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What if an event that changes your life for the better changes the life of your spouse for the worse?
If my life were a serial, last week’s cliffhanger would have been the news that my wife of eight years had put her motorcycle up for sale: her Harley Davidson 2011 Road King, a machine tenderly cared for and artfully enhanced.
To say it was a surprise would be erroneous; I had anticipated something of this kind for a while because, since the spring of 2010, and an event that lasted no more than a minute, motorcycling had lost in her one of its most passionate devotees. And it’s my fault.
For greater understanding, the event in question may be dissected in two parts: its before and its just-before.
Before my potentially fatal accident in May, 2010, I had been released from a lifetime’s worth of anxiety and depression through work accomplished by myself with much familial and professional support.
I was in a strong, optimistic space within which I had learned to thrive, not simply exist. I was cruising along nicely in this space, as my 40th birthday present from my spouse had been a shiny pink Vespa scooter.
Cut to a windy Monday morning, and the two aforementioned motorized vehicles wending their way along the highway that leads to work. As the novice rider, I led the dual parade, and because of my status and the weather I was dressed head to toe in road-friendly leather gear.
About a third of the way into the journey, the wind caught my windshield, sending me into a wobble: motorcycle-speak for loss of control. It is possible to overcome the wobble, but my rookie instinct concentrated on steering the bike out of the line of oncoming traffic and onto the shoulder. Another sign of inexperience was that I didn’t gear down, and careered off at full speed to land in (yes, in) a split-rail fence.
In the milliseconds it took for this to occur, I didn’t see the proverbial life scenes flash before my eyes. The only flashes I recall involved the shaking horizon as I flew past it, separating from my scooter upon hitting a culvert.
I do remember how I felt: I had a resounding and unquestionable understanding that I would be okay, that I’d eventually land on the ground and be just fine.
And I was okay, albeit with a fractured pelvis, sprained wrist and ankle, contusions and bruising where my chinstrap had mercifully held my helmet in place. After mere hours in the ER and a warning about the perils of motorcycling, I was sent home to recover.
Here’s where a flashback would be necessary.
It is important to know that my spouse is a doctor, and that when I flew off my scooter she witnessed this as both partner and professional.
Once I’d landed, she ricocheted between the two roles, steadily assessing my injuries and then responding in the hysterical fashion of a terrorized loved one. My sense of well-being ensured that I was the calmer of us two, and I relaxed into the splayed version of myself until help arrived.
Cut back to home and a montage of recovery scenes: first attempt with walker, then with cane, then unaided, all the way to the corner accompanied by victory-like musical soundtrack: I will survive; I got the eye of the tiger; ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride, nobody’s going slow me down, oh-no. I got to keep on movin’.
And keep moving I did. Positivity is like that – it’s self-directed, so much so that it’s all that can be seen from certain angles. But I was, of course, blinkered.
While I seemed to go from strength to strength – facing a life-changing event often does change life for the better – my spouse was finding it difficult to reconnoitre the situation. She had bravely got back on the driver’s seat mere days after the accident in an effort to ensure she was both willing and able. But things had changed.
While I was able to concentrate all efforts into a vision of healing, she was mired within the accident’s parameters, constantly replaying it, the button jammed on repeat. Rides for her became a struggle to stay present and find enjoyment amid the mental re-enactment of my accident.
Understandably, rides became fewer and far less frequent. While there was some joy, the Road King often seemed to sit tauntingly in the garage, bidding my spouse to overcome the peril and recover the passion.
If I had authored this screenplay, it is here that I would insert a deus ex machina, an easy fix. It might be a time-travel machine to return pre-accident and drive my car to work that fateful morning. Or perhaps something more ethereal: an angel to sit on my beloved’s shoulder and make all wrong things right. For the film buff, I might even introduce a Men in Black-esque Neuralyzer to remove this horrible memory.
The motorcycle should fetch a good price. My spouse feels selling it will save us paying insurance while it sits idle. She also reckons that one day, if and when she’s ready, she’ll buy another bike. But for now this one has to go. For perhaps its very metal, too, contains memories that can’t be erased.
Keri-Lyn Durant lives in Thunder Bay, Ont.