Fri 26 Jun 2009
she had white carpet in the entryway.
there was a mirror there, but i have no recollection of my reflection in it, only the shock of the blood seeping into the white quilting of my new shirt, proud-bought just days before with the month’s babysitting money. it was the very last morning of my first summer job.
but I was not there, at that tall gray house with the two little boys, three blocks up a hill and right at the stop sign. i was in a stranger’s hallway, spilling blood onto her carpet, scraped hands trying to catch the bright, thick drops that splatted quietly into the plush.
i grabbed at them like gumdrops, willing them back, attempting to unmark the snowy surface and wind time backwards as if the trail could lead me back through her door whole. the white foyer yawned, a witch’s mouth, and i scrabbled for escape. my body melted, would not cooperate. i leaned into the doorjamb and made a bloody handprint on its creamy surface. everything was white and red.
i gave her a number. she called my mother. i could not make my mouth move properly and a tooth hung like a cat door, teetering back and forth, fascinating my frightened tongue. she spoke into the phone hesitantly, Are you Monnie’s mother? it was not yet eight in the morning.
then we were in the car and speeding across the city, my mother and i, my mother who is cautious and measured in every action. we still had trains then, here, in that long ago summer, and blocks before the hospital there came the ding ding ding of the crossing and we were no longer moving and the sun poured in on the black upholstery. suddenly it was stultifying in that little Toyota and the train rumbled on forever and my mother, my upstanding mother, hissed Jesus Christ, fuck, come ON, and i thought absently that i must be dying.
i do not remember any pain. that only came later, when the technicians tried to lie my on my back over and over and over again for head x-rays, and the piece of my jawbone that had snapped in the centre and at the hinge kept falling back into my eardrum. they will not radiate a head like that, today.
i had my period, still a novelty at thirteen, and somewhere between the stitches and the torture sessions at x-ray and the trip across the city again to the orthodontic surgeon’s office and back, my mother propped me up in a tiny washroom in the ER and proceeded to induct me into the arcane mysteries of the belted maxi pad, long out of date even then but all that the hospital dispenser provided. and i sat there, trussed and broken, nose packed with gauze and wondering how many more holes my body could stand to lose blood from before i would myself would fade to white.
then there was the blur of anaesthetic, counting backwards from one hundred, and the waking to find my face encased in bandages and jaw immobilized with hardware and then the pain, oh the pain and won’t you shake hands, sweet sister morphine? and then nothing is clear for weeks except a memory of finally coming home and seeing beetles emerge from under the radiator in the swelter of an early August bathroom and losing my shit, a sudden phobia emerged full-blown on the heels of trauma and withdrawal and my mother holding my full-grown body, bigger than her own, in her ams like a baby while i screamed in terror with my mouth wired shut.
and every time she changed those bandages more gravel emerged from my face, black spots in the red-brown stains on white gauze.
i think i have told some of this story before.
what i did not tell is that on a hot summer day when i see bicycles with long-legged children on them darting into the road i see splashes of red against white backgrounds, like Pollack paintings or blood drops on white carpet. i see my Supercycle, frame twisted, lying in the middle of a torn-up street with my retainer next to it in the gravel as it was when i pulled myself up and stumbled bleeding into the doorway of the woman who had been out retrieving her paper when i sailed through the air in front of her.
Dave started biking last year. it is healthy, earth-friendly. and i have essentially not been on a bike in almost 24 years.
yesterday, i stopped at the toy store. and there in front, on the grass, was a shiny red Radio Flyer first bicycle, with training wheels and white handlebars. it was beautiful, and just almost exactly the size Oscar will need next summer.
and i took a deep breath and told myself i will buy it in August when it goes on sale. like throwing salt over my shoulder, i will pretend that it is not the colour of blood and i will teach him how to pedal.
and i will put this story away, forever, because the stains it left do not belong on him.
tell me your stories of bicycles, instead. when did you learn to ride? what colour was your first bike? what are YOUR memories of hot days and bicycles?