As I was lying on the pavement in the Westbound lane of King Street, the first thought that came to mind was “I hope my new bike is okay.” I opened my eyes to car tires and the familiar pumpkin-orange of a Toronto taxi cab. I could feel my left hand twisted under my body. I could feel the dirt and stones under my left cheek. I was thankful breasts can’t pop like balloons, because I’m pretty sure Leftie would have exploded with a pop that would have been heard from Roy Thompson to City Hall.
I started shaking and crying. I tried to get up but couldn’t move. “Get up” I said quietly to myself. “Get. Up.” a little more sternly this time. I couldn’t understand why my body wasn’t obeying me. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t move myself out of the Westbound lane of King Street. I engaged my core and tried moving my arms to push myself up. Nothing worked. Nothing moved. It felt like I had been lying there for 45 minutes, but it couldn’t have been more than five seconds.
I felt arms pull me, heard a woman say “I’ve called an ambulance” and heard a chorus of men ask me if the taxi had hit me or if I just fell. “I got caught in the streetcar tracks” I sobbed, “it wasn’t the taxi.” Next thing I knew, I was on the steps in front of that Indian restaurant that seems too expensive for Indian food, and a policewoman was asking me my name and how old I was. A guy in a suit was holding my bike and looking helpless. I gave him my key and asked him to lock it to a post somewhere. He was friendly and told me to take care. I rolled up my pants to find blood pouring down my chins from gaping holes in my knees. I couldn’t understand how my pants hadn’t ripped, but I had gigantic holes in my legs. It seemed like magic.
A construction worker came up to us and asked if I needed first aid. He pulled out a small first aid kid and gave me some gauze and bandaids. His hands were rough and his fingers were thick, yet he peeled the bandaid from its packaging more delicately than I ever could have, and handed it to my shaking hands to place on my wounds. He was gone as soon as he arrived. He took the garbage we made with him.
I pulled out my phone to call my best friend Melody. We were supposed to meet up 30 minutes from then and go shopping. “Hey” I croaked, “I’m not going to be able to meet you at the mall. I’m really sorry. I just got into an accident on my bike and the ambulance is coming.” I started crying and shaking while Mel asked where I was. “I’ll be fine. I have to go the ambulance will be here soon.” I was bummed that we had to cancel our shopping trip, but I was relieved she hadn’t left yet. I would have hated for her to waste a TTC token.
I eventually stopped crying and made small-talk with the police woman. I told her I was glad she was there to hang out with me while I waited for the ambulance, then I started seeing spots and she told me to put my head between my knees. I couldn’t get my head low enough and I was worried I was doing it wrong, but she assured me I’d be okay. I had always wondered what it was like to pass out and was actually a bit interested in seeing what happened, but the fact that I didn’t want to roll out onto the sidewalk and block the lunch hour rush kept me grounded. The policewoman was nice and laughed at my jokes.
When the paramedics arrived, the cute one asked me if I could walk to the ambulance. I, being tough and stubborn, tried to stand up…and immediately fell backwards. They got the stretcher out and I was wheeled into the ambulance like a superstar. I imagine it’s what Egyptian queens felt like when they had four guys carting them around on a sweet platform.
In the ambulance, Cute Paramedic and I chit-chatted between bouts of me saying “I think I might throw up” and “Fuck, I’m seeing black spots again”. When we got to the hospital and into the ER, I was feeling a bit better. “You’re looking good!” Cute Paramedic said. “You were so pale before but you’re getting colour back”. “Oh great.” I mumbled, “I’m always so fucking red and always want to be a bit lighter. I should go into shock more often!” He laughed and I laughed and he said “….please don’t?” He helped me into a wheelchair and put me in front of an aquarium. “The fish are pretty. Way better than CP24.” he joked and flashed me a smile. I knew if we had met under different circumstances and if I hadn’t kept talking about throwing up, we would have been a couple. I imagine he’s still thinking about me to this day too.
The rest of my day was spent waiting and getting x-rays and waiting and listening to a woman behind a curtain get a finger drained (?!!??!). A doctor told me everything was fine and she left. 30 minutes later a nurse walked by and said “Uh…are you waiting for something?”
“Um….am I okay to go?”
“Oh yeah. You could have left a while ago.”
“Oh!” I said. “Uh…could someone clean my wounds?”
The nurse seemed surprised that 4 hours after my accident I still had rocks and dirts in the holes on my legs, but she seemed a bit reluctant to help me out. After a pleading look, she came over with some gloves and fresh gauze and told me how to take care of my insides that were a little bit outside. I thanked her and when she left I took the extra antibacterial cream and gauze she left on my bed. I was a bit worried my holes would get infected since they had been dirty for so long, and I’m pretty cheap, so hey! Free gauze!
I shuffled myself to the exit, which was long and excruciating and slow and all I wanted was for someone to put me in a wheelchair and wheel me out…but hey, I’m sure I looked really fucking hardcore with my bloodstained legs and messed up mascara. Melody picked me up and drove me home, insisting it was okay that I had missed our shopping date. She’s a good friend like that.
I’m lucky that my bike accident wasn’t too bad; I know people who have broken arms and knocked heads and worse, so the fact that I got away with just a scar and a failed romance with a paramedic (after 5 years of biking in the city) really isn’t awful. My bike came out a bit scratched but not broken, but I couldn’t ride for two weeks after my accident. Even now, two years later, my right knee has a circular dark scar on it and is still numb in some places and painful in others, but seems to be getting better any time I pay attention to it, and it makes me look pretty tough. I was lucky, and it made me a smarter rider. It also taught me how to clean out leg holes.
I still have some gauze if anyone needs it. I…I took a lot.