Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beyond My Karmic Means

With cars parked on either side, Salmon becomes effectively a one-lane street. I was riding to the right, far closer to the line of cars than I usually do, out of a vague sense that to ride smack in the middle of the street and claim both lanes would be overbearing, when a car door flashed open, right in front of me.

I had time to brake, though not to swerve: I skidded into it, and was suddenly airborne. The next thing I remember is thinking, “time to do a somersault,” and I did. My helmet tapped the street lightly. Then I was standing up. Time, which had accelerated, was now molasses-slow. In slow motion I walked back to my bike, set it upright, and walked it to the sidewalk. I gravely examined it. Remarkably, it looked undamaged.

“Never mind the bike! Are you OK?” The driver, a young woman, had come out of her car. She was agitated.

“I'm fine,” I said. I could have told her that I was moving slowly precisely because I didn't know: I was waiting for all the reports to come in. But that was more complicated than I cared to try to put into words.

“I don't know what to do. I've never hurt a bicyclist before. Are you OK?”

A teachable moment, I thought. I could say something about looking out for bicycles before flinging open your door. But if the experience didn't teach her, I didn't reckon any words of mine would, and besides, she was young and distressed. “I'm fine, really.” I went on checking the bike; the wheels and the brakes and gearing were all in good order.

I rolled my shoulders, stood on one leg and then the other, swayed my hips. I ran my hands over my arms. Rolled my head in a cautious circle. Nothing. No scrapes, no abrasions. I hadn't landed on my hands, my knees, or my elbows. What on earth had I landed on? My upper arm was going to bruise up nicely, between the elbow and the swell of the triceps, but you don't fall on your upper arm.

“That was pretty spectacular,” said a passer-by, holding a baby in her arm. “Are you really all right?”

“I really am,” I said. The driver apologized again, and this time I grinned reassuringly at her. She looked doubtful. I fetched my pack from the street and put it back in the basket I have mounted behind the seat, got back on the bike, and rode on downtown to work.

And today, three days later, I'm still fine. The bruise on my arm is the only mark on me: the only place that hurts is an abdominal muscle – whether I snagged a handlebar with it, or pulled it at some point during my gymnastics, I can't say. It objects to me doing sit-ups, and I reckon it's likely to be forming trigger points soon – muscles usually do, a couple days after trauma: often that's all that “whiplash” consists of. The check-rein muscles of my neck, especially the SCM, are a little sore, of course. But overall my lack of injury is a little mysterious. Something must have taken the impact. I'm inclined to think I must have flipped over the door, landed on my feet, and gone into my somersault from there. Extraordinarily lucky.

But I have always had uncanny luck. It used to make me uneasy, to make me feel that I was living beyond my karmic means: but now I just accept it. Landing on my feet just seems to be what I do.

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