Marley is curled in my lap. So, I feel almost guilty in writing this.
The other day, the breeze into which I’d pedaled to Point Lookout lapped against my back for my ride home. Hardly a cloud besmudged the clear, bright sky that would soon blaze with the sunset. Even the splintered, blistered houses that had weathered the harshest winter in decades just a year after Superstorm Sandy tore at them floated through my vision like images from a dream.
From a patch of cement and shrubs in front of one of those houses, a big black cat darted into my path. If you are a cyclist, you have had hundreds, if not thousands, of such encounters with felines. And, to the extent that I thought about it, I expected this one to be simply another.
If you are a cyclist, you also know that cats almost invariably run as close as they can to your front wheel, then cut at a sharp angle away from it.
Note that I used the word “almost”. The black cat (You can’t make this up!) wasn’t one of the invariables. He/she actually ran straight into my front wheel, and glanced off it.
My front wheel made a U-turn to my right. The rest of the bike, and I, didn’t follow: It stuttered and teetered on the pavement. I flung my left leg out. But it did not stop me from tumbling into the back of a parked car.
The sky hadn’t yet grown dark, but I saw stars. A gust of steel lashed against my side. And the leg that couldn’t break my fall flung to the side and left my right calf to take a blow against the car’s bumper.
“Are you OK? Are you OK?” A young Caribbean-Indian woman ran toward me. “Are you hurt?” I couldn’t talk; I could just barely inhale without feeling a stab under my rib cage. She pulled my water bottle out of its cage on my bike. “Here, take a drink.” I sucked at the nozzle; after I swallowed, my next breath came easier. “How do you feel?”
“OK, I think.”
“Just take it easy.”
She crouched beside me while a man—her boyfriend or husband, I guessed—watched from a nearby porch. He held a cell phone. “Is she all right?” he yelled.
The woman and I both nodded.
“Where did the cat go?” I wondered. “Does it belong to anybody here?”
“I don’t know”.
I think she saw my frustration. “I hope it’s OK.” I meant that, even though a part of me was damning it. “Don’t worry about it,” she commanded. “Can you get home all right.”
“Yeah, I think so. Thanks.”
The bruises are just starting to appear. But I’ve felt the pain, just under my rib cage, every time I’ve bent over to pick up something or feed my cats. Hopefully, it’ll fade: I want to ride, and I don’t want Marley or Max to go hungry! At least, they’ll never run into my wheel.