When I got on the bike I knew something terrible was going to happen. The vague premonition that I had every time I got on the bike this time was amplified by specific somatic nervousness. The man I was living with had been evasive lately. To gain his attention few days ago I told him I wanted to break up. He just smiled, put on a coat, walked out the door and hadn’t been back since. The mutual push and pull that had lasted for years, the routine reciprocated manipulations were’t working anymore. Was it over?
It was a frightening thought. What was outside the structure that this verged on abuse relationship provided me with? I had no other friends but him.
I rode the bike carefully, weaving through the Saturday shopping fever traffic and stupefied by a weekend pedestrians who absentmindedly ventured into the bike’s path.
But riding slowly is not quite an option for competitive person like me. In the distance I saw the green light turn red and saw an opportunity to cover 2 more blocks before the light went red on me. I picked up speed.
Just then a cab pulled by the sidewalk leaving a space for me to pass between it and the parked cars. I aimed to pass when the passenger door opened right in front of me.
The bike hit the door and I ascended into the air.
Briefly released from the pull of gravity I looked to the ground. The dark gray asphalt looked hard and unwelcoming.
- If I fall, I’ll break my neck or 76 other bones, – I thought.
I pulled out my cheap cellphone, flipped it open and pressed “send”.
It connected right away.
- Terminal 5. Give your report, – a mechanical but still feminine voice said.
- New York. Broadway, – I said fast, trying to be efficient. – While riding a bike I hit taxi door. In the air. Distance: 8 meters.
- Report accepted. Connecting you now.
Elevator music version of Beatles “Let It Be” filled the pause.
Then music stopped. I was connected.
- What is going to happen? – I shouted into the cellphone.
My anxiety just like my flight trajectory was reaching it’s peak.
For a long while I heard nothing but wind. In fact, 734 winds because my cell phone’s small screen indicated that’s how many connections I was on right now.
Then the last digit changed to 735.
- Kiev. Boryspilska street, – a mature man’s voice said urgently. – Construction site icy, no safety harness. About 20 meters to go.
- Kiev, anything to soften your fall? – a cracking voice of a man or a woman said with a neutral expression of resignation.
- I fear for the worst. Heading towards a pile of bricks, – Kiev said.
- Brother, I am in Bangladesh, – a male voice came in. – A construction site accident, just covered 73 meters, 3 more to go. Going towards a parked cement truck. You are not alone, is all I wanted to say. You are not alone, brother.
A mumble of many voices came in as a confirmation:
- You are not alone.
- You are not alone.
- You are not alone.
The number changed from 735 to 734 then to 733.
Then back up to 735.
- Vietnam. Lao Sai. Crossing a rope bridge in high wind. The bridge flipped. 23 meters to cover.
- How old are you, Vietnam? You sound awful young.
- A year and half.
A murmur of horror.
- Water will soften your fall.
- River is shallow with rocky bottom. Water too fast.
A murmur of hasted prayers.
But I had my own pressing need. I wanted to live.
- Hey, – I said. – Sorry for butting in. 6 meters to go for me, any suggestions?
- New York, chill. Only 6 meters? You may only break couple of bones.
- I have no insurance. I’ll be left rotting on a sidewalk. I might as well be dead if I break a couple of bones.
- Your mother has a third cousin in Ohio. Ask her
The number changed to 736.
- Bordeaux. Roe Boulan. I slipped on a bathroom floor with nothing to catch my fall. I am 87 and one meter for me is like 68 meters for the 20 year old. I fear for the worst.
I switched lines.
- Emma! – I shouted into the receiver.
- Emma speaking, – a distant voice said with suspicion.
- I am falling, 4 meters to go. save me!
- What do you want me to do?- the voice said grumpily. – Catch you? I am in Ohio, you dumb nit.
- Tell me what to do.
- Can’t you just slow down your fall?
- I can’t!
- Then I don’t know what to tell you. Wait. My first husband was an alcoholic, he fell many times when he was drunk, but never broke a smallest bone. A doctor in a hospital once told me that when drunks fall their muscles are relaxed because of the booze. A normal person always tenses her muscles at fall. Try to relax, sweetheart. Have a drink or something.
I got off her line.
- She told me to relax! – I shouted into the other line.
An approving murmur:
Without closing my eyes I imagined sipping from a glass of wine. I felt my body accelerating towards the pull of asphalt and thought of landing on a soft mattress of hay and flowers.
Then I hit the ground, rather, the ground hit me with a brick fist. The phone disconnected.
I stayed on the ground for a few seconds, then moved one limb after another, as a test. Nothing seemed to be broken. I got up and looked at the taxi.
After navigating my fall and gravity I was back to navigating social interactions.
I speed dialed another number and started to approach the cab.