Ask Yourself How Could I Get Hurt

I should say something. Bill’s telling the story like he did it and I know he didn’t do it. I did it. I know it’s his house but it’s that doesn’t mean he gets to tell the story wrong. I shouldn’t have come. My hip hurts and I’m sitting in the living room watching a football game that’s just on. I don’t care about this game. I barely know who’s playing and I keep dipping my hand into this bowl of Cheetos and I don’t even like Cheetos. Bill’s still telling the story like he did it and he has to know that’s wrong. I bet most of these people know it’s wrong too. They’re from the neighborhood. He used to tell it and he would tell it right. He can see me from the kitchen I bet. There’s a wall between here and there but there’s also a mirror in the dining room that reflects toward the kitchen and I bet he can see me in that mirror sitting here eating these Cheetos. He can see me I’m sure and he’s telling the story wrong anyway. I shouldn’t have come. Karen didn’t recognize me when she picked me up at the Metro North station. She was like How do you know Bill and I said We all grew up together and she said Oh of course but there was a pause and I knew she didn’t remember me. When I said We All I meant her too because we were in school together. Me and her and Bill. Do I look that different. I know I do. Everyone looks different. Karen looks different. Bill sure looks different. Gray and dad-fat. But he still looks like Bill in his way. How did Karen not know it’s me. We never talked much even in high school but I mean. I don’t care how much weight I gained or how I walk now with this hip. It’s still me. Now I can’t hear the story because a bunch of kids ran into the living room and started fighting with plastic swords right in front of the TV. I want to tell them to go away but I don’t care about this game anyway and I don’t think they’d hear me. Earlier I wandered into the back bedroom where the kids were playing and asked what they were up to because I didn’t know what else to do with myself and no one answered me. Kept jumping on the beds like I wasn’t there. I’m invisible. I shouldn’t have come. The kids are gone now and Bill’s still telling the story. He’s not telling it right. He has himself behind the wheel in this version but I was driving. Everyone knows I was driving. He doesn’t want me here. Then why’d he invite me to his barbecue. Maybe he didn’t think I’d come since I don’t have a car and I have so much shit to do taking care of ma and also the hip. The train seat was murder. I took some pain meds but they don’t give me the good stuff anymore. I only take it because I feel like I have to do something. I’m sweating even in the house with the AC on. There’s a stain on these pants I didn’t notice before. I should go into the kitchen and say how the story really happened. I can’t tell stories like Bill though. He could always tell stories even in school. King of the lunch table. Telling other people’s jokes. I watched the same shows as him and I knew when he was swiping jokes from standup routines and passing them along as his own stuff and I didn’t say anything then either. Should I go outside and grab a burger. Everyone will see me hobbling and hunched over with this hip thing. But if I don’t go out there they’ll wonder why I’m holed up in the house. Except if they don’t know I’m here to begin with. The thing with the story Bill’s telling is it even started with me. It never would’ve happened without me. It was my dad who worked in the traffic management office. He told me how the lights worked. Used to bore me to death with all the details. He could hardly talk about anything else. One afternoon at lunch when Bill was bragging about how fast he raced the weekend before and I felt like I had to say something just to get a word in edgewise like I didn’t want to be locked in my head anymore but I didn’t know what else to say so I blurted out that you could go the whole length of Woodhaven and Cross Bay and make it to Rockaway Beach without having to stop once if you timed it just right. It had to be at like 3 in the morning but you could do it. And I knew it because my dad would say it all the time and he’d always say it like he was saying it for the first time like whoah let me blow your mind. Bill said prove it. Maybe I’ll get a hot dog instead. Except they’ve been sitting out in the sun if there’s any left at all and if I go out there I gotta go down those porch steps and that’ll kill my hip. But it’s killing me right now anyway. Bill dared me to take dad’s car because I said dad had a Chevy Caprice and Bill said those were great dragging cars and the cops used them too. When I said I didn’t want to take dad’s car he said the only reason I wouldn’t is because I was lying about the lights. I said why don’t you take your own dad’s car and he said because I’m not the one who made the bet. I didn’t even know I made a bet. One of the kids is crying and another