He was without a helmet, wore a knit cap. I think it was a cabernet-y color or maybe black cherry cough syrup. Dark leather gloves and a grey jacket, he rode a bike. I drove a white SUV and was turning right on my city street. I looked in the rear view. I looked over my shoulder. In the split second I wasn’t looking he appeared at the corner where I was about to clip him.
We both stopped just in time. I held my breath – exhaling nervousness and a halting smile. I put my two hands to the center of my chest in supplication, and mouthed, “Sorry,” opening my arms to a Please –You-Go-First-gesture. He shook a short, clipped “No” and point-jabbed me towards the direction I was turning. I silently mouthed, “No, please, you,” and showed him the way with my open-palmed hand.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head with such disgust. My impact on him was both real and unintended, and his on me, a set of shaky adrenaline sparks. Maybe the grown-up thing to do would have been to roll down my window and say, “I am sorry I upset you, please go right ahead. You have the right of way.” But I didn’t do that. I was surprised, a little scared, I think, his rancor written so all over his face.
He did not easily release me from the angry gaze he held. I felt assaulted by the assumptions I assumed he made: “She is so full of herself, sees no one else around her – suburban mom in a truck too big for the city.” He stood over the cross bar of his bike, took out his phone and started – I don’t know what – scrolling, texting, pretending to call the police, looking at pictures. He stayed on that corner, standing his ground.
Cars behind me honked. I put mine in PARK, hazards on. Somehow I decided that waiting him out was the way to go. Plus, from where I was sitting, his front tire was at the nose of mine. The physics seemed likely to end up hurting him which seemed untoward given we had just escaped that reality. Together.
The frames of all those horrible crashes in my head – a public awareness campaign – white bikes with plastic flowers peppering our city in the spots where cyclists had been killed by inadvertent or inattentive drivers – be they of bikes or cars. An accident, like love, is a dance of multitudes – weather, angles, braking and breaking, timing – regret and hope cycling. An accident, like love, is shaped by the people onsite, at that moment when the coming together happens, and the worlds smudge into each other. I stood my ground in the face of his fury; maybe to see if I could. Maybe to prove him wrong – I am caring. I do see you. I am trying to help. “Stay still. Go Buddha on that biker boy,” I told myself.
Ten minutes in, he gave up, slowly and softly shaking his head now. He seemed tired for his young years all of a sudden. His face looked fallen – more so than when we first raised our eyebrows in shockandfearrelief – just a split second after our missed merge. Resigned to lose this one, or maybe about to land on the wrong side of late-for-work, he rolled forward, both hands in the air, no hands on the bike, as if to say, “You did not change me.” It felt like a juvenile reject-the-resolution gesture. Like deer in the headlights – fascinated and frightened – a wide-eyed savior-of-self.
© Gabriella Strecker, 2016
photo courtesy of Nancy Aronie’s bathroom 🙂