Articles

Close Call

William Blackford, 128 YinD

You focus on making circles with your feet.

The afternoon sun beats down on you. Cars zoom by on the road meters away from where you pedal your bike on the shoulder. You get lost in your thoughts, weaving gracefully along the path that you have taken a hundred times before.

You hear a sound from behind you. You know this sound. You recognize it as the growing roar of a fully-loaded sugar cane truck barrelling towards you.

Awareness spikes. You look ahead of you and see a man on a motorcycle riding towards you on the shoulder on your side of the road. You know that the etiquette for this incredibly common scenario dictates that you let him have the shoulder while you take up space closer to the road.

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The roar of the approaching truck swells as its 18 wheels spin inexorably towards you and your tiny little collection of hollow metal cylinders welded together into the shape of a bike. You gently guide the tires of your bike onto the narrow strip of black asphalt between the oncoming motorcycle and the faded yellow line of paint that marks the portion of the road where cars usually go.

You hope that the truck driver knows what you’re trying to do. You hope that the motorcycle doesn’t swerve or change course. You hope that there isn’t a car trying to pass on the other side of the truck, causing it to veer ever so slightly towards you.

The margin of error continues to shrink.

You focus on making circles with your feet.

If you worship a deity, you may pray to them now.

The sugar cane truck screams by you, tearing the very atmosphere with its sheer weight barrelling forward at somewhere in the neighborhood of a million miles per hour. The imposing mass of the brightly-painted truck looms to your right and the craggy-faced, thin-framed farmer on his decades-old scooter slides by on your left.

For a moment you inhabit only the space, only slightly wider than the width of your torso, between the oncoming bike and the truck that is literally overflowing with its matchstick-like cargo.

The wake of air around the truck hits you and your teeth rattle. You flutter like a dry leaf caught in the wind, or a stiff piece of paper stood on its end.

This moment lasts forever. This is your whole world now.

One and a half heartbeats later there is nothing around you but open air. The very distinct smell of recently burned sugar cane fills your nostrils and mingles with the scent of diesel fuel exhaust.

You focus on making circles with your feet.

You idly think to yourself, “I wonder how many people have died that way.”


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