Last night I was riding my bike home from work. It’s the best way to end a workday. There’s a letting off of steam, an unkinking of the lower back. At night it’s even better. There are hardly any cars on the road, you know, in comparison to the daytime at least. There are all but no other cyclists, so I’ve got the Queensboro Bridge entirely to myself. At night I can ride home via 21st Street, a much more efficient route to my house, but one that’s all but choked in traffic during the day,.
I love it because the first part of my trip is all uphill. I climb up First Avenue. I climb up the first half of the bridge. But once I peak, once I reach that crest, I’m good. I can just coast all the way down. It’s like pure joy, just riding and enjoying the acceleration without having to really work for it. I get off the bridge last night and I’m flying, I’ve got tons of speed and momentum, and I’m about to cross a side street, one that I cross every night at this hour without ever coming across a car.
But this time it’s a bus. And it’s coming at me full speed. I hit the brakes hard. The bus driver sees me and he hits his brakes hard also. Whenever you’re going this fast and you have to make this abrupt a stop, and it’s happened to me a couple of times already, you’re going to wind up falling off the bike.
It’s just a matter of how you’re going to fall off the bike. It’s usually over the handlebars, that’s just physics I think. I’ve flown off and landed hands first, palms outstretched. One time I swear I did I flip in the air and miraculously landed on my feet. But it’s a learning experience, every short stop, every time an opportunity to try something different, to try to avert the pain.
This time as I clutched the brakes I kind of stretched my legs out front, hoping that I’d be able to contribute to the braking with my heels. And it actually kind of worked. This was the only time I wasn’t forcibly ejected from the bike. But off the bike I eventually went, because as I braked, and as I tried to keep my feet on the floor, my body got ahead of my grip on the bike, and the next thing I know, my groin made forceful contact with that pointy part of my handlebars, that spot where the post comes out of the frame but then juts forward before splitting off in both directions outward.
I guess here’s where it’s going to get graphic, but only because the damage I sustained was solely limited to that one region. I can’t even write it without feeling like I’m being obscene. I guess it’s my Catholic upbringing. But it’s what happened. I got kicked in the nuts. Smashed at high speed, my body on one side, my bike on the other, and my poor, sweet balls unfortunately wedged right in the middle.
And I know that, statistically speaking, half of my readers are going to know exactly what I’m talking about here. Every guy gets hit in the nuts at least once or twice in his life. It’s a very unique sensation. And I only know this from my own prior experiences, but when I made contact with my bike, while the pain was excruciating, I knew that it was but a precursor, nothing compared to what would come next.
One time in grade school I was playing football and I missed the catch with my hands, instead taking the pass directly to my crotch. It had to be my first true experience with just how real things can get down there. The initial shock is enough to make you cry out in agony. But then that pain starts to grow. It magnifies in amplitude. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it starts to spread upward, to your pelvis, to your lower intestines. The next thing you know you’re lying in the fetal position, desperately clenching every muscle in your body, nothing relieving so much as an ounce of the exponentially growing torture from inside.
And that’s what it was like for me, last night. I had the initial pain, and I thought, shit, I better get home before this gets bad. I pedaled, harder, faster, it was no use. I had to get off the bike. I had to get in the fetal position. It must not have been that far, because as I’m lying on the sidewalk, on 21st Street, at somewhere around midnight on Wednesday, I see somebody approach me. It’s the bus driver. He’s looking at me really worried, even though he didn’t come even close to hitting me. Not really. It could have been close, but we were good. And he’s just staring at me, apologizing, and I wanted to be like, hey, it wasn’t your fault, it was my fault, this is what I get for reckless biking.
But I couldn’t even get out the words. I was in too much pain. And I started panicking, thinking that he might be thinking that my lack of a response would be some reason to call an ambulance. So I struggle to my feet, get on my bike and ride home, slowly, really slowly, each pedal another turn of the screw, right in the nuts, my poor, precious nuts.
It still hurts. And again, maybe the women out there will think it an exaggeration, and yeah, I’m sure childbirth is its own type of horror, a pain exclusive to women, something to which I can never offer a comparison, but guys, you guys know. Getting hit in the balls, that really fucking sucks. And the pain, it lingers for days, weeks even. I can’t believe we’re not all required to wear protective cups, please, help to spare us from the potential nightmare that is getting struck down there. Ouch. And it always happens. Years later. Decades later. You’ll forget all about how bad it might hurt, when you get hit in just the right way. And then you do, you always do, you know exactly what you’re in for. It’s not pleasant. It really, really sucks.