Ok … well, ahhhh … It has been about two months. I don’t know if it is as obvious to you as it is to me, but I have been procrastinating. Perhaps, procrastinate is too polite, too safe, too friendly, too illusionary. I have been avoiding this piece. It has simmered on the back burner way too long and I still sit here typing diversionary sentences.
The last post recounted some of this year’s Songkran Festival. Four trips to town were referenced and three talked about. This is the forth trip. The trip during which I flipped upside down, the scooter slid on its side and a four year old boy was bounced across the pavement.
All physical wounds have healed; the emotional upheaval has waned. Let’s rip the lid off and see how much pain is left.
I consider myself to be a serious driver. I drove professionally, if weaving a taxi through the dark streets of South Florida or navigating limos in and out of opulent events counts as “Professional”. I mention that because I still remember when I began – one of my first lessons. I had to settle myself in; train myself not to allow distractions; not to look at the scenery; to always focus on where the vehicle was about to be. Through out that ten year period, well before and ever since, there has been a reoccurring defect in my approach to pavement. I have possessed it – owned the zone. On the plus side, I became protective. However, I would sometimes be unyielding.
There was one such experience on the way to town that day. I’ll throw it up here into the light of day. Maybe it will help sanitize said liability.
I was rolling along in my lane on our little scooter. I like to sit about 1/3 off the shoulder. There was a moderate amount of oncoming traffic and then there was one approaching rider, in particular, who seemed to be in a hurry. He was passing a line of pick-ups and other scooters; in the middle of my lane. I confess … my choice was to stubbornly hold to the idea that he would go back to his side or that 2/3’s were enough for him. Neither of us swerved. It was close. Not sure why I do that … well, as you can well imagine, I have a few theories. It baffles me that all the talk and warning from Bpoo about an accident had no sway on that dynamic; no effect on my choices; no deference to prudence.
I was flushed with shame, as I realized my arrogance, stupidity, stubbornness; my foolishness.
There I was … rolling towards town through Songkran. All the water blessing stations I encountered were over on the oncoming side. I managed to get passed several with only modest dowsing. My mind set was – get the bamboo to town and get home. I hadn’t packed my camera. Dusk was approaching.
Clouds had brought a chill. I followed Ponra’s advice, stayed on the main road and away from populated areas.
Coming around a bend, I was surprised to see … I call them water stations. There was a rickety patchwork of sunshade tarps held up by lashed sections of bamboo. There was a boisterous mob of about fifteen. I locked my gaze on them, looking for any acknowledgement and thereby forthcoming inclusion in their reverie. Yes, I reduced my speed as soon as I saw them. All the water on the road ahead prompted me to slow even more. I have never felt safe with only two wheels on wet pavement. Deceleration continue. I continued to watch the crowd. They were blessing several motocy riders who had entered their zone from the opposite direction.
I was almost passed them; my head was turned a bit to my right.
There was a flash of startling motion. As I zoomed to detail it, it was instantly identified as a child; a child running; running right out of a wall of turned backs. There was no thinking. There was no sound. I knew our paths would intersect. My minds eye yearned to see the front wheel jump to the left. Terror erupted.
Would he be rolled over?
Adrenalin is a powerful drug!
My belief is that when there is enough of it, in the blood, time stands still and opportunities to converse with guardian angels open.
So, the terror that exploded didn’t shatter me or stiffen me; it erupted into a calm void. The realization … the instant glimpse of the future, was perversely freeing. I was freed. I was watching. I watched the boy dash. He had something under his left arm. My eyes grasped at it; whatever it was. As I tried to identify it, my gaze tracked its route. I didn’t think. I didn’t think it was bad. I certainly didn’t think it was good. I watched that objected clutched in the crook of his arm. Just before impact, I looked at his face. He had no expression; “not a care in the world.” I watched his blank eyes blur into the side of his head. I looked right in his ear. I’m pretty sure he never knew I was there. I believe he may remember running, but not how he was shifted to sleep.
That’s about when the angel gave the scooter a shove and a twist. It was pushed aside, flipped from horizontal to vertical, out from under me, away from the boy and off into the gravel. I was still looking down; down at the top of his head. He was bounced away. Maybe I blinked. Maybe I just closed my eyes. I lost sight of him. I was flying; following inertia back to the road. I suspect, because I was watching my dance partner and he was so short, that having my head lowered and turning back caused me to flip. I think it was a good thing to have flipped. At some point my palms touched the ground; and, as I rolled, my right elbow paid a small toll. My right knee fleetingly kissed the tar. That’s about when the blink ended with a splat. I landed flat on my back and the back of my head. Helmets are handy! There’s irony, or something, in the fact that all the bundles of bamboo in my backpack absorbed most of the energy.
I only skidded a few feet. I was in the same position one would flop backwards into snow to make a “snow angel”. I knew I was fine. The bamboo was a nice pillow. I looked for the child.