one’s getting yelled at. Another stomps past me while his mother yells You get back here this instant. The kid runs into a bedroom and slams a door even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t live here. I set an alarm for 2 am and slapped it quiet so no one else in the house would wake up and I snuck into the kitchen and grabbed dad’s keys from the rack real slow. Didn’t let one key clank against another. They felt so heavy in my hand. Bill was waiting on his stoop when I pulled up and he was pissed. He was expecting a police cruiser type car and not my dad’s shitty old station wagon. When we got Woodhaven by the mall he wanted me to floor it and I said No that’s not how it works. If I wait for the first green and take it easy we can make it all the way down and not hit a red but if I speed we’ll catch up to a red. He folded his arms and sulked because he thought we were going to fly down Woodhaven. We were 16 and Bill used to talk like he dragged on the weekends so he wanted to speed was all. I didn’t even have my license. I didn’t know why I was doing it except Bill said I was lying and being called a liar it just bugged me. I never did nothing like that. Taking dad’s car. He’s still telling the story and he’s telling it like he drove. He did not drive. It was my dad’s car and I drove and he sat in the passenger side arms folded all because I refused to speed. Don’t be a pussy he said and I said I’m not scared. I said I can get from one end of Queens to the other without hitting a red and this is how you do it. Bill would see some yellows way up ahead because it was so late and there was hardly any other cars ahead of us and he’d tell me to gun it and I said no they’ll be green when we get there. No matter how many times I was right he didn’t believe me. Maybe he tells the story better. I couldn’t get people laughing like he’s doing right now. When I got to Bill’s house he said it was good to see me but he was standing at the grill cooking burgers and he didn’t raise his head even when he said it. Then he ran off to talk to someone else. I brought a six pack. I didn’t know what else to bring. I put it in the fridge next to a bottle of generic soda and I sat down on the couch and I’ve hardly moved since. God this hip. When we got as far as New Park Pizza without hitting a red was when Bill started to loosen up a little. We’re gonna do this he said. We. Like we were a team all of a sudden. At school he bragged about dragging on the Connecting Highway and now I knew he was full of shit. Why I didn’t figure this out before I don’t know. Didn’t even have his own car. Didn’t know shit about cars and he sure didn’t know lights like I knew. It was just a thing to say at lunch. A story. Someone’s standing with the front door open calling for Tommy. I don’t know who Tommy is but whoever’s looking for him is letting all the cool air out of the house. I’m sweating. I’m sinking into this couch. Can I get up without help. I hope ma’s okay in this heat. All she’s got is a fan. I should call her and check. I should be at home with her instead of here. This fucking hip. I have dreams where someone takes me apart like a Lego figure and cleans out my bones from the inside and then I feel better. We went through Breezy Point with no trouble at all and I threw some change into the toll basket and we got on the bridge to Rockaway and Bill was shaking in his seat saying Holy shit we’re actually gonna do it. And then we got the exit toward the beach and up ahead was the last light on the way. The one right under the A train tracks and it was red. And Bill screamed Step on it! And I said to him If we wait… but he didn’t let me finish. He yelled Fuck that and he raised his foot in the air like he was gonna stomp a bug and he brought it down on my foot and pinned it to the gas. This is in my dad’s old car. This Chevy Caprice station wagon that already had 150K miles on it and handled like an old rollerskate. Bill had my foot pinned to the gas and I yelled That won’t make the light go green faster you dumbfuck. You don’t know shit about driving. That made him press down harder and I felt like he was going to put his foot right through mine. So I stomped on the brake with my left foot which was a mistake because this made the Chevy fishtail. It whipped around and hopped the curb and clipped a train support and the bumper fell right off. And the tracks above us were being worked on so there was all this orange netting and safety signs around and one of the signs tumbled off the overpass and landed on the car and took a big divot out of the hood. The sign said ASK YOURSELF HOW COULD I GET HURT. Bill gets this part right when he tells it. He includes the sign falling down on the car and everyone laughs. Bill says I swear to god this happened. And he pokes his head around the corner from the kitchen to look into the living room and he nods his head toward me and he says This guy can tell you. He was there.