It was April 1, a day commonly known in the united states as “April Fools Day” and it’s customary to play innocent and harmless tricks on your loved ones for the sake of laughs and entertainment. And though it was just a coincidence that the beginnings of my spring break trip occurred on April 1st, I was about to take my April fools trick a bit far.
I shared in Day 44 that during the Spring of 1994 I was lost, lonely, and heartbroken by my unexpected ending with Olympic hopeful Eric that also left me with no date to the upcoming prom. So my dramatic solution to my problem was to transport myself to another universe so I could run away from my problems or perhaps find a non high school guy who would go to prom with me, which I didn’t even know if we were allowed to do. And then poof, along came Carl, the hot ski bum I met in the ski resort parking lot, to transport me out of me existing life, except not in the dreamy way I’d envisioned.
I also shared in Day 25 that I told Carl my name was Katie, and that he had no idea I was in high school. Therefore he innocently invited my friend Trish and I to go rock climbing and camping for a few days in Moab. My parents would never approve of that. So rather than come clean to Carl about my name and age, I instead carried on with the lie and orchestrated a plan in which we could go. The story my parents heard was that Trish and I were going on a chaperoned “Young Life” trip with several other Christian kids our age. And to backup our story we had our friend Dustin who had a deep voice call my parents and pretend to be the male chaperone in charge. The plan was if my parents ever called Dustin’s cell phone looking for me, he’d say I was out and would call them back, and then he’d call me on my car phone and let me know they were looking for me, and I’d call them back. It was a brilliant plan.
We’d be leaving for Moab on April 2nd, but April 1st was a big day because Trish and I would be sleeping over at Carl & Dylan’s apartment in Salt Lake City, so that we could get on the road first thing. And this was my first ever sleepover at a guy’s house and I had so many questions. We’d been hanging out for about a week and had kissed twice at that point, but i was far from comfortable around Carl. What do I wear to sleep? Do I go through all my night time face care rituals? What happens if I fart in front of him? What if he farts in front of me? What if I poop and he goes into the bathroom right after and it stinks? Will I have the chance to brush my teeth before he smells my morning breath? This is what was on my mind, and I did my best to trust that all the answers would fall into place without giving away my lack of experience.
I packed with Trish a day early and we’d picked outfits for almost any occasion and expression of weather in the desert we could think of. I’d be meeting Trish down at their house because I had some errands to run first. We needed road trip music, so I stopped at a cd store near the university of Utah and began to browse the aisles of cd’s. I heard a song playing and I found myself bobbing my head and humming along as I perused the music aisles, so I walked up to the counter and asked who the artist was, and it was the song, “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows on their album, “August and everything after”. I loved it so I bought the 10 hour long album, and we now had our road trip music.
I was among the few in my high school class to not only have a car, but to also have a CD player in my car, so I had an instant increase in popularity when I got the Jeep. It had a hard top at first, which I didn’t love, but after begging my parents and promising to read extra curricular books and write book reports on them, I got permission to exchange the hard top for a soft top, and the installation took place the afternoon of April 1st, right after I hit the CD shop. The thought of driving in a topless jeep was freeing; Trish and I would be like Thelma & Louise on our road trip.
After the soft top installation, I left the topper dealership and remember noticing a flapping noise on the driver’s side of the cover. Turned out one of the snaps wouldn’t stay closed, but I ignored it. I was right on time to get to Carl’s when I said I would be there, so i didn’t want to risk the dealership telling me they were going to switch it out, as it took about 90 minutes to install. Nothing was going to interrupt our perfect spring break plan. Besides, I imagined my hot ski bum could fix the snap with a little duct tape.
Hanging out with these non high school guys was an incredible boost in my confidence. And the fact that they thought Trish and I were cool enough to invite us along on their rock climbing trip? This was huge. Nothing could puncture this epic spring break adventure we were about to embark upon; it was sure to go down without a hitch. After all, we had thought through all possible "leaks" to our plan, and had carefully orchestrated an eloquent response to everything. The odds of our parents finding out about this illegal trip were slim to none. We were about to have a week of no parents, my new topless jeep, rock climbing, making out with our new guys, all while listening to “Mr. Jones” on repeat and enjoying the wine coolers that we’d bought ahead of time with our fake ids. Yes please.
What's the worst thing that could happen? Our parents would find out. And even that was pretty “handleable.” Perhaps we’d have to put up with a week or two of being grounded without tv time, which sure would suck, but I could certainly swing that risk for the sake of the fun that was about to go down.
The only small hiccup in this scenario was that the ski bums thought my name was Katie, so I wondered how long I could keep this wrong name thing up. I felt stupid about what I’d done, but I felt even more stupid calling myself out for it, so I just rolled with it and always felt a bit off when the guys would ask me something and address me by Katie. Trish just laughed and backed up my experience as “Katie”. We were on top of the world and that silly detail didn’t seem to matter.
Trish and I arrived at Carl and Dylan’s apartment at the same time and we entered together. It was a shot gun layout, meaning all rooms were aligned straight back, so you walked into the kitchen, then past a hallway bathroom, then into a room that was Dylan’s and then into Carl’s bedroom. Both of the guys had twin mattresses on the floor as beds and I felt a knot in my stomach when I saw Carl’s bathroom was right next to his bed. Great. Trish at least had access to the hall bathroom, so she didn’t have to worry about body sounds in the bathroom being overheard.
