Have You Ever Been In
a situation where something bad happened to you and you wound up having to console the people around you because you realize that the bad thing that happened to you is affecting them, in that they wind up simultaneously worrying about you and feeling guilty that the bad thing didn't happen to them, but to you? And maybe you start to realize that the bad thing doesn't really affect others at all unless they're in your presence, because your situation just reminds them of the dark cloud that you are under and that there's not a thing they can do to dispel it? So you start to avoid people in hopes that they will get a little break from this guilt that you make them feel? Have you ever been in a situation where the bad thing that happened to you might in some ways be another person's doing, and you wind up having to console the very person who may have harmed you because you feel so bad for making them feel guilty for having to hurt you?
One time I was riding my bike down this narrow, curvy road in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was a beautiful warm day, and I could smell the cool spots under the trees. I was really whizzing along on the sun-dappled asphalt when around the corner swung a wide Chevy truck with a partially smashed-in grill, like a smile that was missing some teeth. Too late, I realized that the truck was on the wrong side of the road, and I locked up my brakes and the driver locked his, and both of us skidded off to the side. Except that I went flying over the handlebars, landing right on my palms, leaving much of the skin on the road.
The driver, a big man, maybe 50 years old, was wearing one of those stiff, foamy baseball caps. He got out of his truck and asked me if I was okay. He was shaking, this full-grown man. I assured him that I was fine, and I gave him my broadest, most dazzling smile. Should I call a doctor, he asked, and I said that no, I was right as rain, it was nothing, and I got back up onto my bike to demonstrate that I was okay. Look, I said, it was my fault, I was going too fast and I didn't see you. No harm done. I wobbled a little as I rode off, but then I pulled it together and waved back at him, standing there next to his truck in his silly hat, and it wasn't until a half hour later, when I arrived at work, that I realized my palms were full of rocks and sticks, and there was no way I could shelve books, not if I didn't want to get blood all over them.
Yesterday I met Matty and we went to the beach, where we sat and talked about our dreams, our goals, and what we think of men with hairy backs.