First of all, Block Island in May is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s neon green, wood-shingled, sleepy with fog. At nighttime the ferry rests at the New Harbor pier with its lights on, glowing in the mist like a phantom Titanic. Jed, Alexys, Keegan, Kelly, Jurvis and I came to spend the weekend riding our bicycles around its wee circumference, soaring up and down hills, around bluffs and beaches and paint-peeled barns. And it was lovely.
But the moment I went airborne, I knew what was coming.
There’s a perfectly-done scene in The Life Aquatic, in which Steve Zissou and his newfound/alleged son Ned have gone for a helicopter ride over the ocean, and the propeller stops. For a moment they’re suspended in air. “This is going to hurt,” Bill Murray’s character says to Ned, bracing him with an arm and closing his eyes. And then they crash. In a similar fashion, I had my moment.
“No,” I said, six feet in the air.
I flew over my handlebars; the bicycle flew over me; my body bounced on asphalt; I was airborne again (“No”), I landed on my side and slid. My mouth was full of gravel; I thought the rocks were broken teeth. Two and a half years of braces! I spat them out and rolled onto my back, gasping for breath. It was excruciating on one side. I thought, I have broken at least one rib. I thought, I can’t feel my arms or legs. I thought, my lungs are filling with fluid. This is the moment when everything changes. This is the part you relive. Just breathe for a moment. Stare into the sky, get a hold of yourself.
Jurvis was at my side. He was trying to pick me up. He was trying to take off my helmet. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I would repeat, over and over. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
He lifted my shirt up. “Uuugh, guys, it doesn’t look good,” and I thought, that is because my rib bone is sticking out.
“Babe . . . you’re lying in the middle of the road, we need to move you.”
“No,” I said. Then, “Is my camera okay?”
So I laid there for a while. Blood dripped down my upper lip and into my mouth. “Whatever is going to happen from here on out,” I thought, “I just wish it would be over with.”
A List Of Things I Shouldn’t Have Been Doing Two Minutes Previous
- 1.) Trying to take a picture of bicyclists behind me.
- 2.) Accelerating down a steep hill.
- 3.) Breaking with my left hand (front tires) only.
A List Of Things That Happened To Objects Around Me
- 1.) Bicycle: handlebars de-centered, seat torn in half and metal supports bent into new ninety degree angles.
- 2.) Clothing: right shoulder of t-shirt ripped off, hole torn in left knee of jeans. Later, I would pull threads of blue cotton out of my skin with a tweezers.
- 3.) Sunglasses: gravel embedded into right lens.
- 4.) Camera: lens filter shattered, lens crushed into camera so that lens cannot be removed and zoom cannot be adjusted (forever 35mm), body grated into new angles. Amazingly, still takes pictures.
A List Of My Amazingly Minor Injuries
- 1.) Left hand: missing a patch of skin.
- 2.) Right arm: missing a patch of skin.
- 3.) Right shoulder: missing a patch of skin.
- 4.) Right hip: missing an alarmingly deep patch of skin (cause of Jurvis’ alarm).
- 5.) Right elbow: purple.
- 6.) Face: scratches, bruise on left cheek.
- 7.) Left knee: scraped, swollen (hilariously, someone pointed out. “It looks like you’re growing another knee on top of your knee.”).
In short, the wind got knocked out of me and now I’m covered in Neosporin, looking a little badass. Someone called a cab back to our suite, and Kelly (Veterinarian = close enough, we joked to the cabbie) helped clean and dress my wounds.
The thing I keep coming back to, of course, is that I nearly didn’t wear a helmet this morning. I have a general philosophy regarding vacations and cab rides: this is the time to live a little. Don’t buckle up! Feel the wind in your hair, it’s beautiful!
And already today I’ve been limping along the beach with my gimpy-ass knee, watching the people cruise by on their bicycles, all smiles, locks of hair flowing behind them in the salty breeze. “You see this?” I want to shout, shaking a gauzed fist. “I nearly died today — but oh hey, instead I’m nearly completely fine — wear a goddamn helmet!”