Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Road rash... the hazards of making a left turn

Colm and I went for a bike ride on the weekend while Tess and Beth were off at a birthday party. We took a different route to the high school from the usual one - I let Colm do the navigating. We hung out in my classroom for a little while; he passed the time drawing aliens with dozens of eyes sprouting from long Medusa like tendrils than covered the entire width of the chalkboard. While he did that, I caught up on some classroom stuff.
When it was time to go, Colm made a bee line to the elevator and got ready to push the buttons. We counted the numbers on the display tracking the elevator's progress "3....2....1," and then just before the doors opened we chanted, "Open sesame!" From there it was a walk down the tile floors of long, dark corridor of the old school building, during which Colm pretended not to be scared when, after running ahead of me he turned and couldn't quite see me in the shadows where I hid pressed against the student lockers. He looked so little and alone down there in that pool of light at the end of the hall that I didn't have the heart to lay on the ghost effect too thickly.
"What?....Daddy?" he said.
I just stepped into the middle of hall with my arms outstretched a la Frankenstein and walked toward him growling slightly. When I reached him Colm affected a diffident pose and informed me that he had seen me.
We retrieved our bikes at the entrance to the gym and headed for home. Colm wanted to race. Since it was slightly downhill, he picked up speed quickly and as is his wont when he is in the lead he kept turning his head back to check on his lead. I decided to reel him in so as to keep his eyes focused straight ahead. Indeed, I could make out a car a couple of blocks away that had come to a stop sign. Taking the center of the laneI pulled up on the left beside Colm who was pedaling furiously. We rode parallel like that for a few seconds, the chilly air whipping our smiling faces and then for some reason that I couldn't fathom Colm began to crowd me in the center of our lane. I moved left to keep from tangling with him but that move put me on the center line. That car I'd noticed had just cleared the stop sign and was heading our way.
"What are doing over here, move over Colm!" I said. Normally Colm hugs the right shoulder, but this time he was oblivious to my urgings. Instead he cut in front of me, I was able to brake a little before his back wheel clipped my front wheel. He wobbled but didn't go down and I saw even as I began to fall that he was making a left turn on the same street that we had taken to get to the school earlier. I was powerless to do anything but hit the pavement. I landed on my right side smack dab in the middle of the road, one of my clogs flew off my foot and landed ten yards away. I looked up and saw that the oncoming car had stopped, a woman sat behind the wheel staring impassively at me. Colm had made it to the curb on the other side and was now standing looking over his shoulder at me. I could tell from his eyes that what had just happened had completely surpassed his understanding. Calmly and quietly and told him to wait for me there while I got up trying very hard to ignore the pain running the length of my body. I put my clog back on lifted my bike, crossed to Colm and waved to the woman in the car. She drove past looking equal parts relieved and worried.
"You fell down, Daddy."
"Yeah," I said. I laughed and added. " You cut me off."
"You didn't cry."
I felt my hip and thought, maybe later.
After a bit I led Colm back into the street and practiced making left turns and I tried to tell him about the whole concept of oncoming traffic. My intent was simply to open up his eyes a little bit. The way his focus had narrowed so suddenly on that left turn, the way he had been overtaken by a single purpose, consumed by a single idea to the exclusion of everything else in the world bearing down on alarmed and frightened me. His physical competence with the bike disguised for a time his inability to see what he was looking at. I too had not seen clearly and the ramifications of that failure sat heavily on my heart as we rode the rest of the way home without incident, Colm chirping on about how far and fast we had gone.


Anonymous erin said...

Another glimpse of how wonderous, and sometimes frightening, parenthood can be. I'm glad you're both alright. Scary stuff!

1:29 PM  

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