It was a Friday. September 30, 2011, to be exact. I had just finished my last class for the week. I was about to go to my girlfriend’s house to help her pack. We were officially moving in together. But there was some puppy love drama going on.
We’d been dating for just about a year and we’d never dropped the ‘I love you’ bomb. We were clearly in love, we just hadn’t vocalized it yet. But we were moving in together and I felt that the time was right. I needed to tell her.
I’d made a solid attempt the night before. I was about to go home, the last night we’d spend living in separate houses. The moonlight was perfect. I opened the door to leave, turned around in slow motion and looked her in the eye. She looked right back at me and I said, “Lisa. I…” I took a breath. “I…hope you sleep well tonight. Bye!” and I walked out the door. Whatever, I’ll tell her tomorrow.
But this was it. I’d just gotten out of class and I was going to go to her house, tell her and then help pack her boxes. It was going to be wonderful.
I walked over to the parking lot and jumped on my motorcycle. It was a beautiful Suzuki SV650. I could never afford such a bike, but my cousin let me hold onto it while he was off doing important military stuff.
I sat on it for a minute before starting it. I was daydreaming about saying, “Lisa, I love you!” and then she puts the back of her hand to her forehead and says, “Oh, my James! I do declare!” and we hug and kiss and everything is perfect.
Ok. This is it.
I started the bike and got on my way. Everything felt very important. This day was important. The hum of the motorcycle engine was more melodic. When the wind would blow past my helmet, I felt like I was in my own little sanctuary. Sometimes I’d sing so loudly, certain that no one could hear me. People could definitely hear me, but who would assume that the crooning voice singing love songs was coming from the guy on the sport bike?
I live by the motorcycle mantra that anyone who can possibly hit you will hit you. If there is a car in the lane next to you, assume that they’re about to drive right into you. If someone is ahead of you, assume they’re going to slam on the brakes for no reason. The idea is that you just don’t trust anyone else to even know you’re there. Pay attention. Today was no exception.
Everything was perfect. The engine hum, the wind. I was looking left, right, center. I was singing harmonies with the engine. Looked left, right, center. I thought about Lisa’s face when I dropped the love bomb. Left, right, center. I imagined living with her, waking up with her, making her breakfast.
Left, right, flash of maroon, horrific crunch sound, a girl screaming. And then, a beautiful silence.
I was no longer on the bike. The engine hum was gone, the wind blowing past my helmet was replaced by a soft breeze. I pulled my arms and legs in towards my center. I looked up and saw asphalt. I looked down and saw the tops of upside-down palm trees. The moment was extremely clear, and lasted a lifetime.
When I finally hit the ground, all of my weight landed on my backpack. My arms and legs exploded away from my center and smacked the hard street. My head snapped back, but because of my backpack, it didn’t hit the ground. I felt my body bounce back into the air. I landed again and slid to a stop.
Almost instantly, I put my hand up in an attempt to wave at the vehicle that hit me, tried to sit up and said, “it’s cool. I’m ok.” The weight of my twisted backpack and my pure disorientation pulled me quickly back down. I realized much later that no one could hear me say, “I’m ok” through my helmet and my attempt at sitting up and waving my hand most definitely looked like I was trying to say, “help me.”
For the most part, I had absolutely no idea what just happened. I felt no pain whatsoever and I was kind of thinking, “Ah man, now I’m going to have to walk the rest of the way to Lisa’s house.”
I took my helmet off and someone was running towards me. He was wearing sunglasses. He said, “Can you hear me?”
Can you hear me? I was immediately frozen in terror. He didn’t ask if I was ok. He asked if I could hear him. My heart started racing. I was just in a motorcycle accident.
I started to figure out what happened. Some car pulled out of a driveway or a parking spot right in front of me and I went straight into him. I looked around for my bike. I couldn’t find it.
The sunglass man reached me. “Can you hear me?” he asked again.
“I don’t have health insurance,” was my fairly comical first audible line after being in a motorcycle wreck.
“Don’t worry man, that’ll all get sorted out.”
“Are all of my limbs attached to my body?” It felt like a relevant question.
“Yeah man, you’ll be just fine,” he said. But he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking off in the horizon.
“Here, help me up,” I struggled to sit up.
