The Argentinian and me exchanged phone numbers a few minutes after we met. But I didn’t hear from him. And I hope I don’t have to.
I met the Argentinian at night and the lighting wasn’t good, so my impression of his looks is imprecise. He is, I think, is of average height, slender with olive skin and dark eyes. He may or may not have hair, but I don’t know for sure. Because when I met him, in the dark, he was wearing a cycling helmet.
And I was lying in the bike lane on Second Avenue in the East Village.
It was dark and it was raining. Hard.
I had recently fully overcome the psychological impediment to getting back on my bike. I had ridden to work all week and was starting to forget about my ex and his bicycling advocate girlfriend and remember instead the joy that I attach to traveling on two wheels.
The first part of the week was marvelous. At the end of my commute I had that old, remembered feeling—a pang of regret that my journey was about to end.
This I took to be a good sign.
So I was happy on my bike, until the night of the deluge.
It deluged and I pushed on. A mistake. A taxi was parked in the bike lane and a passenger opened the door, and the door and I collided.
I’ve been in some crashes. They’re not all the same. Except for the ways that they are. There’s this sound—a dull sound of contact that you don’t hear anywhere else—but that you never forget. And then there’s this feeling of time slowing down. And a thought floats through your head. It’s something along the lines of, “damn, that was stupid.”
And then you’re flying. And then you’re falling.
And then time starts again.
Time has started, but you’re not an active participant. This is because of adrenaline, your body’s reaction to shock.
Things happen around you, but it’s like you’re watching a play.
I hit the door and then I hit a post, which, in a way, broke my fall. I started bleeding.
The outsourcing of blame began.
The passenger who had stopped my journey so precipitously looked down at me lying in the street, sniffed out a reluctant “sorry” and stalked off. The driver, desirous of leaving immediately, insisted that, although he had parked illegally, my bleeding state wasn’t his fault because he hadn’t touched me.
The Argentinian was the reason he didn’t leave. He stood in front of the cab, holding his bicycle and said, “If you want to go, you’ll have to run me over.”
I called the cops. They were busy. So we waited. In the cold. In the rain. For nearly 45 minutes the Argentinian stood in front of the taxi. Getting drenched. And while he stood there he took a photo of the cab’s license plate. And he asked me my number and he texted me the plate. Call me, he said, if you need a witness.
While we waited, I asked him his name and where he was from. Marco. Buenos Aires. And he stood there while I tried to remember that I speak some Spanish. We spoke a little Spanish. Then he stood there silently while I cried from the shock and the pain, and I shook from the cold.
The cops came and the ambulance came and I crashed a second time, into New York City bureaucracy, which is not always sympathetic to people who travel on two wheels. I must have done something wrong was the subtext, both from the cops and the medics. They reluctantly came to the conclusion that I hadn’t. That I wasn’t trying to make trouble, with my bleeding and my bruising.
The Argentinian gave his testimony to the cops. And I thanked him and he said to call me if I needed anything else.
And he got on his bike and left.
The medics hailed me a taxi and I got home. And this taxi driver, seeing that I was bleeding and in shock, carried my bike to my house. And I got myself upstairs and ran a hot bath because I could already feel my muscles seizing up.
I lay in the bath and thought about how the incident had conflated a couple of metaphors. Just when I thought it was safe, psychologically, to get back on my bike, just when I think I’m safe from the ex and his girlfriend, I encounter a situation that is a terribly obvious illustration of the past year.
It was the black hole of metaphors. Or is it irony? I’ve never truly understood the correct meaning of irony. I know I should, but I don’t.
But I do know this. It’s a bitch when you think one minute that everything is chipper and the next you encounter the taxi door and you’re lying in the streets all bruised and crying and shaking and you think, “Crap, what am I going to do now? Who will help me? I can’t do this alone.”
But then you find that you don’t have to. You get up. You stand up. And you move. Slowly at first, while your wounds heal, but you do move, even though every movement causes pain. And someone will help you. Someone will stand in front of the taxi. Someone will make sure you and your bicycle get home. The next day someone will call to see if you need food or painkillers.
In your bruised and battered state someone will keep on helping you, until the day when you can help yourself.
This is why I’m not going to have any trouble getting back on my bike next week. Because I’ve already been through this. Yes, I look like I’m in a fight club and it hurts to laugh. It hurts to move.
But I know this thing now; I’m tough. I’ve done my time in the trenches.
I can, and I will, get back on that bicycle.