I sat on the side of the paved trail, in the grass. My bike lay next to me. My bloodied legs, slightly bent, in front of me. I don’t know how long I sat there. Maybe just a few moments, maybe much longer.
“Are you alright?”
“Are you alone?”
“No, I mean, I don’t know.”
I couldn’t remember. The runner stayed and talked to me. He introduced himself as a judge, explained that he ran here often. I remember he was kind.
It was dawning on me that I had been in a wreck. I was realizing that it had happened, and I had put myself and my bike on the grass off the trail, about 30 feet from where it had likely occurred.
The judge offered to call to have someone pick me up. I didn’t have my phone, but it didn’t matter. We only had one car and I had taken it. It was parked a few miles away, so we walked, the judge and I. Was it two or three miles?
Later I would examine every abrasion and try to recreate what happened. My knees had gone into the front wheel and were sheared. My fingers had neat little chinks missing at the first joint, showing how I had gripped the handlebars. The bruise at my throat showed the force of the impact on my helmet, which was now crushed on one side. My forearm to my elbow was scraped raw. Otherwise, I was fine. There were no broken bones, no long-term effects from the wreck.
I remember that sensation of sitting dazed and realizing that something had happened — I had no idea what. The concussion had knocked the memory of it completely out of me. Something had happened to me (the wreck) and I had reacted to it (walking, then sitting further down the trail) and I had no recollection of either. Whatever my body and mind had experienced were blocked from me forever, but I remember with complete clarity those first moments of coming back to myself — the beauty, wonder, and mystery of it. Here I am, again. Hello. An opportunity, an awakening.
A few short months later I completed my first-century ride. The 100-mile bike ride in August in Wichita Falls, Texas, is aptly named the Hotter’n Hell. What a great triumphant ending for a story about a bike wreck, right? I got back on my bike and I accomplished something I’d never imagined before.
But the real story, the story that threads the narrative that binds the parts of ourselves together, positions the wreck as the play-within-the-play. A few years later, metaphorically, I would be sitting on the side of the road on the plains of Western Oklahoma among the wind turbine and grain silos, wondering what happened? Then, here I am, again. Hello.