Warning this story is not at all like the movie Seven Years in Tibet…but it is just as long….
When I relocated to Baltimore from North Carolina with my old job, I left all my friends and my vanilla southern lifestyle, and moved in to the dirty gritty city. When I moved in to my apartment on Light Street, it was supposed to be temporary, I couldn't see myself staying, but it would be 7 years later that I would finally move out.
On a sunny beautiful April Saturday, 3 months into living on Light Street, I decided to take my motorcycle out of storage. I had obtained my motorcycle license in North Carolina the summer before and bought a sweet little Red Buell. I also had a brief but illuminating love affair with my much older but extremely handsome motorcycle instructor. We call him 58cent. But that's a story for another time.....
Within 15 minutes of taking my motorcycle out of storage, I promptly ran myself into a guardrail going about 40 miles an hour. Totaled my motorcycle, slid across the pavement, ripped the guardrail out of the ground, broke both my wrists, crushed the bone in my right arm so that I would need donor bone later to grow it back together, ended up wearing a bone growth stimulator on my left wrist for 8 months, smashed my full facial helmet, face visor and body went flying, sustained a massive head concussion that would last 6 months, was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but only after scaring the shit out of the guy I was hooking up who had been following me in my car, because I had been laying unconscious long enough for him to think I was dead.
I was unfamiliar with the roads in Baltimore and I was showing off for the boy I was hooking up with who was following me in my car, since he had driven me to the storage facility that morning to get my motorcycle.
When I took the 180 degree off ramp from the interstate to take 295 back into the city I was going too fast and when I leaned into the turn I remember hearing gravel. A lot of people tell stories about "having their whole lives flash before their eyes"…. but all I remember is the sound of gravel and saying "Oh FU……….." That was it, not even the whole exclamation. Just oh FU--. And the lights went out.
Knowing what I know now, I believe that I have no memory of what transpired because I was saved from the memory that would be too difficult and frightening to relive visually, emotionally, and physically. There is a part of me that knows that I was saved, saved by God or Angels for something! from meeting my maker on that day. The wreckage was pretty horrific and statistically speaking people don't survive motorcycle crashes going as fast as I was that day, especially when impacting with steel guardrails and such....
When I went to the junk yard to sign the title of my motorcycle over to the Junk Yard Man, both my arms in braces and slings, he asked, "Is that your bike?"
I thought he was surprised that I was a woman and by my small stature and for owning my own motorcycle.
He asked, "Do you believe in God?"
I'm not sure what my reply was at the time.
He says "Cause you ought to believe in God. I've never seen anyone walkin' around alive after an accident with a motorcycle looking like that."
I remember, though my memory should not be taken as factual re-creation of actual events, being wheeled into the emergency room. I don't remember the ambulance ride, and I wish that I did. I remember telling everyone I was fine. I was adamant that I was FINE.
In fact, I'd asked to be taken to the hospital by my friend who was following me in my car. Certainly he could just drive me to the hospital since it was no big deal and I was fine. I was adamant that I just needed a few minutes to gather myself and I was going to ride my motorcycle home. I didn't know at the time that I had been unconscious for sometime and that everyone at the crash scene was dumbfounded that I was alive…. I remember saying to the ambulance driver I'm fine! Just give me a minute to gather myself. I'm going to drive my motorcycle home!
And then I remember him asking me: "HAVE YOU seen your motorcycle?"
And then there is a memory, kind of what you would see in a movie, as the camera spans across a scene, pieces of red metal strewn across pavement, a broken mirror 50 yards away, the guard rail pulled out of the ground and thrust in some tangled way inappropriate for steel metal, grass and gravel in crazy patterns as if large objects had been drug through with heavy force, and I remember seeing the front alloy wheel of my red motorcycle torn like one would tear a piece of paper in half, with rough edges on both sides, just torn in half, kind of cartoonish like.
The ambulance guy repeated that I wasn't driving my bike home. And I think I got that. But then I couldn't use my arms and I was fumbling around screaming to get my chin strap off of my face because my helmet was fucked up and my arms wouldn't work and I wasn't getting in the damn ambulance because I was fine! As I propped myself up on the side of the road, the EMT took my right arm and it was hanging there like mashed potatoes, kind of soft and broken strangely between my wrist and my elbow. I had crushed the bone so much that it didn't protrude from my skin it just hung there limp above my wrist in a completely unnatural way. When he righted it, I succumbed instantly, collapsing to the ground, I don't remember the pain exactly, I'm fairly certain I passed out, and they scooped me up and put me on a gurney and into the ambulance. I have no memory of this.
I do have a memory of being in the hospital and knowing that they were going to put me under for something, not sure what. I had been home to my parents house maybe two weeks prior and my father and I had a huge argument, this was kind of par for the course for our relationship. But at the time, it was a huge argument and I was done. I had told my Mom, I wasn't coming home again, ever. I wasn't going to speak to my father again, ever. I wasn't coming home again, ever, that was that. I'd have a relationship with my mother if she desired, but as far as Dad and I were concerned, I was done and not coming back home again as long as he was there. So I didn't call my parents.
I'd been in Baltimore for 3 months, and knew no one, my roommate was out of town. I called my best friend in North Carolina. "I wrecked my motorcycle and I'm in the hospital."
"They're going to put me under and I just wanted someone to know."
She said. "FUCK YOU. What if you were dead? What if I was getting a call from someone telling me you were dead? What then? What would I do? How would I go on living with that? That you're dead?? How could I live with that?"
Again this is my story, and I'm telling it… but you can't trust my memory as actual factual re-creation. I'm just telling a story as I know it impacted my life.
Most people are uncomfortable when I tell the story this way… Your best friend said "FUCK YOU" when you were in the hospital and didn't know if you were going to be ok?
But I love this part of the story. And you'd totally get it if you knew her, she's feistier than I am... and that's saying a lot. Sometimes you need to hear things in a certain way to get it.
This is when I got it. It made a difference if I was alive or dead. It mattered and it was a big deal if I was dead and I would really hurt a lot of people and piss some people off if I continued to be careless with my life, so I should stop being such an asshole. I got the message:
You are loved, your life matters.
This I remember. And so I called my parents. My Dad answered the phone. And remember, I wasn't speaking to my father at the time. "Ok, Dad, so I wrecked my motorcycle and I'm in the hospital and they're going to put me under for something, I'm not sure what. I wanted you to know I'm going to be Ok but I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOU."
That's all I remember of that conversation.
It would be a few days later that both of my parents traveled to Baltimore to help me with my recovery. My recovery would take another 18 months and 4 surgeries. But, my accident and my recovery was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
I was given life, and more so I was given the gift of awareness of what a huge gift being ALIVE is.
TO BE CONTINUED......... 7 Years on a bar stool in Baltimore (PART 2) coming soon......