counter at JCPenny, she’d immediately break out in full body hives. She was seventeen and still used unscented baby shampoo. So, yes, perhaps she should have thought of her skin situation before she purchased the tube but the woman on the box looked so reassuring that she hadn’t considered the possible side effects until it was too late. Twenty six minutes after her (generous) application of the product on her most sensitive body part, Holly was on fire. The pain was so intense, she was sure that either she was going to pass out or die. She wondered if the coroner would be discreet when he told her parents the cause of death. Holly hoped so. This was the most embarrassing thing that had every happened to her.
We won’t go too deep into the aftermath but it was… big, swollen to the point of being utterly unrecognizable by her owner. And Holly didn’t know what to do. This was before the internet or urgent care clinics or Holly being an actual adult who might possess actual knowledge on how to actually stop an allergic reaction. She was completely freaked out. And now many times more uncomfortable than she had been only half an hour before. She realized that she had no choice but to do the one thing that she absolutely did not want to do: she had to call the doctor. Then she was going to have to let someone else, another actual, breathing human with a brain and a medical degree, see what was going on between her legs.
She looked through her mother’s Rolodex sitting next to the family landline phone in the kitchen and found the number for her doctor under River Mountain Pediatrics.
Shitballs, thought Holly, I can’t go to a pediatrician with this. Shit shit shit… and her fingers turned the knob on the little plastic contraption until she found the number for her mother’s OB. This was the same man that had delivered Holly into the world seventeen years earlier. She momentarily considered that dying was a more attractive option. But the pain, itching, and swelling pushed her over the edge into pure desperation that she picked up the Casio phone and dialed the number to the office across town.
It was winter in Michigan and that year had been exceptionally dreary. The day was grey with a mist cloaking everything in a dense fog. It would have been a great afternoon to have curled up on the couch and watch a Patrick Swayze movie. Instead, Holly had to scrape the ice off the windshield of her old Volvo and drove to the doctor’s office. This wouldn’t have been a fun chore even if her crotch hadn’t been on fire. In her haste, she only cleared the driver’s side of the glass.
Which is probably one of the reasons why, as she sped her blue hatchback carrying her miserable body off through the side streets of her little suburban neighborhood, that she crashed right into the driver’s side of a bright red truck still within spitting distance of her own house. This year marked her first boyfriend, her first trip to the gynecologist’s, and now her first motor vehicle accident. Holly was sincerely close to losing her mind.
The driver of the red truck was a calm gentleman in his 60s who could not comprehend in any terms how Holly didn’t see his car. He asked her what happened, repeatedly. Holly fought back the tears with everything she had. She crossed her legs in one direction, and then in the other while the flabbergasted grandpa took down her name, driver’s license, car’s plates, and her phone number. The whole incident felt like it took hours. Holly waited until she was safely in her freezing car to let the tear train roll.
She cried all the way to the doctor’s office with a large dent in her front bumper. She cried all the way into the waiting room and while filling out the forms. Then she cried while she hid in the bathroom from two of her mother’s friends whom she recognized reading magazines, waiting for their own appointments. The day couldn’t have gotten worse. By the time she was done, with a large tube of prescription hydrocortisone cream in hand, she felt as if she’d aged eleven years.
However, being on the verge of tears all day helped her dance around the subject of the accident with her father later that night. I will never tell him what happened, she swore to herself, and I will never use that cream again. And she didn’t. She never told anyone. She thought that she could take the incident and store it away in a little Ziplock bag in her brain, sealed airtight, never to see the light of day. Unfortunately for Holly, this did not end up being the case.
Years later Holly was home from college, thoroughly itch-free, and helping her mom get dinner on the table when her father came home from the office. He had one of those smiles on his face where Holly didn’t know whether or not she was in trouble. He set down his briefcase in the mudroom.
“Holl?” He called into the kitchen. Holly came out to see him. She liked coming home during her college years. She felt closer to her parents now that they treated her like an adult, proved by the lack of tension in the house and the glass of wine in her left hand.
“What’s up, dad?” She smiled. Her dad was a good dude. He, like the older man in the red truck, could not comprehend how Holly didn’t see the car she hit on that winter day all those years earlier, but Holly stuck like glue to her story which she secretly knew made no sense. She thought that they’d moved on, that that horrific day was buried in the past like a handful of other dumbass mistakes from her teenage years. She was wrong.
“Do you remember that car accident from your Junior year of high school?” Holly took this moment as the perfect opportunity to lay the whole story out on the table and tell her father the truth of that miserable afternoon, finally clearing her conscious and cleaning out that Ziplock bag of shame. Sorry, kidding, she decided to play dumb.
“Huh?” She gave her dad her best wide-eyed, confused face.
“Yeah. When you barreled into that guy in front of the side door of the house?”
“Ohhhh, yeah, that-“ Holly stammered, “I think maybe I kind of remember. Maybe?” Holly shrugged and took a large sip of the terrible wine that her mother stored in the warm cabinet above the microwave.
“I’m still arguing with the insurance company over it,” her dad stated, oh so matter of factly. Holly took a momentary break from the pit forming in her stomach to wonder exactly what it was that her father did all day.
“Oh?” Was the only word that Holly could eek out.
“Yeah, as long as you’re here, can you walk me outside and explain to me exactly what happened?”
Holly looked at her wine and then at the floor where she imagined digging a deep, dark hole and jumping into it. Then she looked back up to her dad, remembering her promise to herself to take this secret to the grave. She didn’t care that she was older or that her father was an understanding man. She didn’t care that she could allude to a female issue and that he would probably tell her to stop. She didn’t care that this whole thing could be put to bed once and for all. Holly was not going to tell the truth.
It had been the most physically uncomfortable day of her high school years. She’d been utterly miserable and humiliated and she wasn’t going to share it with anyone. So she put on her flip flops and carried her wine out to the corner of her house, to the scene of the crime. There, she explained, like she’d done a dozen times before, that the truck had been speeding up the hill, she’d looked left, and then right, and then left again, and by the time she’d put her foot on the gas, the truck had snuck up on her.
“That doesn’t make sense,” replied her very sensical father. Holly closed her eyes outside of her childhood home, re-living that awful moment. She felt the cold mist of that Michigan afternoon, the hellacious burning between her legs, the anxiety of not knowing what to do or what was happening to her body. She opened her eyes and looked up at her father.
“If I tell you the truth, will you promise to let this go…. Finally?”
He raised one eyebrow, taking stock of his youngest daughter. It was beautiful out, the birds chirped and the grass was green and his wife was grilling which was a dinner even she couldn’t mess up. He exhaled.
Holly took a deep breath, then downed the last of her merlot.
“I only cleared one side of the windshield.”
“Holly!” He admonished.
“I know, I know. I learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again.”
So Holly got to keep her lie. But, she didn’t totally win. Her dad didn’t keep his promise, either, and still brings up the fucking car accident 20 years later.