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Proceed With Caution

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I was flying. The wind whipped through my hair and my hands gripped the handlebars of my purple and white bike. My red backpack bounced on my back as I rode home from school. I was in seventh grade and rode my bike to and from school almost every day. Each time I turned onto the main road I slowed down to go around the curve. I always watched attentively in case someone was coming in the other direction. I hated slowing down. Just once I wanted to round that corner full speed and feel that freedom that comes from going fast on a bike.

I’m gonna do it today, I thought. I’m not gonna slow down, I’m going to go around that corner like I’ve always wanted to. I pedaled faster. The wind cooling my skin made me feel like a model.

CRASH.

I looked at the man I had hit and at first the only thing I could see was blood. I wondered if he had already been bleeding because I couldn’t understand how that much blood had leaked out of him so quickly.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I’m so sorry,” I stammered, horrified at what I had done.

I didn’t even look at his face, I just couldn’t stop staring at his hands, blood pouring out of them. He didn’t seem mad or angry with me, and he didn’t seem to be in pain from where my bike had cut into him.

“You know, you were going around that corner way too fast. All these young people are careless on their bikes, and they go around corners too fast...” How can he be talking so calmly when there’s blood gushing out of him? It’s not stopping, the blood is actually still coming out of his fingers. I squinted up at his face, sneaking glances at the road and other people passing on the sidewalk. The only thing I could do was nod, I was too scared to move. I kept wondering why he didn’t leave and go clean up his cuts. I actually have to go, I have a doctor’s appointment...I have a dentist appointment...my mom needs me to come home. Excuses ran through my head, ways I could leave his piercing eyes, white hair, and all that blood.

At least twenty minutes later, he asked for my helmet and I gave it to him with trembling fingers. He fumbled with the straps for a few minutes, his fingers leaving scarlet prints all over my helmet. He handed it back to me with the straps tightened. Oh god, does he expect me to put that on? It’s covered in blood. I mumbled thanks.

I walked my bike slowly home, the helmet dangling from the the handlebar. My hair hung limp around my shoulders and my backpack hung heavy on my back. I told my mom what had happened when I got home, but that and a shower did little to ease my mind of all the thoughts plaguing it. I felt guilty for causing the old man to bleed profusely, scared that he would come back and lecture me more, and nervous that it would happen again.

My dad said it was probably the old guy who owned the bike shop that had once been in my town. Even after being assured that he was a little crazy and was known for having eccentric ideas, I still didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t tell anyone else and I didn’t write it in my journal, hoping that I could block it out of my mind entirely.

The incident has popped into my head randomly over the years, as such memories do when you want nothing but to forget them. I have only recently been able to let it go and laugh about it, but I still go slowly around corners on my bike.





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