23. Road Hazard. (2010)

You’ll often hear people romanticize the idea of hitting someone as hard as they can; those that have done so, however, would very likely tell you that there is nothing romantic about it. The sometimes sickening noise, the way the impact feels inside your own body and head, the blood… And for most, the feeling of questioning afterward as to whether that level of severity was warranted.

I didn’t feel any anger or post-incident ill-will towards the misguided lot that attempted to steal my bike (while I was riding it…) right down the street from my house. All the animosity I was feeling was completely self-directed. It was also justified, and overwhelming. I needed a break from my brain so badly that I chose to go for a bike ride wearing headphones and listening to music- something that under any ordinary circumstances I would never even think of. My life was falling apart, and it was my fault… if I didn’t distract myself from it all it could easily have gotten the better of me. A simple bike ride, close to home, with a little musical accompaniment. People do it all the time.

I wasn’t going anywhere in particular. I had plans to stop at the store at some point and get a snack, and also to ride down one especially great hill that sat just outside the city limits. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up- upon reflection I realized that many of the odd situations I find myself in are a result of what I feel are gross misprofilings of my age. I probably looked 17, based both on wardrobe and the fact that I was riding a 24” BMX bike… not bizarre or unprecedented, but also not the most usual mode of transportation for a 30-year-old. After pedaling standing up for what was probably a half mile, I sat down and began to think about the total fucking mess I had created. No level of volume or amount of simple physical exertion could draw my focus away from what was at hand, or the fact that I had no idea how to fix any of it. I was riding slower than usual, and with my mind totally elsewhere…

My back tire made a familiar noise, and the instinctive thought was simply “Fuck.” I’ve had no less than 1,000 flat tires in my life, and probably 250 of them have happened when I would least prefer, and when they are the most inconvenient. I began to slow down and realized immediately that I was now guilty of my OWN mis-profiling; I did not have a flat tire- Two young adults were kicking my wheel in an attempt to knock me off the bike.

They were riding mountain bikes, and appeared to be in their late teens- old enough to know better, but possibly too close to the suburbs to have ever learned better. I stopped abruptly, pulled the headphones off, and stood behind my bike. It was then that I noticed 3 or 4 more kids on bikes- with one doubled-up- probably half a mile back. There were words exchanged, the simple nature of which were “Our friends are coming! Give us that fucking bike!” and my equally simple refusals. It became clear very quickly that this could end up a huge fucking mess if I did not handle it immediately and efficiently. Fleeing the scene had stopped being a practical option as soon as I had stepped off my bike.

Moving quickly I put the bike down to my side, and as one of the thieves bent down to grab it, I kicked him square across the front of the head with my shin. His head split, as did my leg, and he dropped to the ground as if his batteries had abruptly died. His friend paused briefly, threw his bike down, and came after me. He stumbled, and I grabbed on to his shirt and hit him in the face with my elbow until he stopped fighting and fell down. I was bleeding from both my leg and arm… both boys were on the ground, presumably seriously hurt.

The other group was now a mere hundred yards away, and in a foolish attempt to keep all of them from chasing me I threw one of the downed bikes over a guardrail that led to the freeway. I grabbed my bike, ran beside it for a few feet, and then pedaled as fast as I could, assuming that at least a few of them had decided to follow. They were all on mountain bikes, and likely not as proficient on theirs as I was on mine, but the advantage of gears and bigger tires could easily offset the skill level. My brother’s house was nearby, and I knew if I made it there I could either hide or fight, and either way I wouldn’t be by myself. I turned as often as I could, crossed traffic recklessly, and reached the mid-block house with them just barely having turned down the street. I pounded frantically on the door; my brother answered, and without hearing a word knew exactly what was up. The bike went in the basement, we went on the porch, and we waited.

Crouched down and watching, it wasn’t 30 seconds later that the followers rode slowly past the house, taking time to look in the driveways but obviously not having seen exactly which one I turned in to. Once we assumed them to be safely past the house we went back outside and watched them turn the corner back on to a main road. There were four. Separate from everything else, I was surprised- shocked even- that not even a few of them had stayed to tend to their possibly injured friends. I guess the kinds of people that would attempt to steal bikes while people are riding them aren’t necessarily the most caring and compassionate.

After seeing which way they turned and cleaning myself up, I called another friend that lived locally and asked him to drive by the bridge- I was equally concerned that the boy I had kicked was dead and that the bike I threw over the guardrail had gone on to the freeway. I was anxious for him to report his findings, and in the meantime I pulled the bike back out and resumed my ride… sans headphones, and with a little more alertness. I continued my path to the store and got a snack- a slightly more indulgent one than I would have had the afternoon unfolded as originally planned- and very thankfully heard that there was no ambulance, no sign of the boys, and no sign of mayhem on the freeway.

It took more than I would have liked it to, but an attempted bike-jacking followed by a short street fight and capped off with some high-speed urban evasion managed to distract me from myself for a short time. Problem is, the one enemy you can never out-run is fixed permanently right on top of your shoulders, and the pain it can inflict far exceeds anything another person (or persons) could ever hand down…