Matthew Wallenstein: Loop Road

By August 18, 2020 No Comments

Illustration by Nathaniel Parker Raymond

By Matthew Wallenstein
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer

We didn’t go around trying to die but we were just as impartial towards living. We were 16. P was driving. I sat in the passenger seat and N and K were sitting in the back. We were in P’s old Peugeot. It was a bulky sedan built in the ’80s. Its paint was the color of rhino skin. We had what we were calling masks in the trunk but really they were red, white and blue women’s underwear we stole from Walmart and cut eye holes in. We had made some Molotov cocktails which were also in the car. There was no set target for them, we just wanted to burn something down. It didn’t much matter what.

It was decided that before going towards downtown to throw them, we would kill some time driving. We went past the private school heading towards the edge of town. The streetlights were fewer and fewer and the stars started showing. It was dark, there was a little curl of moon up there too. It was the weekend and it was something to do, to drive, to break some things, to burn something.

P was telling us about the captain of the cheerleading squad. He said she wouldn’t let her look at her butt when they had sex, how they only did it in positions where he couldn’t see it. I was confused. I said something about how when you are naked, you are naked. When you do something you might as well do it. All in or all out. I went on like that for a while with my callow philosophies.

“So those exercises I do, they really are starting to work,” K interrupted.

“Yeah?” I said. “How much progress you make?” 

“Like a half inch.”

“What exercises?” N asked.

“My penis enlargement exercises. I have been doing them solid and it’s working.”

“Hmm,” said N.

“No, it’s true, he does them. He has been talking about it since I met him. Not really sure why he brags about it like it’s something to brag about though.”

“What do you do, use a barbell?”

“It’s complicated to explain. It’s this whole thing with baby oil.”

“Oh, you mean jerking off?”

“What do you do that makes your dick bigger?”

“Who cares, my dick is getting bigger, so it works so who cares.”

“You’re Ron Jeremy.”

“Should we pick up Andy? He lives right over there.”

“Let’s pick up his sister instead.”

“Yeah, let’s go get Andy.”

“Let’s see how fast we can drive down Loop Road without flipping over,” P said.

“Yeah, alright.”

Andy was a friend of ours. To get to his house you could either drive down the main road and turn off, or you could take the very aptly named Loop Road. It had a few short straightaways broken up by 90 degree turns. It was narrow and dark. The branches of trees hung over it in an arch.

P turned right. He stepped on it. The first turn came up and he cut the wheel hard. The tires slid and screamed. The next one we took even faster. Shortly after that we reached the end of the road.

“We can do it faster.”

“Fuck it.”

He turned the car around. The headlights shown in front of us and the car started to speed up. We were really going when we hit the first turn. The car was headed right at the fat trunk of a tree. He cut the wheel and overcorrected and we were headed towards a house. He cut it again. It slid and we were looking right at another tree. Somehow P stomped the breaks and turned in time. The car flipped. I was hanging upside down in my seatbelt and had glass in my mouth. I spit it out. I don’t remember how, but I was on my hands and knees crawling out the driver’s side window. K was behind me.

Everyone was out.

“You guys okay?” I asked.

They nodded. They said yes.

“That was fun.”

The tires were facing the sky. There was smoke. There was quiet. There was that thin spine of moon bending over us.

“Maybe we can flip it over and drive away,” I said.

“Maybe,” P said.

“Okay we need to get rid of the Molotov cocktails and the masks in case the cops show up.”

We collected the bottles. Surprisingly they were intact. We threw them in the woods. It was completely black behind the first few trees. A couple thudded, the others shattered. I grabbed the bag with the underwear masks and pitched them.

“My eye is all fucked up,” P said. “I think I have glass in it.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah it’s just hard to see.”

I walked around the side of the car. There were pieces of a mailbox scattered around it, its post laying half hidden under the Peugeot. I started rocking the car.  It really was like a tank. And, actually looking at it for the first time since we rolled, there was a lot of damage to it. The windshield was all smashed, the roof bent into a valley. We were stuck.

A light came on outside the house across the street. A man came out. He started walking over. He had his phone in his hand.

The blue lights lit up the street and the wreck. The shadows of trees shifted back and forth. They separated us, asked us the same questions. No we hadn’t been drinking, I don’t use drugs, I don’t know, probably 30 or 35 miles an hour, just dark I guess, sharp turns, no I wasn’t driving, like I said no, like I said, 30 maybe, maybe 40. They searched the car, had us line up, measured the length of the skid marks. One cop said loudly to another that, guessing by the length, we were going well over 60 when it happened.

P’s parents came, talked to the cops. N’s parents came, talked to the cops. They were worried. P’s mom was very shaken. I don’t remember how I got home. I may have gotten a ride, I may have walked. It was only a couple miles.

A few days later P, N and I were hanging out at the abandoned building that used to house an insurance company. There were weeds reaching out of the parking lot, empty bottles scattered around. The hedges were overgrown and lopsided, they separated us from the street. 

P was spray painting on the wall. N and I were skateboarding on the curb. Everywhere there were small rocks and bottle caps and pieces of brick that would catch under the wheels and make you skid or fall.

P was telling us about the day after the crash, telling us how sobering it all was, telling us how he walked down to Market Basket to see the cheerleader he was dating or sleeping with. To him, it all seemed to mean something. N and I gave him a hard time about it and did some more tricks. We threw some rocks through the glass door.

When N and I were walking back to his house we both agreed it had been fun, like a ride at a fair. You got out, then it didn’t really matter all that much.

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