When the rubber met the road… along with the rest of me.
Written and illustrated by Alejo Porras de los Ríos.
On a summer day my new neighborhood friends told me they had invited a bunch of other kids from their school to come to our subdivision. They also happened to mention a particular girl who was going to come. When I say ‘mention,’ it was more like ‘make grandiose claims about her beauty in such a way that surpassed the realm of reality.’ Naturally, my fourteen year old heart wanted to join in the worship of this new deity.
Determined to give her a great impression, I put on my lucky outfit: my favorite jeans, a black Nike T-Shirt that an aunt had given me and I had only worn twice. I tried to do something about my hair, unsuccessfully. An hour before she was meant to arrive, excitement was bubbling, and I walked all over the place feeling like I needed to pee.
She was late of course. I borrowed a bike from one of my friends in hopes of burning off some excess anticipatory energy, never matter that I could end up stinky from the exercise. I was wearing cologne, that counteracts it, right?
I followed the procession of my friends until we reached the top of a hill and I decided to go full speed downwards like a knight riding his horse to a battle.
My heart was beating a hundred miles per hour as I gained speed, the rush of adrenaline filling me up in an instant and the otherwise warm day starting to feel cold as the air cut in front of me. I could barely hear anything over the swoooosshhh in my ears until a friend shouted: “I hope your brakes don’t work!”
There was a sudden twang, like a metallic string popping loose. The front tire slammed to a halt and I was catapulted off the bike, flying over the handlebars in a graceful arc of teenage flesh. Apparently the knight’s noble steed wasn’t very noble. I distinctly remember looking at my friends while upside down in my somersault.
I clenched my eyes shut as my body spread like butter over the pavement and my breath was forced from me. There was a metallic taste in my mouth but I still had so much adrenaline pumping in my veins that I didn’t feel any pain. Slowly, I peeled what was left of me off the street and proceeded to inspect the gash on my left shoulder.
“Oh man, I ruined my lucky shirt,” I wheezed.
Then I turned towards my friends, who were standing petrified.
“Are you... okay?” shouted one of them from a distance.
When I attempted to raise my hands to let them know I was fine only my right arm responded.
“I… I think I broke my arm,” I said, excitement mounting. “Wasn’t that crazy? It doesn’t even hurt!” I had never broken a bone and I felt really badass.
I ran towards them with my arm flopping about and my friends panicked, especially the guy who had somewhat predicted my catastrophe. Our parents were still at work and we had no clue what to do.
Fortunately we found an adult who called for medics and my mom. While we waited, the adrenaline began wearing off and my head started spinning. Once inside the ambulance (a small white SUV), I saw through the rear window the much anticipated (and unpunctual) girl arrive. She was as pretty as they had described, though. Suddenly, breaking my arm wasn’t as cool as I thought. It was starting to hurt.
The trip in the ambulance was miserable, like traveling on a rocky road inside a small wooden carriage while having my arm wrapped with barbed wire. The time at the hospital wasn’t any better.
My mom had already arrived to console me after a sadistic nurse got the bits of pavement out of my skin and cleaned my wounds with a sort of sandpaper. After time dragged by waiting for the X-rays results, I was finally requested to go to another room where a doctor would put my broken bones back into place, a.k.a. the torture chamber. I didn’t want to look anywhere because I was afraid of seeing nail scratches in the walls or tear stains in the floor from all the kids who have suffered there.
But then a little girl entered the waiting room, cradling her broken arm and trying to hold back tears. She was terribly frightened, her large eyes swimming with that “get me out of here” look. I realized I still had a chance to be somebody’s knight. I swallowed hard and gave the girl what I hoped was a reassuring smile as I walked through the curtain.
The doctor needed to reposition my broken bone. I turned green as he consulted the X-rays in preparation, but I remembered the girl in the waiting room. Grabbing a pillow from the paper-covered patient table, I shoved the corner into my mouth and bit down hard. The doctor placed his hands on my swollen forearm, told me I’d “feel a bit of pain” and gave a deft, sharp twist. Crunch.
I may have mangled the pillow, but my muffled screams didn’t reach the waiting room. When I left, I smiled encouragingly at the little girl and gave her a thumbs-up with my broken arm in a cast. Chivalry isn’t dead.
It was already dinner time when we returned home. I was starving, wearing my ragged clothes, and red-eyed from all the pain I had been through. My friends, who were partying two houses down, rushed to greet me with a crowd of other kids I didn’t know. It felt great to be received with cheers and sighs of relief and I was happy when I saw the pretty girl was still with them. They asked if I was well enough to join them and I promised them I would be out in no time. I had to do something about my zombie-like appearance first. And put more cologne on.
As I cleaned myself up, my mind kept playing scenarios in which I could heroically introduce myself, and I kept rehearsing quietly what I would say to the girl that I had waited so long to meet. I don’t know if it was because I was incredibly tired or because my excitement was starting to kick in again, but I didn’t notice how oddly quiet it was outside.
By the time I went out only a couple of guys remained at the party and they were cleaning up. I stood there, arm broken, wearing my second luckiest outfit, realizing I’d probably never meet the girl.
Too bad for her. She didn’t get to sign my cast.