Dead Man's Curve
It’s a narrow corner hill, and then a hairpin, all within a fourth of a mile, and it’s the exact center point between my house and my best friend Alexia’s. There is no way around it, if I want to go out with my best friend I have to travel that stretch of road, and she the same for me. Right at the start of the hairpin are five wooden crosses, three from the late seventies, two from the last five years. One was put there by Alexia’s brother, Cameron, whom I’ve always called Adam for a reason I cannot remember; it’s just something I’ve always done.
The road was next to an apple orchard. The trees were so close to the road in a way that only happens in New England that if I reached out my window while riding shotgun in Alexia’s green Ford Concord, I felt like I could have grabbed apples as we drove by. Not too long after Adam put up that cross, a year maybe, that orchard was paved to make way for a new housing development, ironically called Orchard View.
We were with our third musketeer, Brenda, the day we lost Adam. We weren’t driving that day, we all walking along the narrow strip between the pavement and the trees carrying scooters that were probably a few years out of being cool, but none of us actually wanted to walk the steep hills and windy ways. The scooters make it just that much easier. We all knew it was a bad idea to walk along the dead man’s way, but there is only one way from Brenda’s to Alexia’s, maybe there are two ways, but we weren’t really the kinds of girls that thought it a good idea to walk through the woods. You could never be too careful, and there were bears in the woods. Brenda’s father had seen one in their backyard not too long before that day we lost Adam. The picture of it proudly displayed on their refrigerator, since this was the time before camera phones where we could display the cool photos as our wallpaper.
Adam was out ahead of us; riding on his skateboard with is best friend Greg, a short kid with glasses whom had been friends with Adam as long as I’d been friend with Alexia and Brenda. They were on this stretch of road that Brenda broke my leg about a year prior while we were conditioning for volleyball. So we all knew exactly how narrow and dangerous this stretch of road could be. It wasn’t wide enough for two people to run along the side while a car passed. The back roads of towns that existed before the revolutionary war were once wagon roads, barely wide enough for two cars, add pedestrians and you’re just waiting for an accident to happen.
While we were walking, Alexia out front, the leader of our little group as always, walking backward to talk to us on occasion, a dirt bike speed past us, going far too fast for hills the blind and curves that sharp. But we knew the boy driving that loud obnoxious thing knew what he was doing. He’d driven that road a million times.
When the three of us reached the top of the hill and looked down the rolling apple orchards that would soon be a housing development. Brenda grabbed and deep red apple and bit it. The sound caught me by surprise, but not as much as Alexia high pitched screams moments later. Brenda and I turned toward Alexia who had already taken off down the steep hill.
We rode Razor Scoters down the steep hill; going as fast as we could to catch up to whatever had made Alexia scream like she did. It wasn’t like her to freak out, that was very much my personality. When we reached the hairpin, Brenda and I realized we couldn’t see Adam. He wasn’t anywhere to be found. We’d lost him. The three of us had lost Adam. Greg was by the crosses, staring out into the field of trees.
“He lost control and headed straight into the orchard,” Greg explained.
“All I saw was him doing a header forward,” Alexia explained.
“He’s fine,” Brenda said quickly. “It’s wicked easy to get turned around in there, give him a minute he’ll be back.”
We stood there and waited for a moment before getting worried. Then Alexia started to panic and headed in after her brother screaming his name.
The next day at school everyone wore black, several girls cried. I stood silent against my locker with Alexia and Brenda next to the chemistry room. It was the first time anyone of us had dealt with something like this. We’d all dealt with death before, but the death of someone our age was something, at seventeen, that none of us knew how to deal with. When we parted ways to head to our own classes we exchanged one last look between us. All of us knowing that there was something between the three of us that no one else besides us would ever understand.
In study hall, a class that was usually filled with laughter and homework sharing, everyone sat in silence. One desk in the corner sat empty, where Greg used to sit. There was a candle on it, his picture taped to it. We all sat in silent vigil for a person I barely knew, but couldn’t help feeling sorry for.
Adam ran by the room, late for class a usual, his skateboard under his arm. He smiled and waved to me before he continued to his class down the hall, new stitches across his temple covered by a Band-Aid. Everything was so surreal; everything became so different in that hour we spent looking for Adam in that orchard.
The day that we lost Alexia’s brother in apple orchard, a boy died; his name was Greg. I didn’t know him, but he went to my high school, was in my study hall, but I knew his brother, Cameron. I called him Cameron; he didn’t have a weird nickname like Alexia’s brother. He sat next to me in English class, usually asleep. This Greg was a year older than us, but he was in study hall with me. I only knew him as face among a group of faces. He was riding his dirt bike across the halfway point between my house and Alexia’s. It was him who sped past us before Alexia screamed. We all knew dirt bikes weren’t meant for corners that sharp, or hills that blind.
It was about the same time that Alexia screamed that Greg crashed into a steal bar that crossed the dirt path next to the road. Greg wasn’t wearing a helmet and Greg’s body hit a tree. Adam had done a header into an apple tree, cut his temple and gotten a mild concussion. In his confusion he’d turned around he headed deeper into the orchard instead of back toward the road Greg had crushed his rib cage and broke his spinal cord. He’d died instantly.
The day we lost Adam, Greg was at the half waypoint from house to Alexia’s, less than a quarter mile from where we were standing. The day we lost Alexia’s brother an hour in the apple orchard; Alexia, the girl that sat next to me in algebra, watched her boyfriend die. Alexia was on the back of Greg’s dirt bike. She was wearing his helmet, he only had one. In his recklessness he’d probably saved her life, as she’d been thrown from the bike as well, breaking her arm and getting road rash all up and down her left side.
The only logically explanation I have for not hearing the crash that I can come up with, was that it was at the same moment that Alexia screamed. Everything echoed in that valley. The squeal of brakes and bodies hitting trees would have echoed louder than anything.
Alexia’s brother’s friend Greg was the one that found Adam. Adam had given up after wandering around for a while, too dizzy to keep walking. He sat against a tree, facing away from the road, waiting for one of us to find him. Greg had yelled out to the rest of us. When we got there, Greg had blood all over his hands, and there was a steady drip running down the side of Adam’s face. Alexia went so white I thought she was going to pass out, but she kept her footing.
Brenda had a bandana in her backpack that she pulled out and wiped the blood of Adam’s face so we could see how much of him was actually bleeding. The wound was small but deep, enough for stitches.
“Took you long enough,” Adam laughed.
“You’re an idiot,” Alexia yelled. “Mom’s going to kill me. You know better. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I’d done it a million times,” Adam shrugged. “First time I ever lost control.”
“Do it again and I’ll kill you,” Alexia had threatened.
When we got to the edge of the orchard, the police and ambulance was still speeding toward the accident down the road.
“Really,” Adam laughed, as he held the bloody bandana to his face.
“I have no idea what’s happening,” Alexia confessed.
Alexia didn’t tell her mom that we lost Adam in the apple orchard, simply said that he fell while skateboarding, which was true enough. She was happy just to see that we were alive, the speeding emergency vehicles in the direction her children were coming from was enough for her to never question Alexia’s little white lie.
After Greg’s funeral, Cameron went to the halfway point between my house and Alexia’s a put up a handmade wooden cross. I pass it every time I go to Alexia’s there’s no way around it. I pass it every time I go see my best friend. A simple reminder of a boy I barely knew.