By Pamela Ribon
last time I was on a bicycle I was twelve years old. I rode a pink
and gray Schwinn ten-speed, one I had earned from a combination
of babysitting money and incessant pleading. Until that day, seventeen
years ago, the biggest accident I'd had on my bike was when I thought
it'd be cool to take both of my feet off of the pedals at the same
time. Not knowing where else to put them, I figured I'd BMX it by
touching my toes together in front of me.
problem I have is that I only think things through to two. I ask
myself two questions, and if both answers suit me fine, I go ahead
with whatever it is. Often in retrospect I wish I'd asked myself
a third question. My father once told me that the reflective bumps
on the road were in order to assist the blind when they drive their
cars. I asked myself, "Is it like Braille?" Yes.
"Do the bumps become more prevalent when closer to stop lights
or the middle lane?" Yes. Therefore, the conclusion:
Dad must be speaking the truth. If I'd only asked one of the many
third questions that leap to mind when pondering this alleged piece
of trivia for more than six seconds. "How do they know when
the light is red?" "How does it work in reverse?"
Or maybe the most pressing question raised by this factoid: "How
do they know when they've gotten to where they're going?"
to me wanting to look cool on my Schwinn. First I asked myself,
"Would my feet touching in front of me be cool?" Yep.
Then: "Wouldn't it be awesome if my feet were touching between
the spokes?" Oh, yeah. I touched my toes together before
asking that all-important third question, "How will the wheels
keep spinning if my feet are jammed between the spokes?"
bike stopped short with a lurch and a loud popping sound. I fell
sideways to the street. My right hip was pretty banged up, my pinky
toes were bruised to an alarming purple-black hue, and I lost three
spokes from my front wheel.
of clever lies, and an obstinate claim of short-term amnesia, kept
me from getting into any serious trouble with my mother. Once my
bike was fixed, I was immediately back on it, filled with an eleven-year-old's
enviable sense of immortality. This was a time before moms loaded
their children in over-protective gear. I was a kid on a bike --
no helmet, no pads, no SPF 60. It was just me and the gravelly road.
was a hot summer afternoon in Jackson, Mississippi, less than one
year later, the last time I ever got on that Schwinn, or any other
bike, for that matter. I was dicking around on the street in front
of my house breaking at least three rules, if I remember correctly.
I was supposed to be inside cleaning my room. I wasn't supposed
to be wearing my newest outfit (a super-clean white tank-top and
a pair of Dirty Dancing denim shorts). But most importantly
I wasn't supposed to ride my bike in flip-flops. Mom often declared
seemingly arbitrary rules, like how I wasn't allowed to write on
myself with marker or pen because that was the gateway to getting
a tattoo. I couldn't get my ears pierced, wear make-up or even nail
polish until I was at least thirteen because those accessories were
an announcement to boys that I was the kind of girl who wears earrings,
make-up and nail polish. Guns of any kind were also forbidden in
our home, including water guns or a threateningly-held banana, because
even pretending to shoot your sister is just as bad as pulling an
actual trigger. So when Mom warned me not to ride my bike in flip-flops,
I figured this was more of a fashion rule than a safety issue.
myself: "Is it more of a hassle to go change shoes since I'm
only going to ride my bike for a second?" Yes. Then:
"Am I about to get off my bike and go clean my room anyway?"
not exactly sure how this happened, but my left flip-flop got caught
somewhere between my bike chain and the underside of the pedal.
Panicked and confused, I hit both brakes at the same time. I then
flipped over the handlebars and slid across the gravel. On my
face. The left side of my body felt like it was on fire as I
stood up, pieces of road falling from my cheek. Through my hot tears
I could see my left knee was bleeding. I limped into the house,
where I found out just how bad my injuries were by the decibel level
of my mother's scream. She asked me a breathless question that held
all of the words she needed to ask me at once: "What-did-how-why-you-okay?"
She led me into the bathroom, randomly spitting out those words.
I saw my face in the mirror, blurry from my wailing. My skin was
a mixture of dark reds, purple streaks, black dots from gravel still
sunken into my cheek. It was not pretty.
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