December 22, 1975… A little before sunset. I rode my bike, a green, Schwinn Ram’s Horn Fastback, to the Rexall to buy a roll of Scotch Tape to wrap Christmas presents with. I took the back alley on the south side of Artesia to the light at Casimir Avenue, and saw that it was green for me to cross. I sped through the intersection on a yellow, and as my light went red, I heard a sound… like metal, pounding into metal.
That was the sound of the ’63 Studebaker hitting my bike as I crossed in front of it.
I no longer knew where I was. All I saw in the next moment was dark, then light, then dark again. My mind picked up the story again with me wobbling to my feet about 20 yards away from the intersection where my bike now lay, twisted and useless. Someone, I don’t remember who, led me to the curb to sit as I heard the police siren in the distance. What felt like seconds must’ve been minutes. Adults were everywhere. A woman, the driver of the car that turned my bike into scrap, came over to where I was sitting. Confused as I was, I could still tell she was scared shitless. I mean, she did almost kill a kid, on a bike in a crosswalk, trying to beat a line of cars into traffic before her light turned green. She could have tried to make a break for it, but westbound Artesia at 5 o’clock was bumper-to-bumper, even in 1975.
The cop who showed up a minute later drove me, and my green wreck, the few blocks from there, home, and waited with me… in the days before cell phones… for my dad to come home from work. As I sat in our living room, it came to me what it was I saw right after the BOOM of the car and my bike.
Dark, light, dark.
Asphalt, sky, asphalt.
A front somersault from the pedals of my bike, end over end, landing on my head more than 50 feet away.
Landing, and walking away, without a scratch on me.
Every time I watch the M. Night Shyamalan film, “Unbreakable”, and see the train wreck scene at the beginning of the movie… the one where Bruce Willis Is the only survivor, and walks away without a scratch on him, I remember that day. Today, forty-two years to the day from when it happened to me, the movie was on TV. And I watched.
Then I wrote this.
And after, in my journal, I wrote,
“…anyway, forty-two years ago today, I almost died. And forty-two years later, it’s time for me to live.
Let’s close out the remains of ’17, and take ’18 like it’s a Giftwrapped Best Present EVER. Tear the wrapping paper clean off, rip open the box, and GO! Shouting all the way,
‘It’s exactly what I WANTED!!!’.”
2017 was a whole lot of dark, light, dark. Asphalt, sky, asphalt. And that makes 2018 a present.
And it’s exactly what I wanted.
© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday