I met Rusty in English class, third-period. She sat on the other side of the room quiet but filled with electricity. With tight leather pants and big black boots, she sat back with a slicked, dark pixie cut looking like a badass.
It was this energy that scared most kids away or made her the brunt of jokes, but it drew me in like a magnet. Feeling like a misfit and the brunt of jokes myself, I approached Rusty, and we got to talking.
She was new to the school and was living with her maternal grandparents. Her estranged father lived only a few houses up the road, and her mother was living in Florida. Before living with her grandparents, her upbringing was strict and extremely religious.
As a young girl, Rusty always wore dresses was never allowed to wear pants, apply make-up or reveal her beauty in any way. I got the impression that her mother married a guy who was Baptist or something and that she had enough of that lifestyle and took off.
Obviously, this would be jarring for any child, and so her grandparents gave her a lot of freedoms. These freedoms included unlimited access to money and a black Porsche 944 with a turbocharged engine.
Over the next few months, Rusty would come home to meet my mom, and I would go over to meet her grandparents. We became a couple like any other high school couple; hanging out whenever we could, going to prom together but there were some notable differences, like the black Porsche, money, and drugs.
When other couples were going to Friday night football games and sneaking off to get busy, we were scoring drugs in a racecar, selling acid to the oldheads at the local laundromat and being utterly self-destructive.
Summer of my sophomore year kicked off with a bang, and we were full speed into the madness. By this time we were getting high almost daily and moving into harder stuff like dust and speed. This summer was a turning point for both of us.
Things progressed as they do for young kids who think they’re in love and high on drugs.
On one particular summer day, I remember smoking some dust before going out to eat. We did our thing, got into the Porsche and then drove one hundred and twenty miles per hour down the highway to the local mall. The ride was thrilling, but I could feel my brain just turning to mush inside my head.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the patrons turned to watch as the waiter seated us. I can only imagine what they were thinking. I knew what I was thinking, and it wasn’t pleasant.
Walking across the room to our table seemed like an eternity yet like I was riding a rollercoaster all at the same time. The waiter was talking to me, I know he was, but whatever he was saying sounded like he was speaking to me through a wall in a different room.
Honestly, I don’t even remember what I ordered or if I ordered at all and I’m not even sure I remember getting home? Like I said this summer was a turning point.
It was this summer when I noticed changes in both Rusty and me. As we experimented with heavier drugs, our behavior became more self-destructive. Rusty also changed her style and met a new group of friends. She went from artsy badass to hip-hop superstar.
One night, we were hanging out at my mom’s place sitting on the couch. Rusty went to powder her nose, and when she came back, her whole demeanor changed. She began to bob her head, and her eyes were having difficulty staying open, I knew this was bad. Heroin was going around town, but we stayed clear of it knowing the dangers.
I kept Rusty on the couch, gently slapping her cheeks and calling her name. She mumbled that she was all right and so I just sat there with her until she came around. Things between the two of us were never the same after that night.
We began drifting further apart as she was spending more time with her new crowd. Just as the summer was ending, we sat in her car smoking cigarettes and talking. We decided to call it quits, and that would be the last time I would ever see or speak to Rusty.
It was all over the news, “Police from three different counties are involved in a high-speed chase pursuing a young woman believed to be involved in a hit and run.” By the time the evening news hit, that young woman was stopped, and the hit and run became vehicular manslaughter.
The phone in the kitchen wouldn’t stop ringing.
Friends and family called to ask my mom if I had been in the car with Rusty. Lord knows there were plenty of other times when I was; thank god this time was different. Just the week before, Rusty and I had said our goodbyes.
Going back to school after your girlfriend kills someone with her car has a way of making the day long and awkward, especially when you sit next to the victim’s granddaughter in history class.
How did we get here, to this place where lives are ruined? I was angry because of what she did, but I was also overcome with sadness knowing that her life was never going to be the same and that an innocent man is dead. I kept asking myself could I have done something to prevent this tragedy? It’s a question that plagues me to this day.
This story is based on real events so names were changed.
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Originally Published on charlesminguez.com