“NO! No. Do not move. There’s an ambulance on the way, just do not move right now.”
He freaked me out. A lot. “What’s wrong? How do I look? Is everything ok?”
He didn’t even glance at me and said, “Everything is fine, you’re going to be just fine.”
He was a good man. He ran to my side when he saw the accident. But all he did was take a calm, collected accident victim and push him into a confused panic. I would ask specific questions and his only answer was, “You’ll be just fine.” I was fairly convinced he was avoiding telling me something that would really make me panic, but that just made me panic even more.
Another man came to me and introduced himself as an off-duty firefighter. He asked me a bunch of questions about the time of day, the street we were on, etc. Trying to figure out if I had a brain injury. I answered. I asked him what was wrong with me. He said, “Well, your right knee looks pretty bad, but your head seems fine. Very lucky.” Finally, a straight answer. He walked away.
After he told me about my knee, the pain started. It was throbbing, but there was enough adrenaline in me to keep it from being too terrible.
More people started gathering around me and I started asking for my cell phone. I was still trapped down by my backpack and every time I tried to wiggle free, I was stopped and told to not move.
I asked many times, “Where’s my phone, I need to call my girlfriend. Please, grab me my phone. Or at least call my girlfriend. She’s expecting me. I don’t want her to get worried.”
The sunglass man said he’d call her, but he just kept looking off in the distance. The firefighter came back with a blanket. He said, “Let’s get this under your legs, the asphalt has to be burning you.”
He was right. It was a hot, sunny day. I was wearing shorts, lying on black asphalt and the instant he said that, I felt the skin on the back of my legs burning horribly. I also realized that my shoes were gone. They must’ve flown off in the accident. Two guys lifted my legs and slipped the blanket underneath.
I asked the firefighter to call my girlfriend. I told him she was going to be worried. The truth is, she wouldn’t be worried. She would assume I was staying late at class or something. But I felt alone. Terrified. I needed her. There were all these people who were completely focused on me, but I felt more alone than I ever had. I’d never been the victim before. Not a fan.
I gave the firefighter Lisa’s number and I heard him call her. “Hello, Lisa? Hi, I’m an off-duty firefighter and I’m here with your boyfriend. He’s been in a motorcycle accident. Can you get down here?” Firefighter school doesn’t include a course on sympathy.
I heard tons of sirens. The fire truck came first. Then police. Then an ambulance. Then more police. Then another fire truck and more police.
I felt like a child who just bumped his head. It doesn’t hurt until Mom says “OH MY GOD!!! YOU POOR THING!!! ARE YOU OK?!?!?!?!”
The more sirens I heard and the more people that gathered around, the more terrified I became. This was a big deal.
Police were asking for my license. Some dude was digging into my pocket for my wallet. Paramedics were asking dumb questions to see if my brain still worked. I told them my hips, spine and neck were totally fine but they were mostly treating me like an object, not listening to a word I said. I suppose it’s part of their job to assume I don’t know what I’m talking about but it was very dehumanizing.
They finally untangled me from my backpack. A paramedic said, “I’m going to cut your shirt off now.”
I said, “Hell no. This is Quicksilver and it totally brings out my eyes.” He thought I was kidding (I wasn’t) and cut it off anyway. I was furious.
They made an unsuccessful attempt at lifting me onto a stretcher then put me back down. One guy said, “Ho brah! You solid!”
It made me happy. I said, “Yeah, I train MMA. I work out a lot.” There’s always room to build up the ego a little bit.
They got me on the stretcher and put a gigantic neck brace on me and taped my head down. Now it looked like I was on my deathbed. I couldn’t move at all.
Of course, this is when Lisa showed up. She looked right at me. I saw the terror on her face. She climbed down on her knees and reached through the crowd of people and said, “It’s going to be ok.”
I immediately felt so much better. I said, “Don’t worry, this is all precautionary, I’m ok.”
When she was convinced that I was alive and mostly ok, she looked up, scanned the scene and said (forgive the profanity), “WHO THE FUCK DID THIS?!” and I saw her storm off. She was simply going to kill the driver of the car that hit me. Police intercepted her and had to hold her back from murdering the driver. I love that girl.
