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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

The need

This chap really should be wearing some safety gear...
I'm going through hell. I cannot think of any other thing. I don't feel like eating; I can't sleep. Today – truthfully – I've taken the day off work and claimed to be ill because I simply don't have the ability to concentrate on my job. My need for a motorcycle is the only thing my mind will hold on to. 

Sometimes I feel an all-consuming flood of panic and anxiety at the thought of not getting a motorcycle – the fear that this thing I need so desperately might never be attained. I feel nauseous. My hands tremble. In these moments I feel as if my whole world is coming apart, as if I were in the Matrix and some catastrophic event has caused the pixels of my world to break apart. It is that feeling of irreversible doom, like when you were a teenager and your girlfriend would say: "Listen, we need to talk."

Nothing good ever comes of those words. In my experience they are always followed by a break-up or an uncomfortable confession, then a break-up. In the tiny space of time between her saying, "We need to talk," and something like, "I had sex with the whole of the Oakland Raiders, including the special teams coaching staff," there is that terrible rumbling at the foundations of your universe, the knowledge that it's all about to come crumbling down.

That is the feeling that wraps around me at times. When I think of the obstacles between myself and motorcycle ownership I feel that terrible collapsing and some part of me thinks: "Oh Lord, just kill me now."

It is a feeling that sinks claws into the back of my skull and wrenches my neck. My shoulders hunch up, my jaw tightens, a headache builds behind my eyes.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God," I think, my mind spinning in the white noise of panic. "Have I ever before felt this way? Have I ever been so out of control?"

Once. When I was a younger man. I fell crazily, terribly in love with a girl. I wanted to give her the whole of me, make my world hers. I was willing to throw away everything for the joy of waking up to her each morning. She said no and broke my heart. It took years for me to get over and sometimes I feel parts of me are still broken.

All the anxiety and need I felt toward her, I now feel doubly about motorcycling. But this, I know, is something that will not reject me. I simply need to reach out, to embrace it. And it will respond by giving me freedom, possibly even healing my old wounds. Restoring me, making me new.

Without it, I am going through hell. I don't know how much longer I can survive.


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