When I was 19, my younger brother was killed in a car wreck. Derek had just gotten his license, and the rules of the road had not yet become second nature to him. I was with him in the car, and somehow, I managed to come out of it alive, but not without some head trauma. My memories became lost in a void and had stayed there ever since. My brother – I didn’t remember him. My younger sister – well, I didn’t remember her either. I’ve since spent two years with my family and the people that were apparently my friends, rebuilding relationships, connections, and making new memories.
Lexi is 17 now, and I treasure her dearly. I didn’t remember playing with her and my brother when we were younger. I didn’t remember holding her when she was a baby, nor did I remember my parents’ faces without wrinkles; my dad without gray hair in his sideburns or my mom without a constant hint of sadness in her eyes. It’s so strange knowing that my family had probably changed so much, yet I couldn’t recognize the changes.
My brother had gotten his license at 17 years old. It was the earliest a person could do so where we live, and despite my brother’s accident, my sister was still eager to get her license as well. Of course, to think that the same thing would happen to her was silly, so my parents did not object to her getting her license, but it very obviously worried our mom. I heard her talking to our dad about it late one night when I got out of bed for a glass of milk. She may have been crying a little, but I could not tell for certain as I slowly passed my parents’ closed bedroom door.
It didn’t surprise me that they’d at least be worried. It brought about bad memories for them, and they still seemed incredibly anxious when I went on trips or got back home from my college classes a little late. I hated to worry them, but I had to live my life, as did Lexi.
When Lexi asked mom to teach her how to drive, mom told Lexi to ask our dad. We both knew why mom deferred to dad, and I knew dad would do anything to comfort mom when she had her moments, but who would be there to comfort dad? He’d lost a son, and his other son had lost 19 years of memories. It had hurt both of them, as well as my sister. But me? I never knew how to feel. Was I supposed to be sad about things I didn’t remember? I felt like even though there were things I was missing that I was supposed to remember, I should be happy with what I had.
I offered to teach Lexi how to drive, but dad shot my idea down almost as fast as I mentioned it. It wasn’t that I’d only been driving for four years, but rather that he thought it would worry our mom even more. After all, the last time one of my younger siblings had been at the helm of a car with me in the passenger seat, things didn’t turn out so well.
She wasn’t barred from driving me places once she got her license, of course. Just, in this case, dad knew it would make mom feel better. She’d have to come to terms with it at some point, but for now, he wanted her to have the time she needed to do exactly that.
Lexi had been 17 for three weeks when she got her first lesson from dad. I expected dad to come back with a look of absolute terror on his face, but much to my surprise, he seemed rather happy.
“She’s a natural,” he said.
My mom seemed shocked. “Really?”
“I honestly can’t believe that’s the first time she’s ever driven.”
Lexi grinned and handed the keys back to dad. For a second, I could’ve sworn I recognized the look on her face. It reminded me of someone. Maybe my friend Christina?
“I watched a lot of videos on the Internet, dad. No sweat,” Lexi said, then looked over at me. “Also years of beating Alan at racing video games.” I couldn’t vouch for anything more than two years ago, but she did indeed very regularly beat me in our favorite racing game. Badly. According to her, she’d always beaten both me and our brother at that game.
It was strange, at first, seeing my little sister behind the wheel of a car. I only had two years worth of memories of her, but none of those had ever put her behind a steering wheel. I’d grown protective of her, probably because of how hard she tried to make me feel normal. She was also the first person I saw after waking up from the accident. When I said I didn’t know who she was, she introduced herself to me with tears in her eyes.
The doctors had apparently told my family there was a possibility of amnesia, so my sister wasn’t very surprised, though they’d all hoped for the more positive option – that I’d wake up and have no lasting issues. They even said I’d probably eventually regain my memories. Yet two years later, the first 19 years of my life remained a vacuum of nothingness. I sometimes had feelings of déja vu, but everyone has that.
Lexi got her license a couple weeks later after a few more lessons with dad and a driver’s ed class. She wanted to drive everywhere, every chance she got. Mom needed groceries? Lexi offered to go to the store. Dad left something at the office? Lexi offered to take him there. She didn’t have a job yet, so she couldn’t justify constantly joyriding while our parents were footing her gas bill, but for any real reason she had to drive, she practically already had the keys in her hands and the car started.
It was her third day of being a proud, licensed motorist when Lexi offered to drive me to my night class. Mom obviously wasn’t thrilled about it, but she tried her best to put on a happy face. She was glad that we got along, and I think maybe that was the rationale she used in her head to be okay with having such a similar situation to what had caused her so much pain and misery in the past.
“Lexi, be careful,” was all she had to say. I grabbed my things, and Lexi and I headed for the car.
Maybe I should’ve felt nervous. Memories or no memories of the wreck, I still knew what had caused my life and the lives of my family to change so much. But this was Lexi and I two years after all of that happened. It was similar, but it was not the same. She looked so proud to be driving around her big brother, too. I would not sour her smile by bringing up depressing things.
I looked over at her while she was driving, and confidence was clearly visible on her face. Driving was not something she planned to mess up on.
She must’ve seen me staring out of the corner of her eye, and shot a glance at me.
“What are you looking at?”
“You just seem completely in your element,” I said.
Lexi grinned. “Driving is a lot of fun.”
As she refocused her attention on the road, her grin once again reminded me of someone. The way her lips wrinkled at the edges from her smile, the shape of her cheeks, and the way her nose turned up a little – no doubt, she reminded me of someone I knew. Was it one of my friends? I went through them in my head, but none of them seemed to fit this image.
Suddenly, the car ahead of us came to an abrupt stop, causing Lexi to slam on the brakes. She stopped with a good distance to spare, but her grin had quickly morphed into fright. Though it was probably the first time Lexi had ever had a scare while driving, I had seen that look before.
In that moment, it all came rushing back to me. I remembered Lexi’s first day of elementary school, Derek’s first baseball game, having a full kitchen table…and the horrific look on Derek’s face as he realized he’d made a huge mistake, turned to me, and shot me an almost apologetic glance as he crashed the car into a guardrail.
Tears began to well up in my eyes as the past two years meshed together with my previous life.
“What’s wrong?” Lexi asked, shocked to see tears suddenly streaming down my face.
“I remember. I remember everything.”
That was all I said, but Lexi understood immediately. She pulled over, we got out of the car, and she held me as I cried. My relationships now were so different. My life had changed so much and I didn’t even know it.
But for the first time, I remembered Derek, and even though he’d been gone for two years, I was finally able to miss him.