ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar!


Hell Is For Real: A Teen’s Astounding Story Of His Trip To the Abyss

It's been over twenty years and I'm finally ready to talk about it. I tried writing about it before but I started to cry. A few years after it happened, just thinking about it would give me nervous shakes. Now I'm mostly okay, as long as I don't dwell on it too long.

I'm talking about the time I almost killed three people: myself, my best friend Zack (not his real name) and a complete stranger.

I was just a teen, a new driver, and I loved speed. I turned down a country road and said to Zack something like, "Full throttle!" He reached back for his seat belt and clicked it in. I dropped the pedal. We shot up a hill going- oh, I don't know. Maybe seventy mph? Eighty? It didn't matter. It was an empty country road, right?


Being an inexperienced driver, I didn't know to slow at the crest of a hill because you can't see what's on the other side. So we soared over a ridge to find an eighteen-wheeler turning around below us. Essentially, a giant wall had appeared in the road blocking both lanes.

I stood on the brake with both feet. The tires screamed, and the car locked up. I had no control and it didn't really matter. There was no time. The last thing I saw was a guy waving his arms. He had been standing in the road, directing the truck. He dove out of our path, Hollywood-style, and we went into the rig's massive back tire going fast. Had we instead gone under the truck, I suspect Zack and I would have been decapitated.

To this very day, I always smile when ads try to wow me by bragging how well a car goes from zero to sixty. So what? I don't think you can truly respect a vehicle's power until you go from sixty to zero. Sometimes I wish that would be a requirement for new drivers. Instead of trying to scare teens away from reckless driving by showing them gory post-accident pictures, make them sit in an simulator and hurl them against a wall like a crash test dummy. Make them experience the terrifying power of machines colliding. Make them feel it.

Back to the scene: I blacked out for only a second on impact and the first thing I saw when I came to was a fire under the crumpled hood.

I turned to Zack and screamed, "Get out!" In my nightmares, he doesn't move because he never put his seat belt on. Fortunately, he had. We both jumped from the car. Workers were running everywhere. Someone bolted to a nearby house yelling, "Call the cops! Call an ambulance!"

Despite the car being utterly destroyed (and the rig completely undamaged) my car's radio had survived. I don't remember the specific song, but Zack said it was Madonna, and he was unable to listen to her songs any more after that day because of the horrific memory.

Speeding to Madonna. Those 80s really were crazy.

I can't remember much after that, just snapshots. The kind people in the nearby home let me use their phone. This was before cell phones, obviously. I called my parents, told them what happened but that everyone was okay. Zack called his parents and his father rushed to the scene to get us.

The cops had arrived when I came out of the house and I told the lead officer it was all my fault. He told my parents how impressed he was that I didn't make up lies to get out of trouble. I didn't want to get out of anything. I was furious at myself for being such an idiot.

A few days after, Zack's mom and my mom cried in front of me as they talked about what might have happened. In a way that probably seems cold, perhaps even monstrous in the way kids can be, I insisted that Zack's mom not punish her son at all. It was my fault alone, I told her. I don't know if she believed me and my mother said I sounded mean. I didn't intend to be harsh to anyone other than myself, because it was true. Zack had just been along for the ride. The decision to speed was mine alone and I wanted the full brunt of all possible punishments to lay waste to my life.

I had almost killed people just by screwing around. I deserved whatever I got. In an alternate reality, I don't exist because I died that day. In yet another alternate, I don't exist because I killed myself over guilt after having killed that worker and/or my best friend Zack.

In this reality, it's over twenty years later and barely a day goes by without the memory of that accident flashing across my brain. I don't see the scenes in my mind's eye any more. I simply recall the fact that I barely skipped by an abyss that could have literally or figuratively crushed me.

It's horrifying to think about what might have happened, but a strange result of it all is how much that incident has changed my life for the better. In a twisted way, I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Every day since the accident seems like time I shouldn't have. I worry sometimes that these past decades are a fantasy imagined in the instant of death, and that someday, suddenly, my consciousness will snap back to that road just long enough for me to realize my life since has been a dream and I'm actually dying. (Like a Twilight Zone episode or the short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.)

We could stop here. I could say "Wow, that was screwed up," and leave it there. But being a philosopher-fool (as opposed to a philosopher-king) I'm always looking for the takeaway. The fact is that this horrible thing, or perhaps I should call it an almost-horrible thing, has improved my life. All it takes is a reminder of that moment to obliterate or significantly mute whatever complaint I may be nursing. I could have died, I could have killed, all for nothing. For absolutely nothing. I avoided all of that by sheer luck, so when I get bitchy, I remind myself I should probably just shut up.

To ask for more after what I was given that day would be like winning a million dollars and complaining it's not a million and one. I'll take what I got and I'm damn glad.

There's always some sort of story making the rounds on the inspirational literature circuit about someone who claims to have been to heaven. I can't say I'm impressed. If you really want to appreciate life, try a few minutes, or just peek through the door, into hell.


Larry Nocella writes the blog ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! at He's the author of the novel Where Did This Come From? The world's first CarbonFree(R) novel according to The book is available as an Amazon Kindle eBook. It is also available for reading online. P.S. You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle eBooks. Download the FREE Kindle app for PC, Mac and smartphones. You can then purchase Kindle books or download free ones. Enjoy!