I woke up this morning groaning, and begrudgingly walked myself to the emergency room for a bike injury. I got three stitches and a staple for the “star” shaped elbow wound that I sustained late last night, because the doctor said the staple would make the whole event seem edgier.
Dr. Jansen was really lovely, soft spoken but with an unreserved curiosity and good humour. He wanted to know what was the function of the clear wrap covering my fresh tattoos. His hair was pepper grey under his blue head wrap, face shield, and medical mask, which paired pleasantly with his tan skin and sky blue eyes. I instantly liked him. His wife is also a doctor (they met in medical school) and he’s been working in the emergency room for ten years now.
Dr. Jansen is also a cyclist, who bikes to work in fact, and concurs that the Toronto street car tracks are particularly hazardous.
Apparently most of the bike injuries that find themselves into the emergency room are street car track related, so the good doctor actively avoids biking on streets with tracks: College for example. Instead he takes the humber trail to work, but maybe not this week because he heard that someone was murdered there recently.
Being in the hospital is weird; I haven’t had to go anywhere near a medical environment during the pandemic. I talked to two nurses behind plexiglass, then followed a long blue line of tape to another socially distanced waiting room. I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and vaguely recall saying that out loud to myself, which transitions me back to the peak of excitement last night.
I was two sour IPAs into the evening, after dragging a friend of mine to a ‘secret’ outdoor comedy show in Queen’s Park, then leaving early to bike in circles around his neighbourhood while we bounced creative concepts back and forth. I was tipsy biking home after that, high on intellect, and having a thoroughly enjoyable conversation with myself. It’s been a ploy of mine recently that I practice talking to myself while biking alone. I was well into this whole bit of self-love that I’ve choreographed, but had to stop when I turned onto College street because so many people were out on patios watching the Raptors play game 7 against the Celtics.
I was whipping by bars, and thrilled at how strong I felt, but consequently annoyed by every cyclist that emerged in front of me. I tried to pass one dude, (and technically did), by hopping over the street car track on his left and hopping back over into the bike lane. But I must’ve caught my front wheel in the track at a bad angle because the next thing that I remember is hitting the ground.
I have a vague sense of the moment that my body registered I was going to fall, but the next clear visual was me sitting upright. For a moment, the only thing that I could identify was my bike splayed on the ground, and outreached arms above me. People were already asking if I was okay while I laughed through my embarrassment, but when I told them that I was, they responded by telling me that I wasn’t.
I assured the concerned crowd that I was fine, internally pleading to a higher power to get me out of the situation discreetly. But they insisted that I take a moment to collect myself.
Three guys and a woman who helped me up, lifted my bike, and led me off the road, then asked if I could move my arm and fingers. I couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t be able to, but they were the ones who saw me go down on my elbow, and apparently it was nasty. Blood was soaking through my jacket, and my rescuers became more insistent that I rest. In fact, they suggested that I go inside to wash up while they watched my bike, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it.
So the bartender came to me with a wad of wet paper towel already pointed at my arm, but I stopped her so that I could snap a quick evidential photo. Alyssa, the woman that led me off the street, offered to do it for me (and took precisely five).
Then the bartender left and a guy in a Raptors jersey wrapped gauze around my arm with red hockey tape. Alyssa stayed by my side with my bike in hand, asking every couple of minutes if I was okay and reminding me how “ugly” my fall had been. I wasn’t in any obvious pain, just shaky with nerves that I was trying to conceal. I mostly felt embarrassed that I’d fallen in front of so many people, and was smiling awkwardly. So when Alyssa insisted that I also come inside the bar with her so that she could buy me a drink and have me rest, I relented. I figured it’d make a good story.
She introduced me (now feeling sheepish and young) to her three friends at a table in the middle of the bar. The Raptors were losing in the fourth quarter but not by an irredeemable amount. According to Alyssa, Pascal Siakam was not at the top of his game and Freddy VanVleet (#23) was our favourite because…he’s hot. I actually heard the post game conference in the emergency room this morning: Siakam confessed to the tv that his performance could’ve been better.
The man sitting diagonal from me at the table was named Ethan. And the man sitting across from him was named Kent. They had just met that night, and didn’t seem like people who would be friends otherwise.
I don’t remember what Ethan’s partners’ name was, if I heard it at all, but I think it’s more fitting that she’s nameless. She looked like a deer in headlights all night, her dewy eyes blinking at an obscene rate.
She was from Calgary originally, she told me, but had been back and forth between there and Toronto throughout her twenties. She met Ethan on her third and final move to Toronto at age thirty, on OkCupid, or maybe Plenty Of Fish? No it was OkCupid, Ethan corrected her, he had never had a profile on Plenty of Fish.
They’ve been living together in the city for ten years now, (as Common-law partners, Ethan informed me, but not without adding that he did ask her to marry him once). She had said no because she didn’t believe in marriage, whereas Ethan assumes that his inclination towards marital status is a product of his more traditional upbringing. He shrugged and made a silly face as he said this, and I offered back that it’s a modern concept to not get married these days. I imagined that such a thing would sound like a compliment coming from someone half his age.
He and his partner live in a house in the unit above Alyssa, and they started spending more time with her during quarantine.
Alyssa was by far the loudest person in the bar, which is an anecdote that speaks for itself. She had long, dry, jet black hair, and about four double chins every time she threw her head back to laugh, but a drunkenly maternal concern for my well-being. She was in her early forties as well, which I’m realizing is an age bracket that I have no concept of. My parents are in their fifties and my oldest cousins have only just reached their thirties, so to me, anyone that is middle aged but not a parent is no older than thirty-five. Forty seems like a non-existent purgatory, but these people were in fact in their forties.
I was careful to preface that I didn’t mean to be rude when I asked about Alyssa’s age, but I figured it was permitted because she’d asked mine and was excited about how young twenty-one sounds. She wanted to tell me all the things that “they don’t warn young people”, such as that in your thirties you start growing facial hair, and your pubes begin to come in course and grey. She referred to this disdainfully as her “Kris Kringle cooch”. Ethan’s partner on the other hand, was adamant that she loved her resilient white pubes and subsequently launched into a monologue about how she’d seen a video on Much Music years ago, where all the women were dressed differently in the city, and everyone was riding a bike. I guess to her, those things have some association with untempered pubic hair.
Her speech went on for long enough that I had to pretend to listen and I’m pretty confident that Alyssa was doing the same, because she was nodding absentmindedly towards her friend’s relentlessly blinking eyes. Fortunately for Alyssa, she was able to use the game as an excuse to turn away, even though she confessed that she had no idea what was happening. “Just cheer when they cheer!”, she croaked at me, with a hand on my shoulder. Then turning back to the TV: she shouted an obnoxious “Freddyyy!”.
She nudged a liquorice coloured shot towards me and we clinked glasses, at which point she repeated for the fifth time how glad she was to have met me. I only clued into the game in the last four minutes or so, when the celtics missed two free throws in a row and it seemed like the Raptors had a chance to turn the game around, but then the score got away from them again and the entire bar crowd slumped in their seats. As I excused myself to leave, everyone was clapping in the obliging way that serial fans do when their team disappoints them.
I hugged Sarah goodbye, and she planted a lipstick stained kiss on my cheek, before I set off on my route home for the second time this evening. Fortunately my roommates were still awake when I stumbled in, and I drunkenly narrated the events of the night while blood soaked through my hockey taped gauze. They ushered me to the bathroom while I ranted on about my inaugural bike injury, and fished through the in-house first aid kit for a fresh gauze to send me to bed with.
I was boozy and exhausted but I did manage to document my bloody arm in an Instagram post, commemorating my city cyclist indoctrination.