The other day I was out on a really long run. Halfway through, my stomach drops. Does that make sense? That’s what it felt like. It felt like everything holding my insides in place suddenly vanished, gave way, and in the span of about fifteen seconds, I went from perfectly fine to total agony. Did I mention that it was pouring rain? It was pouring rain. And when I say really long run, it’s like much longer than you’re imagining, twice as long. I hobbled along for another mile or so before coming across the most disgusting public bathroom in some park by the Williamsburg Bridge. There was a group of homeless people inside, taking cover from the rain, passing around a bottle of hooch. As soon as I open the door they all turn to me. Man, what do I do? I just kind of motioned toward the stall. It’s amazing what your body is capable of in moments of extreme duress.
Last spring I was biking to work. It was total gridlock, everywhere, all the way from my house to my job in the city. The cars were at a complete standstill. So I’m just flying in between rows of parked vehicles, weaving in and out. I get to the Queensboro Bridge. Usually I’d just stay in the bike lane, but traffic wasn’t moving in the car lane, and I figured, what the hell? Why not? It would save me a left turn going downtown. At first everything was great. The lanes are so wide on the bridge that I basically had my own lane in between lanes. And I’m just feeling fantastic, cruising past all of these cars, them totally stuck, and I’m just flying.
But then like halfway across traffic opens up, and not gradually, but all at once. Like something must have been stuck up ahead, an accident, I have no idea what, but something. And now, nothing. Traffic picks up. The cars start flying by. They’re honking at me and cursing at me out the window, and while my lane is still somewhat wide, I mean, it’s hard to stay in a perfectly straight line with cars zooming by me on both sides, fifty miles per hour. And it’s a long bridge. Finally, and I don’t know if it was my fault or the taxi’s fault, but this taxi kind of clips me, just barely. And so I kind of ricochet into the next lane, and another taxi clips me, again, just slightly. And so I’m bouncing back and force in between these two cars, like I’m in some weird pinball machine. All I’m thinking is, I’m so fucked, this is it. But it gets worse. Another car comes up and hits me, and my derailleur gets actually physically stuck in the hubcap of another car in front of me. Did I mention that it’s a police car? So I’m riding in tandem with him, but he doesn’t know it. He sees me, he thinks I’m up to something, apart from just being in the car lane, he thinks I’m up to some stunt, which I kind of am, but not this stunt. And he’s out of the window, “Slow down!” and I’m like, “I can’t!” and he’s like, “You can’t? You will! I’m the cops!” It’s crazy what your mind is able to make your body do in insane situations like that, using all of your reflexes, having a conversation with a policeman while barely maintaining control of your stuck bicycle, then getting off the bridge, dislodging your bike and making a break for it before the cop figures out what’s going on.
One time I was skydiving. Did I mention that there was a tornado warning on the same day? The pilot was crazy, like a total adrenaline junky crazy person, and as the sky blackened and the hailstones started to fall he looked me dead on, a real insane glint in his eye, and he just said, “I’m good if you’re good.” And I’m so stupid, I was just thinking, well, this guy’s a pilot, I’m sure he’s been through it all. Did I mention that there was actually a tornado on the other end of the runway? “Don’t worry!” he yelled back, “I think I can beat it!” He took off and yeah, he actually beat it. But the canvas roof of the plane got ripped off and that’s when I started to get really worried. When I wasn’t getting smacked in the head with hailstones, all I could hear was the pilot going, “Yeeeee-haw! I ain’t fraid a no tornados!” We got up to jumping altitude and I realized, shit, I totally forgot to bring my parachute. Did I mention there was a tornado? There were actually three tornadoes, and we were in the center of the tornado triangle.
Just when I make a move to tell the pilot, that we better land, that I don’t have a parachute, a huge hailstone comes out of nowhere and knocks him in the head, knocks him right out. Then the hailstone ricochets off of his head and onto the cockpit, hitting some of the airplane controls. The whole thing goes dead. My only idea is, is there some way I can get inside this guy’s skydiving outfit, lug his unconscious body out of the plane, all while it’s in a total freefall, spiraling out of control, and activate his parachute without getting eaten up by one of those tornadoes? Did I mention that the three tornadoes had since splintered off into nine tornadoes? And that there was a constant web of lightning bolts connecting all nine of them, like an octagon, but with nine sides instead of eight, and us plummeting to our doom in the middle? I mean, yeah I made it, I’m alive, right? But still, you never know what your made of until you’re looking death right in the eye, or in the gaping hole where his eye would be if he had one.