30. Chain Splitter

 

It’s been almost a year since the collision. But it seems like a lot longer. Seeing Cameron’s brother around has brought certain details back to the forefront. Oddly, it’s the more innocuous ones. For example, the car I had been driving became quite the clunker. The front end was still smashed in. Which also meant the bent radiator had to be replaced with a straight one. This was no easy task. It cost me more in labor. The mechanic I chose scoffed at this. He thought it was silly to fix one thing and not the other. And of course I needed a new windshield. Twice as expensive as the radiator. Those necessary parts I had to afford. The rest would be rigged with glue and duct tape. In some cases the fancy black duct tape.

I drove it around like that even after my court date. Although my license was revoked. In addition to the required programs, the judge decreed that if I was to retain possession of my vehicle, a breathalyzer must be installed on the ignition. A precautionary measure that let me know it wasn’t his first rodeo. This angered me into sobriety for an entire day and a half. I was hell bent on what I considered beating the system.

Until I realized I didn’t have to be the one to start my car. However, asking strangers to blow into a tube just so your engine can run, well, it draws a fair amount of dirty looks and criticisms. Other, more opportunistic citizens would be happy to comply, for a fee. More gas would be used throughout the day as I often left it running. My daily profits began to shrink. Not to mention the ever-present possibility of being thrown in jail again. Other options needed to be pursued.

Sometimes I have to wonder how or why I became, and stayed a courier despite all this? I never had a paper route. I never delivered pizzas either. Fortunately, these are not prerequisites nor eliminating factors. A courier is evaluated on reliability alone. Not much else matters. During my first week, a trip to Central Station produced one of the rarest occasions when I would see Carol outside of her booth. She witnessed my jalopy jerking towards the curb in front of her.

 “How do you manage with that piece of shit?” Carol asked.

 “You have a better suggestion?”

 “Ride a bike. It’s more economical, and if there’s heavy traffic you’ll get right through. That’s the preferred transport of the best in this business.”

 “From what I hear it’s old school. Plus, I don’t want to be like those assholes Carol.”

 “Gonna be your own brand of asshole huh?”

I decided to give it a shot anyways. Riding a bicycle I mean. And the first day I started out on a bike I really enjoyed it. I hate to admit that. I realize now that it was so much fun because I had yet to learn what was at stake: the risk of severe injury in exchange for cost effectiveness. I would also come to find it was much more exercise than I needed.

Only a few days in, I was on side streets, an area that was predominantly residential. A car approached perpendicular to me at a four way stop. It slowed, but then re-accelerated. This threw off my spacial judgement. I pumped the brakes, not stopping on my sign either. I curse through the driver’s rolled-down window. Even though I was ignoring the rules of the road myself. The verbal retaliation provided no result or reaction.

With the car having past, I stand back on the bike’s pedal, to regain my own speed. This is when I hear the grind of the chain right before it snaps. My foot also slips off, along with the rest of me as I tumble over the handlebars. First my shoulder touches down, followed by the side of my head. A borrowed helmet providing an unknown, but surely substantial amount of protection. Nevertheless, my teeth rattle against themselves. Grinding same as the chain did.

I lay there, neck crooked against the street. Just wondering how badly injured I’ve become. I struggle to my feet. Then pull the bicycle to the sidewalk I’ll slump against. A young lady traveling by bicycle in what was my oncoming direction must have witnessed the entire thing. She stops to check on my status, of which I haven’t been able to determine. Most likely due to shock. She says the same thing happened to her last week. My shoulder is all tore up. Supplemented by scrapes on my forearm, hip, and knee. Some of my ribs feel definitely bruised, if not cracked. I glare at her suspiciously. I’m unsure what she means, standing there in a sundress without recent injuries.

I leave the bike in a heap, and manage to walk home. It takes all day. The sun beats down on me as well. Trying to get a piece of the action. My skin is a mixture of blood, sweat, and asphalt as I trod along. It will require a deep cleaning. That will certainly enhance the pain.

Weeks of healing followed. All the pain in it’s various stages allowed me a valid excuse to increase my consumption. I probably didn’t need such a great excuse. When I finally felt able, and partly due to severely diminished funds, I resumed making deliveries. Deciding that from now on, I would let others be responsible for the transportation. And I was content to stay away from bicycles and cyclists alike. You know, those assholes.

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