A woman stands over me, tells me to stay still, and I insist I’m okay; she responds her friend has called 911.
“What? I’m fine!” I realize I’m having trouble speaking and that the lower half of my face feels searing pain and numbness all at once. I raise my right hand to my mouth. She gently tells me to stop talking, that my mouth is cut up badly. I start rambling.
“Are you from D.C.? Are you visiting friends?” She tells me she’s from North Carolina. “My husband is from North Carolina! From near Burlington! Are you a Tar Heels fan?” I cannot stop talking.
A man asks me for John’s number; I can’t see him but I can hear him. What’s my work number? John once asked me. I can’t remember numbers ever. It’s in my phone. Why do I need to remember it? John looked dumbfounded. What if your life depends on it? I laughed.
I can’t remember his work number. I can’t remember it. I tell the man this, and he says it’s ok, asks if I know John’s cell number. I say a few numbers first before getting them in the right order. He never answers his cell at work.
I’m shaking and cold. Sirens. Those are for me. I hear the man talking to someone, explaining that I’ve been hurt. He comes back over and tells me John is on his way. The sirens stop. Where is my I.D.? Where is my backpack? The paramedics start asking me questions. Can I move my arm, my fingers, my toes, my feet. They help me up on the stretcher. They tell me I’m headed to Georgetown.
“I don’t want to go there! I want to go to Sibley!” They can’t take me to Sibley–there’s no trauma unit. I argue with them the entire time. I tell them I can’t go until John gets there. When one guy calls it in, he identifies me as a nineteen-year-old female and I tell him to fuck off, that I’m 31. I still can’t shut up. I’m talking just to hear myself talk, to make sure I’m here.
“Thank God you were wearing your helmet, girl,” the other paramedic tells me. This is an imperative statement. You, thank God. “You wouldn’t be here now if you weren’t.” I tell him I’m okay, it’s no big deal. I see him shake his head out of the corner of my eyes.
“I’ve seen crashes like this when people aren’t wearing helmets. They’re either in a coma when I get there, or they’re gone.”
I do not begin crying until I’m in the waiting room of the hospital. I can barely hold the gauze to my mouth. There is dirt in my hair. One woman sits with me and brushes the mulch off my jacket.
>The two women and man from the crash site waited there for John. They told him which hospital I was taken to, and stayed with my bike–a few yards away from where I crashed. My helmet, which was barely on my head when people found me, lay on the sidewalk. The visor had split in two, and the foam and plastic casing had cracked.
John showed it to me the day after.