A swarm of blurs had descended on him and yanked him off the street. That caused fear to surge. It was as if I was trapped in big surf crashing against big rocks. My training told me he shouldn’t be moved. My angel kept telling me to relax. My body was expressing … I decided to slither over and turn off the scooter. By then I was surrounded by a crowd; mostly silently staring, but several reiterating the importance of not moving. I kept asking, How is the boy? How is the boy? How is the boy? How is the boy? How is the boy? How is the boy?
From over there … over where the party was … I heard his mother scream at me, “Why you die my boy?!!!” I could see his limp body in her arms. I imploded into a vacuous pit of nausea. Perhaps, if I had chosen to sit in judgment of my powerlessness or fought against it … I don’t know. I do what I can do to not do that; nothing has ever been gained by fighting powerlessness. That day, I did not fight. I watched. I released. I bobbed, gasped for breath and road the waves into the rocks and back into the Ocean. I watched a man cuddle the boy and jump on that back of a scooter. They zoomed off and I believed he would be ok.
What was that? A minute? No, maybe three. Maybe!
I shuffled off the backpack. I stood. I yielded to the consensus and sat back down; then yielded to my head and lay back down. Different faces kept coming and going above me. There were two I recognized. That was nice. I had been to their wedding. He was a police officer, so I sighed heavily in his face. I affirmed my lucidity by remembering my wife’s phone number.
The accident was being reported personally, in our yard, when the call interrupted.
The bamboo spilling out of the backpack had revealed my identity.
The child’s mother staggered over. Several protective folks tried to dissuade her. She was very drunk. I said “mai pen rai” – no concern; yahk poot, poot — never mind the Thai. I spoke Thai. Basically, I said, Let her talk. She is legitimately upset. So, she yelled at me for a while. I speak a little – understand almost nothing, but a person’s tone never requires translation, does it? She seemed to not be running out of epitaphs and escalating. I interrupted – Speak, speak, speak, speak, speak … past no change.
She walked away.
I could hear the ambulance approaching.
This emergency vehicle was a small pickup truck with a camper shell, a few lights on the roof and a wooden bench inside. I probably had a little shock. I was mostly in an “I’m ok, this is nothing!” frame of mind. More opportunities to surrender. Those three well meaning young men took their task seriously. They taped gauze all over the place and courteously dropped the tail gate, so I could climb in more easily. They even accepted my refusal to lie down. I was grateful for their service and very grateful they thought to slide the windows shut.
Songkran – The Water Festival, remember? We were hit many times on our way to town.
This Thai Hospital … too much to describe … no one speaks English.
I was wheeled up to a desk and asked something. I attempted to have a conversation. I could see there was a plan and it was about to be happening to me. I have some confidence in my use of Thai. I forcefully made the point that NOTHING would be happening until my wife was there.
She was at my side before I finished that sentence.
She made sure I sat quietly and waited. She went to check on the boy. As I waited, the boy’s dad was to my left. The events had not sobered him. He had a couple of friends propping him up as he sobbed. I practiced not thinking. I was eventually wheeled in and looked at by a couple of nurses. They seemed to agree that my wounds were ridiculously minor, so I got out of the wheel chair and walked back to the waiting area.
I don’t feel so good about this part, but I’ll share it. Well, I don’t feel good about a lot of the parts, but that’s the way it goes. Anyway, Ponra had been back in the room with the boy and the doctors. She came out and was walking purposefully somewhere to do something. As she approached I was pleading, How is he? How is he? How is he? She was on a mission and ignored me. Unfortunately, she passed rather close – within arms reach; and reach I did. Her forearm was bruised by my grip. Seems there was a burst of hysterical strength. Ooops.
Ponra was very consumed with addressing all the dynamics. It was easy to feel guilty and a whole slew of other things. We didn’t really have any reliable information about the boy. Ponra had to stay at the hospital to take care of …. everything.
Our neighbor Dto had given her a ride on his scooter. He would give me a ride home. It was decided that we would deliver the bamboo first.
Again …. remember Songkran.
We were blessed several times on the way home. Ya know how water stings on a fresh wound. So does fast moving air. Actually, the pain was a welcome distraction the natural proclivity to worry, worry, worry; and I knew my minor pains would all be worse the next day and always pail insignificantly to those inflicted.
That’s about as far as I’ll take it, for now.
To sum up – I had slowed quite a bit before we hit. The boy was instantly knocked out, but not really hurt. It took a few days to get the whole picture, but all in all, there were more pluses than minuses.
And …… Have to ever practiced repetition of a phrase excessively – repeated it so much that … that it evokes an emptiness that is full of peace. Some use sound and call it a mantra. I knew a teacher who called it “The Golden Key.”
One of my favorites is, “Thy will be done.” (Exclamation points optional!)
It reminds me to release my will and assures me that whatever has come “to pass” shall have a conclusion; actually it indicates, to me, that the moment is already behind – finished – done; a new present is here; let that one go.
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And ….. now there are “Pst-lettes”
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