I fell on the gravel one summer, swerved too sharply and ended up a mess of skirt and Schwinn, toppled down before I even processed what was happening. I couldn’t tell you what happened; it all goes so fast. One minute you’re sailing along on your mom’s old yellow bike and then the next, you’re in a pile on the road with your hands smarting, vibrating with pain.
When you fall on gravel, you learn the concept of infinity – it’s worse than pavement, which is finite. On gravel, a million tiny shards of rocks all ground up by trucks and cars and cowboy boots slice right into the palms of your hands and the soft, pliant flesh of your knees that tears so easily just like a child’s. You want to cry – probably a reaction, remembering how you cried as a kid when you fell those first few rides sans training wheels.
I’ve done this a few times, fallen over and banged up my knees. I fell hard a sidewalk last summer, hit the curb hard and bashed them up. The boy I was walking with was horrified at his own inability to stop me from crashing, so he bought me biscuits and gravy at the diner later that night. I dabbed at my bloody knees with a napkin and tried not to bend them. They bled for a few days and then scarred over, damning me to a life sans perfect, unblemished skin. But I’ve never had that anyway. My skin tends to hang on to every little scar and bruise, maybe so I don’t forget the instances that put them there: teeth and accidents, synonymous things, really.
I have scars from all sorts of things; there’s the dime-sized one I got falling off a wall in college. There’s a faint ring of purple on one hip, the echoes of a bruise that bloomed nearly black it was so deep. There’s a mark on one shoulder, a bug bite that turned white in the sun and stayed. They hold on to me so I don’t forget.
When you fall, you have to sit and gather your bearings for a minute. What was I doing, and what happened to me? What did I do that caused this mess and how can I avoid it in the future? Gravel’s tricky, though. Too many bicycles crashed, cars flipped or rolled into ditches. I’ve seen it happen more than I’d like. I would have sat by my bike for longer, singing to myself to try and mend my broken country girl spirit, but my neighbor was working his field right next to me. I’m sure he saw me crash, but I don’t care. He probably brought it up to my dad later, such is the case with farm towns like mine.
After my crash, it took awhile for my knees to remember how they worked and their function in my eventual uprightness. Shaky, like a deer or a baby calf. The palms of my hands were stinging, and they would for days. I brushed myself off, examined my white sundress for blood and found it, and tried to climb back onto the seat, which was now tilted to the right by cause of my fall, a reminder that no, a smooth cycle home wasn’t going to happen.
I walked back home, the bike banging at my hip.