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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bi-cycle

It was a year ago today. I was riding my bike on a cold morning, late to my college mandated health and wellness course. It had rained a night before, the brick sidewalks slick with a fresh wetness. There were so many people littering the path before me, scurrying to class, attempting to make it on time. I was one of those possibly tardy people, so I jumped on my bike and began pedaling hard into a coast down the hill in front of my dorm. I saw him coming, a fellow biker, flying down the hill from the opposing direction. Riding against the pedestrian flow with sunglasses on and earbuds in, he didn’t see me coming. I had nowhere to go, so I veered off the path, careening over the dewy grass as his handle bar clipped my side. My tires lost traction as I attempted to avoid the people on the walk, my bike now completely sideways. I lost control. The front tire of my bike hit a tree then my body followed, the handles bars twisting around my torso, my legs tangled in the chains. The mysterious, accidental assailant was already up the hill, our collision a vague memory. Some of the other potentially tardy students stopped and stared; others cried out and approached me, asked me if I was “okay” and picked me up. One girl, still a stranger, dusted me off and scanned my body for any apparent injury. I laughed the collision off: “worst morning ever”, “SOOO embarrassing”, and “I can’t believe I was in a one woman bike accident”. Hahahahahaha, incredulous head shaking and dry laughter served to affirm that I was in fact “okay” and also to excuse my fellow pedestrians to continue on their frantic, power walk to class. I returned to the scene of the drive-by to collect my bike, handle bars twisted at a ninety degree angle. I winced as I rolled up my pant leg exposing to the bitter cold of that February morning a raw, burning contusion that ran down the side of my shaking right leg. Running a cold hand under the collar of my shirt, I found another raw, open wound along the length of my right shoulder and collar bone. Inspection of my left calf revealed a deep gouge where my leg had been wrapped around the bike frame and dug into the gears on the opposite side. Dirt smeared the right side of my body, sprinkled and streaked across my clothes, my faces and throughout my hair. Ponytail more disrupted than askew, I picked up my bike. I attempted to straighten the handle bars to no avail and was forced to begin the long walk to class with my warped bike and mangled body.

I arrived five minutes late, but received sympathy due to the vision of the mangled bike and the superficial injuries sustained in the accident. The class was only team sports, and I hadn’t yet missed session. The cramps did not begin right away, or at least I didn’t notice them until we had finished our ragtag soccer game. On my walk back, I began feeling strange. My stomach began to hurt, not in a blistering way, but in a dull aching manner. I was uneasy, at the time I did not understand why, but I was definitely on edge. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t had my period for two months, or maybe it was the rape that had happened twenty-six days earlier, or maybe it was the fact that I had withdrawn from my friends imagining a child that I knew I would simultaneously love and hate. But, whatever it was, I felt uncomfortable. Hopeful and remorseful, angry and elated, nervous but inexplicably calm for the first time in three weeks: so many emotions swirled around within the folds of grey matter they call the mind. Unable to process, or unwilling, I straightened my handlebars. I took the tire between my legs, I grasped the warped bars and I forced them back into place. For twenty-six daysm I had been jarred. Mangled. Broken. I could not imagine recapturing the essence of myself. I could not imagine returning to being fully me. But in that moment, in that terrible, wonderful, lightening fast, bittersweet instant that I fell off of my bike, I was released. I must document the crash because that quite possibly could have been the death, the unintentional manslaughter, of my first child. I will never posses conclusive evidence, scientific or otherwise, to prove the fact that I was pregnant. The only proof I have is my intuition and the fact that I passed a couple giant blood clots that night and that I began menstruating normally again. Disgusting, exciting, mortifying, terrifying, and lovely, how can all of these emotions be associated with a one woman bike accident? How can these emotions be associated with losing a child? I felt filthy, ugly, and so relieved the moment I discovered the blood clots in my underwear. I think I actually shouted in glee and then felt irreparably guilty. That thing, that person was part me as much as it was part him. It was that part of him still inside of my body that had been slowly consuming me for a month. It was the part of me that I lost that made me upset with myself, disgusted with the other half of my psyche which was actively celebrating the death of my rapist’s baby, but also my baby. I was able to completely straighten the handle bars with my brute strength; I was able to ride my bike again. The incident is a vague memory. Except, on these seemingly familiar cold, February mornings when the grass is still wet from the night before, I remember why I fell off the bike in the first place.

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