My green light, his red.
My blood, flowering tarmac.
Sad from torn flesh.
It was just an accident, yes it was
One easy to avoid, if you look before you step.
I was on the floor with a heavy heart beat. I quickly darted my eyes to the traffic light to prove to myself that it wasn’t my fault. Under the green light I saw people shouting at the man who chanced his own red light and was about to run away. If it wasn’t for both our bikes being joined in bloody matrimony and the people’s commotion, he would have fled like the thief he was, stealing my day.
I remember my eighties. I was eight years old (obviously) and it was Christmas day. Santa had made each of my siblings and I, a brand new bike. Two days later I was forced to question the ‘brand new’ part, when I over-heard my neighbour say ‘ah that’s where my old bike went’. At first I was upset, like really upset. So upset, that I sat in the cupboard under the stairs for what felt like days. However, after careful deliberation with myself and Mum, I realised Santa was an avid recycler: ‘old toys should not be forgotten’ Mum cooed. The bike was light green. Being green was ‘ironic’ as it was the process by which I received my present; it was also the colour Santa used to wear before he turned red.
For that, it was an extra special bike with a fairy pink basket and a horn. I thought the horn was crap. All the other kids had tiny tinker bells that they used, to call out friends from their houses; you never knew who was calling for you unless you heard a massive traffic stopping ‘HONK!’ And when nobody rushed to their window to say ‘I’ll be one minute’ I cursed my ‘extra special bike’ and wished I had one like everybody else.
‘But a horn is louder Kayleigh, you dinne want everyone to think you’re a pansy do ya?’ The wise words of my Dad, a Scottish hard nut, cut through all the childish pretence.
‘I sound like a clown’ I whined.
‘Ta fuck ya do, you sound like a great American truck driver, now get up off ya arse and show those pathetic copy cats what you’re made of. Besides you haven’t even learnt to ride the fucking thing yet!’
So this horn and the bicycle it sat on gave me a sense of purpose: ‘I will learn to ride a bike’. For the first week of January I trundled about on the green horse with stabilisers. My younger sister laughed at me, she already knew how to cycle hers, she didn’t even need help she just tore down the back lane like a Trojan chariot. I was embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as my Dad. ‘Kayleigh you look like a pansy, take those things off!’ But I was too scared, two wheels were unstable, two wheels were wobbly, two wheels were abnormal, cars have four so why can’t I?
Two days later and the stabilisers were gone. I cried my self-conscious limbs into the crevice of the cupboard, just like the time when Mum entered me into a swimming competition even though I couldn’t swim without armbands. When I arrived, nervous and chubby with my bright green bands, I was surrounded by laughing teenagers ‘you’re not allowed to compete wearing those’ they jeered and I left the poolside seven and sad.
Unlike Mum, Dad had no mercy. He forced me out into the back lane and in front of all the other children, he told me to cycle, ‘and I’ll be holding the back dalin’. I pedalled forward comforted by the support but without warning Dad let go and I fell, grazing my knee in the gravel.
‘Get up!’ He made me do this, again and again and again. Little faces sniggered and pointed, curtains twitched and parents judged. Oblivious to all those ‘feckers’ Dad persisted until finally I felt the power of the wheels turning. Each foot pressed each pedal, pushing me forward in a wiggly line while my nerves were kept balanced by own legs independence. Nobody was holding the back! There was nobody to hold me back!
I screamed as the wind flew through my ears; ‘I’m doing it Dad, I’m doing it Dad’. The feeling was immense like I was given free range in a sweet shop. I thought about all the opportunities that were now open to me, I could cycle to town, cycle around the block; I could go to the shop and put things in my basket. It was all so exciting: The world was round just like my TWO bike wheels. HONK! HONK!
It could have been worse, the accident. I could have thrown all those youthful days practicing in my back lane, down the drain and vowed never to ride again. What would Dad say now, if he saw me lying on a busy road, crying because I had a couple of bloody gouges? ‘Kayleigh now your of age, pour some cider into it and get the feck up! You dinne want the world to think you’re a pansy do ya?’
I got up but I couldn’t help crying, like I couldn’t help bleeding. Despite the large flap of skin on my thumb waving in the wind, I was upset because I was on my way to the gym. Thoughts of productivity were flying through my head like a storm of flying fish and suddenly my day was robbed, ruined and with a lumber some limp I had to resign myself to a day of reading on the couch with an ice pack. Where was my cupboard under the stairs? I wanted to crawl into it and sulk.
‘You can’t always have it your way’ Mum used to say when we begged her for an afternoon trip somewhere. ‘What I want, doesn’t necessarily get’ I heard her say, as we begged for an extra biscuit after dinner. It was true, sometimes we can’t control the way the day works. We have to slow down, take a break and appreciate the emptiness of such a day.
The Moroccan man came over and grabbed my head. He was shorter than me so he just grabbed my neck and yanked me down. I wondered why he didn’t just kiss my hand, like a normal small man does but instead he kissed my head, thus proving the sincerity of his apology. As the peak of a mountain range rose through my shins flesh, like a castle in a pop-up book when you turn onto that page, I grabbed my Bicing and left the scene.
My cheeks were like frozen lakes and my chest jolted outwards with every sniff, I didn’t care what I looked like until I reached my Bicing port and I had no strength to return it. As I tried two Germans, blonde like the beer they brew, stared at me. The man, posh and very tall with his hands clasped like a Butler behind his back, looked down on me and laughed, his wife copied. They stood there laughing at me while I tried to put the two plugs into the station.
Eventually the man reached out and helped me put my bike back into the station and they both spoke to me in German. I don’t know what they said but their enthusiastic facial expressions seemed to genuinely believe we had shared this hilarious moment together. Maybe they thought I was laughing and the blood drenched tights and the slashed thumb went over their heads like a low flying gull. But it was a strange interaction and I was far too weak to examine its significance.
Yet, as I dragged my pregnant shin home, I rearranged the German guffaws into one phrase ‘It’s just a cut Kayleigh, you dinne want everyone to think you’re a pansy do ya? You’ll be laughing about this tomorrow’. With the addition of the Germans, the situation became absurd and hilarious and I started laughing…ironic that, people say German’s aren’t funny.