Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bike Ride Part 3 (After the Fall)

            Spencer’s words, “It’s all your fault” ricochet in my head. Blood streams down his knee. I have nothing to dab the blood with. I need to see the wound. What if it’s deep? Tears sting the inside of my eyelids as I frantically look around for a solution. “It’s all your fault!” I could use my t-shirt but it’s covered with dirt. Would I be making matters worse?  Murphy has taken up position next to Spencer. He bows his head while his brother writhes next to him. I feel helpless and angry that Pat isn’t here. Wounds are his duty. Pat’s always decisive in situations like this.
            I look down the bike path. Of course, now that I’m prepared to ask for help, there are no cyclists. Spencer continues to wail as I look in the other direction, my hand on his shoulder.  I spot an older couple cycling toward us and put up my hand.
            They slow and stop in front of us. “Do you need help?” the woman asks.
            “Yes,” I say over Spencer’s screaming, although I don’t really know what I need. I want them to get off their bikes and take care of Spencer’s knee but I know I can’t ask that and they aren’t offering.
            “Here’s some water,” the man says, handing me a bottle.
            “And I have a Kleenex,” the woman adds.
            I quickly take them and pour the water over Spencer’s knee. He screams louder.  I hand the bottle back to the man.
            “You keep it,” he says.
            I almost burst into tears. I’m grateful for the water but I also want to tell them that I hadn’t planned on the bike trip. That’s why I don’t have any water of my own. I blot the blood on Spencer’s knee. The Kleenex is flimsy and shortly turns red. I glance up at the couple. Either they don’t have another Kleenex or they don’t want to give it to me.  
Hot with the shame of needing help and not knowing what to do, I gather my self together and manage to say rather formally, “We’ll be all right. Thank you so much.”
“Are you sure?” says the woman.
I want to yell, “Of course, I’m not sure!!!! I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here. My son hates me and what if he needs stitches out here in the middle of nowhere? What do I do then?  Fashion a fucking needle out of a twig? Rip up my t-shirt to make a tourniquet?  Isn’t it spectacularly clear to you that I haven’t a fucking clue what I’m doing?”
Instead, I say, “Of course.  I can take it from here.”
I see a flash of relief cross the woman’s face before she adjusts.
“All right,” she says, having reconfigured her face to register concern. The man smiles. I smile back. Spencer has been weeping ceaselessly. Murphy’s head is still reverentially bowed. It looks like he is honoring Spencer’s pain and praying for the moment to pass so we can have fun again.
The couple nod and take off. I turn back to Spencer’s knee. I pull the red Kleenex off and take a look. I see a flap of loose skin and a wound that is wet and raw and bleeding. I pour more water on it and cover it again with the Kleenex.
“It’ll be all right, Spencer,” I say.  “Try to breathe. Just breathe.”
“It hurts so much,” he yells.
I can’t tell whether he’s reacting out of real pain or fear and anger. Probably everything.
“OK. OK. I know it hurts. We can sit here as long as it takes,” I say.
He gasps and starts a new kind of wail that consists of longer breaths with deeper resonance. It’s as if he’s taking the opportunity to tap into other grievances.  I know the sound well because I’ve been there. As long as he’s bitterly protesting his wounded knee, he might as well throw in our cat’s death and his loss of the soccer championship last year. This shift in sound indicates to me that Spencer’s agony is part theater. Which doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, it simply reassures me that the knee is probably going to be fine. It’s his sense of betrayal by me and possibly even a general sense of not being safe that needs to be addressed.
Over his howling, I continue to suggest that he breathe. “Maybe concentrate on the scenery,” I say, stupidly. “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it? Just beautiful.” I look out at the scenery in an attempt to model what he should be doing, “Don’t think about your knee. How about that?”
“It hurts too much,” Spencer yells at me.  “I can’t think about anything else!”
“Well. Just try,” I say, keeping my voice even.
I continue looking out at the scenery and an unbidden thought occurs to me. We are renting the bikes by the hour. By now, we’ve tacked another hour onto our initial expense and who knows how much longer it’s going to take Spencer to calm down. Add to that, the time it will take for me to address the knee and coax him back onto the bike that bucked him in the first place. We’re talking a small fortune for this hellish ride. My shoulders sag. I feel depleted of will and initiative. 
I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and call Pat. He picks up on the second ring, “Hey, what’s up?”
At his voice I burst into tears and manage to get out the words, “It’s Spence. He’s fallen.”
“What? What’s happened?” Pat yells back, immediately.
I hear the panic in his voice. Now I’ve made things even worse.
“It’s nothing,” I sputter, “We’re OK. It’s OK.”
“It doesn’t sound OK.”
“That’s because it’s not,” I say through my tears. “I just don’t want you to worry. We’re fine. But we’re not OK. We’re not in trouble or anything.”
“Look,” says Pat, in a calmer tone, “can you give me to Spence?”
“Sure,” I say and hand the phone to Spencer. “It’s Daddy.”
Spencer’s crying softens as soon as he hears Daddy’s name. He reaches for the phone and brings it to his ear. I get up and walk to the other side of the path where it drops off into a ravine. I wipe tears off of my face. I hear Spencer listing his grievances again. Mommy told him to ride on the side of the path. Mommy wasn’t prepared. His knee really, really, really hurts and it won’t stop hurting.  Between complaints, I hear Pat’s tone, not the words. His tone is measured and reassuring. I walk back to Spencer just as he moans, “That’s the exact opposite of what Mommy told me to do!”
What? I think, what?  What’s the exact opposite? Now that I’m closer, I can hear Pat’s words. He’s telling Spencer to pay attention to the pain, focus all of his energy on his knee.
Spencer’s weeping subsides as he takes the Kleenex off of his knee and concentrates. Murphy looks at the knee as well. Blood trickles down his shin. But it is quiet. 
(to be continued...")
When Spencer calmed down I quickly took this picture of him talking to Pat on the phone


  1. Poignant post, Brett -- and what a moment you captured in the photo above of the two boys. These are the motherhood moments we remember for years to come.

  2. Gripping, heart-breaking, laugh-aloud writing. I am furious I have to wait for the next instalment. But I will dig deep. And that portrait of your sons is glorious. xoxo Stephanie