April 2, 2008

I was eight years old in 1982; it was the summer after third grade. My parents both worked so the days were ours – my brother’s and mine. Other than making a call to them once a day to “check in,” we cruised the streets and learned the ways of adolescence. We were tough guys. We rode around with pocket knifes in our socks and cigarettes behind our ears; my buddy’s mom always left opened packs around the house, and he would always steal them for the group.

I would always get a hard on right as we were lighting them up. It excited me to act older and do things I wasn’t supposed to. I was growing up and people had to deal with it.  I sure the hell wasn’t going to.

Usually we smoked in the woods behind the middle school. We’d light up, puff, and blow it out. Menthol 100s is what the woman smoked, and every drag scorched our throats and noses. We hated them but we smoked them anyway.  We smoked them because smoking is what people did; it looked cool and grown up, and that’s what we wanted. I remember coughing and choking on the firsts of my drags. Heath, our fat friend who lived down the street and had a brother in high school who smoked pot, would always say something like, “Dude, you’re not even inhaling. You’re such a fucken’ puss.”

He was right, I was a puss. But he had just flunked 4th grade, so I didn’t mind taking a part in the ‘puss’ category. His dumb fucken’ ass could go ahead and inhale his dick off if he wanted; I didn’t fucken’ care. I knew I would move beyond the ‘puss’ category some day, but he would always be a stupid fat ass.

The woods behind the middle school had been turned into a bike track and we went down there every day that summer. It was where we first learned how to be free.  We laughed with each other and we laughed at each other.   Occasionally the word dick was said to someone and the rebuttle would normally be the middle finger.  But dick was a great word back then. The simple sentence, “You’re a dick,” was very popular. And after that wore out we added other body parts to the sentence to make it anatomically specific and a bit more scathing. “You’re a dickhead.” “You’re a dickface.” “You’re a dicknose.” “You’re a dickmouth.” “You’re a dickchin.” Though that pretty much summed it up.  I think someone may have tried dickearlobe or dickeye, but they didn’t stick.  But perhaps dicklip stuck for a while.

The biggest of the track’s dirt hills was about four feet tall, and the one five feet behind it stood about the same size. We called them ‘doubles,’ and the objective was to get enough speed to clear them both and land smoothly down the the other side of the second hill. It took us all about a two months to really get comfortable with it.

In early August I had become very comfortable with flying eight to ten feet over the two mounds. Most the time I wouldn’t even go all the way around the track to hit the other jumps. I knew the jump I liked and I stuck with it. The launch off the firtst hill allowed us to just hang – in mid air; like a rubber ball reaching its apex and stopping for a split second just before gravity took over again.  It felt good to be above the world for those few short moments.  It helped make everything seem conquerable. 

I knew my bike. It fit like a glove between my legs, and I remember the day I rode to the start of the track and shouted, “Hey everyone, watch this.”  Well, I sort of remember it.  In fact, I only remember saying it because I believe it’s something I would’ve said – Hey everyone, watch this – but I don’t truly remember saying it.

My brother told me that I took a bigger start than normal and that my hang time was pretty impressive. He also told me that when I was in the air my handlebars came out and my front wheel fell off. From his perspective, he said I looked pretty shocked and surprised as I tossed the handlebars to the side and prepared for a rough landing. He said it looked as though it was all in slow motion.

I crashed down exactly where I should have – the ramp on the other side – and slid about fifteen feet through the dirt. When they ran over to check on me I was snoring; out cold. I was eight years old and I had dirt and rocks caked under the skin of my face, hands and arms, and I was fucking unconscious.

Most everything throughout the rest of that summer comes to me because of what someone else told me because I don’t remember shit.

The hospital called my mom at her work.
“Ms. Jacobs?”
“This is Crestview Children’s Hospital. Your son has been in an accident.”

When I got out of the hospital, my brother told me about a fat yet bosomy nurse who had comforted him at the hospital. And being 11 years old and only so tall, he told me how she had nestled his head up right between her fun bags for a long, warm hug.  I laughed my ass off when he told me that story.


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