I AM, in true fashion, a bicyclist, but I bought a motorcycle last May to keep up with my burgeoning responsibilities at work.
I always knew then how treacherous a vehicle it is, but I got enamored by the sense of freedom the ‘motor’ makes me feel that I even bought another one in July. So I have a Yamaha Mio Soul Automatic scooter and an EM-100 motorcycle. I bought two so I can use one in Laoag, where I reside, and another in Batac, where I earn bread and some butter.
I always thought I was a very careful driver. My Laoag to Batac drive takes me almost thirty minutes while other riders swear it only takes them fifteen. But accidents choose nobody, and no matter how good a driver you may be, you cannot always expect others to be as careful. Worse, much as you wish, you cannot always trust yourself to be as cautious as humanly possible. There are times when deep thought distracts you, and, occasionally, your senses simply betray you. Or it could be the weather. Or the infrastructure. Or the vehicle itself.
I have always prepared myself, psychologically, for the eventuality of an accident. At one point or another, a driver meets one, minor or otherwise. Accidents happen, and the catch is you’ll never know when until it strikes you like lightning or like a Manny Pacquiao left hook, whichever is faster.
Last Wednesday morning, on the way to the Batac Public Market where I was to meet my eldest brother Henry, I was hit by a speeding car when I took a left turn at an intersection. In a split of a millisecond, I found myself facing the pavement, my body tangled in the two-wheeled monster. I checked if I could still move, and yes. I got up, but not without making sure I was really alive, not a pure soul freed from a bloody cadaver.
I only fully realized I was alive when the driver alighted from the car and hurled invectives at me non-stop. I was already hurting but he was doubling my pains by his tongue-lashing in the presence of the fabled Filipino uzis (usisero). I could have engaged in a verbal tussle, but I was lucid to remember that some drivers survive accidents only to be killed later on by bullets.
My mind was calm as a Buddha, but my feet and legs were aching and shaking. There were minor bruises on my arms and legs, but that was about it. The Batac police officers swiftly came to investigate. It was one of those rare occasions when pictures were being taken, and no one was smiling.
Surprisingly, my EM-100 remained almost intact. A flaring was dismantled, but it could be easily fixed. Good thing I did not use that day my Mio Soul, which is more expensive, and which I love more dearly.
The driver, Dandan Pitpit, who turns out to be the brother of my former student Daniel, eventually calmed down and talked things over.
This is a new lease on life for me. I could have died there. But it took a while before I realized how lucky a Herdy I really was.
First, I was wearing a helmet, which I usually don’t do when taking short trips. If I ever wear one, the primary reason is to avoid the high fines imposed by LTO on violators.
There were times when I’d even take the highway and travel long distance sans a helmet. It’s funny how your fellow drivers and tambays would warn you that there’s an LTO checkpoint ahead, and instruct you what routes to take to avoid them. This is how I have been able to explore the innards of San Nicolas and Batac.
A few weeks ago, my eldest brother Henry texted me this, “I saw you in the highway driving your motorcycle without a helmet. Hope you wear one, not only for your safety, but also to protect other drivers from the glare of your widening forehead.” I took good advice, and I am happy (and alive) that I did.
Helmets are usually heavy, uncomfortable, and unbearable, especially for the claustrophobic, but it is just a little price to pay for safety. It is not exactly a beautiful death to have your face pressed on the cold pavement while you watch your gray matter splattered on the ground. Indeed, rules are there for good reason, and following them could spare you and others from harm.
I was lucky not to be run over by another car while I was lying there in the middle of that busy road. Also, it was a blessing that I had a good fall. What if I broke my spine which would render me immobile from neck down forever? That kind of situation makes you wonder whether a swift death would have been sweeter than a life of physical immobility.
I was so thankful, too, dear karikna, that nobody was riding with me. I wanted to ask a friend to go with me that morning, but I eventually decided not to. And, because I only have one helmet, my back rider would have suffered major head trauma, which will take a very heavy toll on my conscience.
As for Dandan, we met the day after and had parts of his silver Mitsubishi Lancer repainted. I took the blame, and performed my obligations. He turns out to be a very respectful young man, and I think we can even be friends. He offered his hand, asked for my forgiveness, and disarmed me with his sweet and sincere smile.
Meanwhile, my motorcycle flaring has been reattached, and now looks as good as new. All is well.
All Souls Day is approaching, and, if lady luck did not smile at me that fateful morning, I would be among those visited at the cemetery on November 1.
Cheesy people like me want to believe that things happen for a reason, that accidents happen for a reason, and that people survive for a reason.
I am just glad, dear karikna, to live to tell you this tale and wish you safety.
After hearing my story, Kuya Henry asked me a hypothetical question, “what would you have thought in your dying moments?” He counseled me, and I did not find it morbid that he did because every human being is bound to cross over from being to nothingness anyway, to focus my consciousness on God when I am down to one last breath.
He reminded me that attachment to the material world at the time of death makes it difficult for the soul to move on to God’s loving embrace where it rightfully belongs.
The challenge for the post-crash me then is to continue to mull on the meaning of existence, be of better service to my fellowmen, and live a life that I can part with anytime, and which my friends can look back to with glee.
Having escaped death, the post-crash me will embrace life, but not too tightly. I am, more than ever, a free spirit, and Mio and EM remain my friends.