Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? I’ve never understood why I remember certain things, little snippets or details that stand out so vividly. I can remember the 13 digit string of numbers that was my college ID from 5 years ago, but I forgot to eat lunch yesterday.
Traumatic events seemed burned into my memory. Even now, 9 months after my bicycle accident, my stupid brain wants to go over and over the details. I never told the whole story here, so here it is! It’s kinda long; feel free to follow this link to cuddly animals if you don’t want to read about it!
First, my brain works through everything slowly, incorporating all of my patchy memories and filling in the gaps with things witnesses told me. (“You just went flying!” “Blood everywhere.” “Your friend had to be restrained from punching the guy who caused it.”)
My brain says, let’s remember everything: it was a beautiful day, the charity ride, people laughing and talking, the wonderful rolling hills, sunshine, light breeze, forests and rivers, and the thrum of your bike (poor Dragon). So comfortable, so happy. Then, we come around the bend, smooth, in a tight cluster.
The man ahead of me points to the kittens in the road, then slams on his brakes and swerves to avoid them, stopping with his bike sideways across my path. No time to react (not at 30mph), I bit my lip (bit through my lip), hands clenched reflexively on the brakes, then impact, airborne, the sound of my skin hitting pavement and a little meow!
Blackness, pain. Witnesses say I flipped 180 degrees in the air, landed on my shoulder, shattered my helmet, rolled several times before skidding to a stop.
My friend rolled me over onto my back; I remember her telling me to breathe, her calm authoritative voice, “Just breathe, you have to breathe. You’re not breathing.”
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was her blue, blue eyes looking at me. And then I noticed that I could also see my lip. (I am not usually able to see my lip. Not even if I stick it out, you should try it.)
Witnesses say I said, “I’m sorry, I was having such a good time, I didn’t mean to ruin everyone’s day.”
Everyone asking me questions, I just wanted to rest for a while. “Where does it hurt?” I remember a car passing, people talking. I remember crying about my poor bike. Then the ambulance, some argument (I later learned they were arguing because the EMT wanted to know what state my bike was in and nobody wanted to say because I got so upset every time they mentioned it.)
The EMT‘s name was Joe, he tried to put in an IV, but couldn’t. I said, “Can I tell you a secret? I was supposed to do a half-iron man next week.”
He looked at me sadly and said, “You already told me that. Several times.”
I started prefacing everything with, “I know I’ve said this before but…”
And later, “Do you think I’ll be able to do my triathlon next week?”
And I remember him saying, “You need to stop apologizing.”
Open air as they carted me out of the ambulance, then hospital ceiling tiles. Being shifted on cold metal plates, CT scans, X-rays. I remember the nurses saying, “Why are your teeth chattering? Are you cold or are you in pain?” I couldn’t answer, and they argued with each other as the inside of the CT machine lit up a face holding its breath and I tried to stop chattering.
More ceiling tiles, they finally take the neck brace off, but then my head is on the bed and I can feel the lump and the pain from the concussion and I really, really, really want to sit up to get my weight off of my shoulder, but it takes six hours before they make my bed into a sitting position.
Then they give me permission to walk to the bathroom, but I black out in the hallway and all I see is…bees. And then when I come to, my friend is holding me and her blue eyes…
She took me to stay with her for a few days and I slept in a chair in her living room (not allowed to lie down), periodically waking up to pet her dog, which was sleeping on my lap. She put music on in the background and I woke every 10 hours or so and tried to hold a conversation, smiling weakly before sleep took me again.
On the second (third?) day, she helped me to get out of my bloody clothes. She helped me get my biking jersey off. I didn’t say anything, but by the time we were done, tears were streaming down my face. She washed the blood out of my hair in the laundry room sink.
The next day (the day after?) I went with her to breakfast in a small diner. Everyone was really nice and called me sweetie, even though I must’ve looked like I’d been through a cement mixer. I tried to pay for breakfast but couldn’t remember how to count and my friend had to make up the difference.
Then I wanted to go to work, so she drove me in. I shuffled in her flip flops, bandages wound around my bloody knees coming loose slowly.
Later, I fell asleep at a bus stop; I remember the sympathetic people on the bus asking, “What happened, sweetheart?” Then I fell asleep outside my house when I locked myself out accidentally (the only time in two years of living there).
And months later, today, my brain works all the way through that and says, now faster, flashes: blue eyes, big lip, ambulance, poor Dragon, ceiling tiles, teeth chattering, hold your breath, bees, blue eyes, shuffling, pet dog, music, washing my hair in the sink, shuffling, falling asleep on the back porch.
Memories are weird. Concussions are weird too.