Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back On the Horse.

The first or second thing most people ask is "Were you wearing a helmet?" so I'll answer that right off: I was not wearing a helmet. And it was a head injury, which I would imagine is common in bicycle collisions because when a bike stops suddenly you're gonna go flying headfirst somewhere. Into a car, a wall, the pavement. I'm very aware as I stare every night in the mirror at the tiny scars, one below and one above my right eye, that I could just as easily right now be a quadriplegic or a vegetable or dead.

The ugly outward symptoms have mostly healed. The swelling has gone down almost completely. The purple bruising around my right eye is faded. The white of my eye was bright blood red for two weeks, but now it just looks badly bloodshot. My ribs ache, more at night, and the broken bones in my face have not completely healed. A few times a day, I hear a strange vibrating or sometimes a clicking sound in my face. I imagine it's the bones settling back into place. (At least one of my childhood dreams has come true. When I was about 10 or so, I wanted a broken bone. My brother and sister had both broken bones and I wanted the attention they got.)

I still don't know what I hit. I don't have any memory of the accident. I don't remember anything in between a few minutes before I left my house until I woke up in the ER a few hours later. The abrasions on my face didn't look like road rash. They were too smooth. I have several fractures in the bones around my eye socket and upper jaw, so I must have hit a hard surface. The side of the car that hit me? Or did I hit the side of the car. I had two small, deep cuts around my eye, right along the ridge of the bone, abrasions on my shoulder, knee, and knuckles. The woman I saw collide with a car and die in San Francisco, she hit the car.

I spoke to a lawyer today, and I will probably hire him, so I'm hesitant to write much in detail about the accident. I wanted to negotiate the claim myself -- the driver who hit me is insured so my medical expenses should all be paid for -- but it's more than I can handle right now. I think I'm barely keeping it together as it is. I'm very close to failing one of my classes. This heat has me struggling every day against a foul mood.

The hardest thing, in the end, about this is that I don't remember the accident so I am at a loss to learn anything from it. What was I doing when I was hit? How did it happen? Was I careless, or stupid, or aggressive? There was a witness and the driver gave a statement to the police and to her insurance company, so the basic outline of the accident is established. The driver was at fault, and she was given a ticket ("failure to yield right of way"). I'm afraid to ride my bike again now without having a chance to learn something from this accident that I am so grateful to have survived.

I keep looking for ways in which this experience has changed me. Maybe, if I ever ride a bike again, I will wear a helmet; but it's more likely that I will avoid riding my bike because I don't want to wear a helmet. That's why I stopped wearing one in the first place, because the thought of wearing one was so irksome I would decide not to ride. The greatest change I've noticed was unexpected: My feelings toward the police have completely turned around. My attitude toward cops was forged in New York during ACT UP demonstrations and the Tompkins Square riots of the late 80s. New York cops were always the bad guys. I didn't realize to what extent, but I've carried that negative attitude around with me all this time even though I had no reason for ill feelings against Austin police. But since the accident, every time I see a police officer, my heart swells. The first couple times I came near to crying. The police were at the scene within minutes of me being hit, and they, along with the paramedics from the local fire station, took care of me, got me to the hospital. Maybe it's too dramatic to say that they saved my life, maybe not. I know I'm very grateful.