Seems Like A Dream - 09.26.97
After having slacked off for a couple days, I went out the other evening and decided to go on a long bike ride. The pavement was a bit wet from having just rained and it was a bit cold for being out in shorts and a t-shirt, but the steady motion of pedaling managed to make me break out into a sweat anyway. As I biked along, the sun dropped lower, and the temperature along with it. The cool air hitting my wet body eventually made me even colder than when I had started. Fortunately by this time, I was on the way home and I only had about 3 miles to go until I would again be indoors.
For some reason or another I decided I could make it home even faster if I veered from my usual course and took to the city streets instead of staying on the bike path. At this time of evening (about 7 o'clock), the trail was usually fairly packed with parents riding along with their kids. Many times they were wandering all over the path, making it slow going for anyone who was actually out to get some sort of exercise. I thought I had made the good choice as I zipped through the residential areas, only yielding enough to make sure I didn't get hit in the intersections.
As I rounded the corner to head down the street just over a mile from my apartment, I heard sounds that never fail to make me tense up. Down the block ahead of me, there was the sound of breaks screeching, followed by the skidding of tires. The noise that followed was what troubled me, though. It was a crunching noise, but it wasn't nearly loud enough to be the sound of a car colliding with another. Before I had time to think, I was quickly filled in on what was happening. The lady who was driving the car started screaming and bolted out of the car and around to the back of where she had come to a stop. There was a bike lying in the road and someone was laying beside it. The woman leaned over them and began trying to sort of halfheartidly shake them. By this time, I was upon the scene and the woman started screaming at me in a sort of pleading way. All of these things probably took place in less than 10 seconds, but it felt like it took minutes or even hours. I felt completely lucid, but at the same time, my surroundings seemed so surreal.
As I got off my bike, the woman yelled something at me about calling for help and took off through her yard to go into her house. I quickly walked over to where the accident had occurred and hoped there was something I could do. They were breathing, but there was a lot of blood on and around their head and their arms and legs were pretty scraped up. I didn't know if they had a concussion, or even what the symptoms of a concussion or head wound were. As I was remembering something about how you weren't supposed to move accident victims, I heard a voice say something in a muffled tone. By this time there were other people coming out of their houses, but the voice had come from below me. I kneeled down on the pavement and told them that I was sorry, but I hadn't quite heard what they said. Their right eye was now partially open and I could see that they were trying to look around.
In a quiet voice, I heard the words, "I guess I picked a bad day to forget my helmet."
Trying to be encouraging, I told them that they shouldn't try to talk or move, and that they'd be OK. I said that someone had already gone to call for the paramedics.
After a few seconds of silence, they explained to me what had happened. In broken bits of speech, I figured out that they were just biking along when this lady had come flying down out of her driveway in reverse without looking. The next thing they knew was that someone was standing beside them
I again told them that they should try not to talk and I found myself touching their hand to try and calm them. It was odd of me to be this forward with my feelings, but the whole situation was so strange that I really didn't think anything of it at the time.
After only a few seconds, they began speaking again. This time, they asked me what my name was. I felt like I could have answered any question she asked me, so I didn't hesitate at all in answering. I then was asked if I was a student, and I explained that I wasn't, but that I had just graduated from college. It was strange, but the whole experience felt much more natural than trying to meet someone at a bar or a club. Here I was in a completely strange situation, talking with a quite attractive (although a bit banged up) person without any nervousness. It was almost as if the extremity of the situation had taken the awkwardness out of us, leaving us to be completely open and natural in our conversation. Even as I heard the woman coming back and the sirens closing in, I sat on the pavement with their hand in mine, answering every question that they asked of me. It was mainly just small talk, but it was one of the most interesting conversations that I've had in a long while (probably partially due to the surroundings).
I was still sitting there talking away when the paramedics and police arrived. They asked if I had tried to move the victim at all, and I was glad to say that I had remembered that you weren't supposed to. I had to answer a few questions for the police, but I really didn't have anything to add. I hadn't seen the accident take place, but had instead just kind of stumbled upon it. After they got my name and number, I got on my bike and started back to my apartment again.
The events of the last half hour or so already seemed like a blur to me. Everything had happened so fast that I wasn't sure what to think. It was such a strange situation in so many ways. For one, my system was still in shock from seeing an accident victim of relatively my own age up close. It could have very well been me that had gotten hit. I was also wondering whether I would ever see them again. In the time that we sat there, I didn't ask one question. I was completely content sitting there answering any question that I was given. Maybe I would see them sometime on the biking trail and we would talk, or maybe they'd get my name off the accident report and call me. I'm sure it will take me quite awhile just to figure out everything that had gone on. Still, one of the weirdest things to me was how I had chosen not to ride the bike path on the way home. The simple choice of taking a different route home had thrown me into a series of events that I wouldn't have had any knowledge of otherwise. I think I'll get off the path more often.