Monday, January 24, 2005

Paul came to town for the weekend--a friend of his was sponsoring a mountain bike jumping competition in Renton, and he tends to be wherever there is jumping. Visits from Paul are fun because he pets me like a kitten. He picked me up yesterday afternoon and we journeyed to the suburbs for the contest. This was, for me, a little like going to a foreign country, one populated almost entirely by underage boys. I was the only female there not vacuum sealed to a boy with a bike, and I felt a bit like I had two heads.

I have recently started using an inhaler, since I went to the doctor last Wednesday and she came to the conclusion that I have asthma. It tastes like rocket fuel and makes me jittery like I've just had nine bowls of Lucky Charms and six Cokes, but I breathe better. Some days I feel made of glass.

What happened in Renton is, apparently, what always happens--someone fell in such a way that paramedics were required. It was already late, and by the time the ambulance left the riders huddled together to decide if they wanted to keep riding or call the whole thing off. The show went on, but everyone was tired and a little spooked. The next rider got on his bike and started to do his run, and it's because I was with a sponsor that I had a front row seat for what happened next. He started to do something very complicated and failed, sailing through the air and smack into a concrete pole. It's a fortunate thing that he dislocated his shoulder on the pole before he smashed his head into it, otherwise this story would have had a very different ending. We all jumped and gasped--I covered my head--and he was too dazed to release his bike before he and it hit the wall and stopped cold. We were all stunned, but before we could even react he stood up and walked away. What was left of the crowd went wild.
It was at this point that the rest of the riders tossed away their caution and went for broke. Not a one of them managed to stay on their bike for the whole 45 seconds of their run, but no one cared anymore. And finally, at the end, one of them managed the move that had nearly jellied his friend.

I tend to be preoccupied with the frailty of the human body, of the thinness of our skins and the brittleness of our bones. But what I learned last night is that sometimes our courage (or recklessness, or both) and our drive to succeed can be stronger than our bones.

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