Face plant. I feel the pebbles of the pavement on my cheek. Thirty seconds ago I was hitting it hard, my fourteen pound titanium bicycle and I were tearing up a short, punchy hill.
Slow motion and silence… again.
I lay there on the pavement. I do a quick inventory. First it is about time. Did I pass out, without looking I know my helmet is broken in two. I don’t think I passed out. Next a quick check on what hurts, what is bleeding, what is broken. Shoulder is dislocated, another collarbone. Fuck that hurts. A few ribs, fuck ribs, I spend half my life with broken ribs.
A few more seconds pass and I enjoy this perspective not many get to see. Not many guys, or women for that matter, ever take a moment to become one with the macadam. As long as a muscle doesn’t move there is no pain.
Realization comes back in a wave. Asshole, you are in the road. Move before you get run over by a car. Movement brings pain. My hatred of broken bones isn’t all about pain. They are a huge inconvenience; you walk funny, move funny and you have to answer a thousand stupid questions. More comments about Eval Knieval, fuck you, fuck that, fuck this…
The bike is Ok. What the fuck? I see the broken pedal, I’m more pissed now. How many of these crash landings am I willing to accept?
A family comes running out with ice and paper towels. They want to call an ambulance, I say, “no.” What about a cop, ” what the fuck, no!” The guy who came out of his house offers me a ride in his brand new truck.
“Dude, I’m a filthy, sweaty, bloody mess. Put me in the back, ok.” He insists I ride in the front. I’m trying to not bleed on his interior.
“Are you sure you don’t want a ride to the hospital?”
“Yes, I’m sure, no, thank you.”
We ride in awkward silence for a few minutes. He asks how much my bike costs, how much it weighs. He says he needs to get in shape. He should get a bike and start riding.
“Really, dude, you really think that’s a good idea, right now, look at me.”
As we ride along hitting every single bump in the road I look at his beer belly with envy. This guy is happy, probably on pills for his blood pressure, his dick, cholesterol, maybe he’s in that shit for restless leg syndrome, but as we sit here he is much better shape than me. I pass a comment about the ribs. He tells me the time he broke his arm. “Your arm,” I ask, “you mean that’s the only bone you’ve ever broken?” I’m in some sort of awe that a guy could live forty, fifty years and only break one fucking bone?
He lets me out. I go to get my bike, shit hurts. He helps me, comments about the broken helmet and the blood. I shake his hand and thank him. I say to him, “You seem happy, you seem ok with who you are. You seem to have made peace with your life. Accepting of your age.”
He says, “I am, aren’t you?”
I guess I can’t answer that.
I shower in denial. I’m ok. A handful of Advil and back to work. My daughter says I get pissed when people as if I’m ok, so she texts me, “I’m glad you are not dead.” I smile.
A few hours later I sit, alone, sore, angry. Angry, sore, alone and aged. I’m fifty-nine for Christ’s sage. Why can I never accept my age like the guy with the truck did. Aging gracefully, grandkids… kicking back in a comfortable chair, rehashing old memories. Living on laurels and glory days.
In an early summer non-race, race, I was holding off a group of kids. At my age “kids” is anyone under fifty. I didn’t have it that night and I let them pass me in the last half-mile. That was June, mid-June and now it’s October and I’m still pissed about that night.
Now, badly broken for the forth time in six years I ask if I’ve had enough. Am I done, can I be done? Why the fuck can’t I be done. I tire of being me.
When I was young I looked forward to these days. The days when the crime and madness was passed. These days are as mad as any day in my twenties. I’m always the old guy now, always broken. Always the oddity. How cool would it be to live like the guy in the truck with a beer belly and a limp dick and a serious concern for a football team, or baseball, or soccer team. Maybe obsess about mowing the lawn or raking leaves.
As I consider my days of trying, of denying my age, of fighting everyone and everything, this thing, this me, sits solidly in my gut, refusing to budge,
I look at my old steel bike. It’s needs a shifter cable and a rear tire and a saddle…
I’m my case the wisdom of aging is just a stranger from some foreign land.
A week and a day after the crash I’m back on my bike. My ribs and collarbone hurt like boiling-hot-fuck. There is no honor in this. Nothing that resembles pride. This is a desperate act of a coward. A man so afraid of the inevitable approaching and encroaching aging, old age, death that he licks his wounds and binds his broken bones and runs as if chased by the hounds of hell.
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