Seconds after I turned left onto M-63 I heard a loud thud and caught, out of the corner of my eye, what appeared to be a flailing arm. I stopped dead and jumped out of the Jeep to find a young woman and her bicycle down in front of me. There was no blood…no visible damage to my vehicle. What on earth? I thought.
“My knee! My knee!” she screamed.
I sat on the asphalt, legs bent under body naturally, apologizing profusely.
In between wailing the woman starred at me with contempt. “Call 911! God what’s wrong with you?”
The woman whom I estimated to be around the age of my oldest child became furious with my ineptitude. “Hurry up! Oh and lady…you are buying me a new bike!”
“Yes of course, of course. Whatever you want!” I responded continuing to press buttons with my seeminly bloated thumbs.
Bystanders, other drivers and people from neighboring homes had begun to gather. One yelled over that they had called for an ambulance. While a couple were attending to the cyclist, a middle-aged man crouched down next to me.
“Are you ok?”
I shook my head from side to side. I couldn’t speak. In that moment I froze and I felt all of my bodily functions release.
That night I drove home alone to an empty house and holed up in our widow’s watch overlooking the big lake. Over and over the scene played out. I had looked both ways multiple times, but somehow the bike was right in front of me as I was pulling out. My guess was that the woman was bearing down to climb the long hill and was not looking as she passed the side street. I recalled how angry she seemed, furious that a motorist had been so oblivious, so blind.
It has been more than five years since that August day I was leaving work late and hit the cyclist. While I would have like to have checked on her condition in the weeks that followed, because of her anger, all I could do was “creep” online and pray; pention for her quick recovery and hope that in the end we would not lose everything in a law suit.
And while I know a bit about her in the aftermath– that she missed work for two months but returned to competitive cycling and achieved her personal best in several local races, I have often wondered what she discovered about me beyond where I live and work. Certainly she doesn’t know that I all but stopped driving that day…hearing crashes in my head I suffered with some sort of PDSD couldn’t do it. The mangled metal of my own childhood accident when an old man veered off and hit me as I stood straddling my bike waiting for him to pass; and the distinct thud of my victim were audible sounds that played in my head. She didn’t know that I was clinically in shock and could not dial as she directed…completely incompacitated for a time there was nothing I could do.
Back when I was a child facing multiple surgeries in my recovery, I felt very sorry for the man who left me with so many scars and my dead eye. And although the effects linger to this day; exasserabated by age, never once did I want him to feel shame as I knew he carried the guilt. As long as there is hope, the potential for the offender to understand and regret the pain they have caused, we are pressed to forgive– for until we do the burden is shared. Letting go is, in truth, the way the world works well.