Life on a bike has its consequences. After a Saturday dance class, I removed the damp Kleenex out of the stem of my bike, snugged the bike-seat into place, and pedalled onto the dark but not slick pavement.
The latch on the parked car clicked open and I heeded the grey Honda’s door ― decelerated, swerved and proceeded wide to miss it, smiling with the challenge. Meanwhile, the driver from Texas showed me the inside of his door.
I floated: upward, light, defying gravity. In the ambulance beside a bloodstained towel I asked, “If I had been wearing a helmet?” The door prize was one broken metacarpal bone, a slightly broken brain and a broken spirit.
In the hospital, they tightened my arm in a splint to my elbow. The splint hurt. Doctors told me, “the position is excellent.” I was to accommodate to the situation. Just another subtraction.
The CT scan showed bleeding between the brain and scalp, which explained why I saw animated cubist sculptures if I turned my head. When my eighty-eight-year-old dad saw me; he crept backwards out of the room. The reflection in my stepmother’s glasses showed my black eye on a purple face.
Day two I wobbled, so another hospital day was added. Ice soothed the gash on the lump on my head, upper lip and shut-eye. The broken right hand ached in places that hadn’t been hurt. The other hand moved the icepack from wound to wound melting time. Day three I was free to go. I put on my damp clothes and found that I was missing the five twenty-dollar bills.
A couple of dizzy days later, I phoned the witness. She said I yelled “I’m sorry” as I hit the lip of his door.
Each day I cried with no emotion to the tears. A week later, Tylenol #3 my new best friend was making me nauseous, so Shirley took me to the hospital. After seven hours in Emergency I was given my second CT scan. The bleeding in my brain had stopped. I returned home with new pills.
My bike’s derailleur was bent, the front forks mangled. ICBC required that I get three estimates. One repairman told me that he has a tangle with a car every two weeks. He showed me a world map of scraps on his forearms. He said, “I carry the U-lock on my bars. I pay them back by breaking their mirrors.”
Life changed in a motion. Now there are appointments with the masseuse, the physiotherapist, the lawyer, the rehab coach and too many doctors. Is it the head injury that makes activities like renewing the cell-phone agreement or reading the phone bill so difficult?
On the accident’s two-month anniversary, I geared up to go for a massage. The dog shit in my garbage bin smelled so bad I couldn’t leave it. I proceeded to clean it, almost puking. A man swooped by and stole my bike in a nanosecond. I ran out, then had to run back to lock my door. I missed my massage, and went looking for the bike. After telling three big street fellows my sobbing story, I found it locked up on East Hastings. I paid a guy $30 and he unlocked my bike from the parking meter. I asked him, “Can I buy your lock?”
He said, “A hundred dollars, lady.”
Only my dreams are benign. In these nightly visitations, I wear a nutcase helmet with a drawing of my brain, motorists see me, and doors are held shut. I am me; able to enjoy movement without pain, no headaches, no fear of cars, no motion sickness, no nausea, and no pills. I float with unexpected buoyancy; wind through my arms outstretched in an attempt to catch my whole life. I am surrounded by the Critical Mass of cyclists.