While an officer was restraining Lisa, I was getting loaded up into the ambulance. I heard another officer say that I was lying about 20 feet away from where the collision occurred. So cool. I mean, if you’re going to crash, crash big, right?
As they were moving me, the pain started. My right leg was in tremendous pain, but really, everything hurt. A lot. I was really worried. I was asking the paramedics how bad everything was. They just said they didn’t know and said I’m lucky that my head was ok. I was starting to think that there wouldn’t be much walking in my future.
In the ambulance, the paramedics were just having a grand ole time. Laughing and joking and really making me feel a lot better about the situation. We arrived at the hospital and the paramedics gave details about my injury to the hospital staff. At this point, I still hadn’t seen any part of my body or even attempted to move.
They moved me to a hospital bed and I finally had a chance to check myself out. I was bloody and bruised EVERYWHERE. My feet, hands, elbows, ankles, shoulders, toes, thumbs, everything. The worst was on my right knee. There was a gash across it. It was so deep that I could see all the bones, tendons and adipose tissue underneath. It was really bad.
As more time passed, more body parts began hurting. The treatment was based only on the cut on my knee. It was so deep that they called an orthopedic doctor to make sure that I hadn’t cut into the joint space, which would require surgery to correct. To test if the joint space was cut, they jammed a gigantic needle into my knee, injected some saline and watched to see if it leaked out anywhere. A procedure that is about 20% accurate. We didn’t learn much from that one, but at least a doctor got to shove a giant needle into me. Thanks, doc.
Lisa finally showed up. She was carrying all of my belongings including one of my shoes. Apparently, my things were scattered all over the street. She picked them all up, minus one shoe. She came to my side while the doctor was cleaning up my knee and held my hand. It hurt to hold her hand, but I didn’t care.
The doctor left to go get something and I looked up at Lisa. She was holding my hand with one hand and rubbing my head with the other.
I said, “I love you.”
She started crying and said, “I love you too.”
What a load off.
The doctor came back and stapled up my knee. It was a few hours after I’d arrived. I still hadn’t tried to move and a nurse said, “Ok, we need this room, so let’s get you up and out of here.”
What?! They want me to walk right now? I was convinced I’d never walk again, but I trusted them, so I slowly made my way up, got to my feet and immediately collapsed onto the bed. The nurse caught me and helped me back up.
That was that. They sent me on my way. I was shoeless, shirtless and could barely manage to move my leg enough to walk. The doctor didn’t suggest crutches and handed Lisa a prescription for some fantastic painkillers that I vowed I wouldn’t take. Lisa helped me hobble to the car.
Lisa drove me to her house, passing by the site of the accident. It was chilling. There were still pieces of the motorcycle everywhere. I managed to find my other shoe on the side of the road. Excellent.
We didn’t end up getting all of Lisa’s things packed up, so we stayed at her house that night. She had my painkiller prescription filled even though I didn’t want to. I was trying to be a tough guy. She saw right through me.
About an hour after falling asleep, I woke up in so much pain. Agonizing. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breath. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever felt. I started crying because it hurt so badly. The pain meds were in the kitchen.
I didn’t want to wake Lisa, so I forced myself to get up. My right leg was mostly non-functional and my hands were so badly sprained and bruised that when I would attempt to support my weight by holding onto things I would almost scream. I finally reached the kitchen. It took nearly 10 minutes.
Between cries, I took some pain medicine. I took about 3 Oxycodones. I was awkwardly leaning against the kitchen cabinets, just sobbing. I wanted to die. I made the long trek back to the bed. I fell into it. It felt like rocks. It was horrible. I laid there, crying, until at some point I fell asleep.
I woke up to Lisa softly petting my head. I said, “I really do love you, I didn’t say that because of the accident.”
She said, “I know. I really love you too.”
Puppy love gold.
The official analysis of what happened to me was that my right leg hit the handlebars, or the car, and hyper-extended, ripping my PCL and breaking my tibia. And they made me WALK out of the hospital. I had immense bruising everywhere and what they called “throttle thumb” on both hands among many other injuries. I’m still not completely recovered and I now drive a hipster bicycle instead of a sport bike. Lisa and I still live together happily. Every day is puppy love gold.