I didn’t see them coming. I never do. Like a derailed freight train with frightening momentum and a deafening roar they come uninvited and seemingly impossible to stop.
At the first unstable and heart-dropping movement of the motorbikes tires on the soft and shifting sands, anxious thoughts plow through the feeble gate I’ve constructed against such fears and they race with intense speed … he has on a helmet, I don’t even have on a helmet, I should be wearing a helmet. What if we get in an accident? I could split my head open. Where is the nearest hospital? Is there even a hospital here? It’s probably dirty. What if I get some infection while being treated?
The stream is momentarily interrupted as I notice the bemo (local mini bus) is passing us on the right and now quickly approaching Adrian’s motorbike just ahead of me. His driver moves over to the far left edge allowing the bus to slide between him and the oncoming traffic. I wince at the casualness of such an effort on this thin strip of highway and the freight train picks up speed in a whole new direction.
What if something happened to him? What if I see it all take place right before my eyes? This horrific image flashes through my mind. I couldn’t live with that! I’d never get that image out of my head. What would I say to his family? Would it be my fault? Was this my idea? Where would I go? And this feeling of paralyzing pain floods my body. I’d be alone. And heartbroken. Oh, shit, I can’t do it. I can’t. What are we doing here?
The weight of the bike leans left into a curve then moves over once again to make way for an oncoming bemo to pass, our tires nearing the fine line where the pavement meets the dirt. A new stream of ‘what ifs’ begin infiltrating my mind and with a gesture of surrender I close my eyes and lift my face to the sun-filled sky no longer attempting to fight them off.
It’s true. All the things I fear could happen could happen.
Cool, wet tears slip from my tightly clinched eyes. My shoulders fall loose. I exhale a deep breath. For the first time I am aware of the warm sun hitting my face, the wind pressing against my body strong and constant, the medley of sounds filling my ears and the hum of the motorbike beneath me.
I am overwhelmed with a sense of vitality and words seem inadequate to express such things. It feels like freedom. The delicious freedom that comes from acknowledging what we so often deny or pretend not to notice. That life is risky. At any moment it could all change and that to live invariably means to be vulnerable whether we like it or not. Perhaps the only real choice we have is to hold evermore tightly to the illusion of control or to embrace the reality that the future is unknowable and allow our fearful hearts to be pried open by the joy of such ordinary moments.