After the guys cooked us dinner, I went into the bedroom and strategically positioned my travel dop kit right under the bedside table, so it was out of the way, but easily reachable, so that I could grab my toothbrush in the morning and brush my teeth, so that I could be ready for a morning kiss, if the moment called.
Although I was excited about this adventure, I was still nervous; so I appreciated the alone time I got in Carl’s room while both the guys worked late packing our Jeeps for the trip. I took a shower and put on my sexiest little shorts and tank top, and crawled into the twin bed that had 1 flimsy pillow, low thread count sheets and no blanket.
The guy’s place was a basement apartment and the walls were white and empty, typical young male style. But there was a small window right above the bed, where I could see the moonlight coming in bright, and it was beautiful. After waiting for what felt like forever, Carl finally came into the room and stood beside the bed looking at me. “Wow, Katie, you look beautiful.” Wait what? Was he talking to me? Then I cringed as I remembered that to him, my name was Katie. So I watched Carl crawl into bed, and start massaging my feet, then he worked his way up my legs and settled in right over my wild and free (aka unwaxed) vaginal area, that had never been visited by a man’s lips or tongue before. And then, I had my first orgasm from oral sex. And it was good; life was good.
The next day, the official beginning of our Spring Break Secret Adventure began, and I felt so alive. The skies were crystal clear, and Trish and I loaded up in my Jeep, the guys in their Land Cruiser and we were off. My brand new jeep traveled a lot faster than their 70’s Land Cruisee so we’d get far ahead of them, and then pull over and find a spot to lie out in the sun discussing this crazy scenario we’d found ourselves in.
What the hell were we doing? It didn’t make any sense, but it sure as hell was fun so far and the fact that I was getting farther away from my high school drama made me even happier.
I clearly remember the last stop we made. It was in Price, Utah, and we stopped at the one grocery store in town to get a few last minute supplies. When the guys pulled up, I passed off a few supplies for them to carry, because I’d noticed the snap that had been duct taped wasn’t staying fastened, so I didn’t want anything laying directly against it. I did my best to resnap it and replace the duct tape over it, thinking it was good to go. And away we went again.
But we didn’t get much further on April 2nd, and we certainly never reached Moab. Just a few miles past the grocery store, the accident happened.
For some reason (that I wouldn’t find out for 19 years and 10 months), we ended up spinning around on the road and rolling my Jeep down an embankment five times. We landed on the other side of the road, the Jeep facing the opposite direction. I had my seatbelt on, so I stayed in the car but I hit my head with each roll, while Trish, who apparently didn’t have her seat belt on, flew out of the car.
I heard later that immediately after the accident, a car full of medical school students appeared on the scene and called 911. Trish was lying unconscious several feet from the Jeep with a minor head injury and broken leg, and I was unconscious in the driver's seat, still strapped in, with “Mr Jones” still playing loudly from my cd player.
By the time the guys arrived on the scene, the paramedics were already loading us into the ambulance, to be taken to Price hospital, where the plan was to life flight us to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, which was 4 hours away. The medics told Carl and Dylan to head to the hospital in Salt Lake City if they wanted to check in on us, because that’s where we’d be and away we went into the air.
My mom later told me that the nurse at the small hospital in Price had found my parents’ number in my cell phone and called them, from seeing my most recent call logged as “home.” The hospital’s call came barely two hours after my parents had gotten my check in phone call telling them I was safe and nearly to Moab. The nurse told them I’d suffered a seizure and a traumatic brain injury, and there was a strong possibility I wouldn’t make it alive to the hospital in Salt Lake City.
My mom also later told me she and my dad’s drive from Park City to the hospital in Salt Lake City was the most quiet one they’d ever had together. What do parents say to each other when they get that sort of news about their child? But they made the agreement to accept whatever outcome had occurred.
They arrived at the hospital just as the helicopter touched down, and they saw my body get placed on the gurney headed to the neuro trauma ward for surgery. I found out a few years ago from my mother that several friends from their episcopal church joined them at the helicopter pad, and before I entered the hospital, they all circled around my gurney for a few seconds in prayer, with everyone placing their hands upon me. My vitals shot up from the touch, and even the paramedics were astonished. Pure love through touch was making a difference.
To this day, I don’t know if my parents ever asked where my mysterious church group was, or who the man was who called them, and said he’d be looking out for me on this innocent spring break church trip. I also don’t know how the conversation went down when the guys arrived looking for Katie and Trish, but found Trisha and Harriet.
Everything around that time went dark, but I always wondered:
Did I do something wrong?
Did I take my eyes off the road?
Did I swerve to miss an animal?
These questions - about whether or not my actions caused this horrific accident - haunted me for nearly two decades. But I tucked away my fear that the accident was my fault, and never went looking for answers, because I didn’t want to face a truth a couldn’t handle. If I’d caused such pain and grief for so many people, including myself, it would be hard to forgive myself.
This block manifested in all sorts of unhealthy ways, but not to worry, you’ll get to learn about a lot of them inside these pages.
But now I know that the accident is when my journey of healing really began, because I gave myself permission to start over and put my focus into what made me feel alive, and rebuilding myself into who and what I knew in my bones I was destined to be, a healer. And I slowly began to embrace not fitting in, rather than being scared of it.
Little did I know the adventure I was embarking upon. The journey of getting comfortable with remembering the truth, which is Love.
But it would take 19 years and 8 months for my first re-membering about the accident to unfold. And the remembering happened at a time when I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to receive. But there’s a lot more story to tell before that one...we’ll get there, 1 day at a time.