I hit an oil slick on a sharp downhill curve and my bike and I went careening across the road. My partner, who went down right behind me on the same slick on the same curve, fared worse: his helmet grew a deep crack and he lost his short-term memory for a while in the jostling. Both of us now sport road rash, bruises, scabs and divots along one side of our body.
It has been years since I have had an accident like that and even longer since I have sustained any sort of injury. Even the two potentially fatal car crashes I survived only gave me stories to tell: in one I was hit by thieves fleeing the police and our cars spun several times on the highway before crashing into a wall; in the other I crawled out from under a car that was totaled after it rolled several times on a lonely Texas road. I walked away from both of them with nothing more than scratches.
What happened this week is a signal not of my mortality – since I hardly need a reminder that my days are numbered – but that I have been taking things for granted. Just as I went down on a curve in the road that I have ridden a thousand times, I have lately crashed in my life on routes that I have been traveling for years and thought were safe and predictable.
I consider myself lucky, but I wonder if I have been banking too much on it. I have broken many rules and always I have gotten away with it. Maybe what I thought was agility, a charmed life or just freedom from the strictures that apply to others, was just a big dose of luck. Maybe that luck has run out.
Maybe it is even a good thing. I worship crude reality. I want to KNOW the truth. I don’t want to be spared or protected or coddled. I don’t want a dispensation. I want to test myself against the harsh and beautiful justice of life itself.
I don’t learn until I put my body on the line, force myself out over the edge, stand in the line of fire. Because I live so much in my head, I regularly need to get out there and feel the hard truth. Maybe it was just my time to take a slide along the pavement and get banged up.
Maybe I was even lucky I did.