I skate goofy foot and wear a helmet. These things are not related, beyond both making me a weirdo, apparently. I’m funny. My friends tease me. Don’t that feel wrong? the wind not in your hair?
I don’t have health insurance—haven’t for almost a year, since I left Canada. I haven’t been entirely unemployed, but this is how America Works. I’ve been on and off contracting for a college. They don’t have the money to actually hire me, and certainly not to pay me benefits. It’s a religious school. Maybe they’ve been praying for me instead.
It’s funny, because it really is scary, and because I sound bitter, and I am, but I’m being facetious, too. It didn’t take long for me to remember that I shouldn’t expect, much less think I deserve, that my basic health and safety needs should be met when I’m lucky enough to be proud.
So, I wear a helmet and ignore the fact that if luck runs out in a crash bam accident bad enough where a helmet saves my life, my brain will be intact but my body’s gonna wish it were dead.
I don’t think about this dodging pothole traffic on my bike or carving arcs through winding suburban parks on my longboard, though. I just go. I feel fantastic. And when I take a hill too fast unable to slow, panic know a sharp turn is just around the corner FAIL! need to bail right now but my legs can’t run fast enough to match my velocity and I stumble fall fly forward head over heels into the grass leaves branches trees, every time my head smacks hard I think AWESOME! I’m wearing a helmet RAD! I am so rad, rolling into a heap at the side of the path, my comrades out of sight further down the trail.
You fall when you lose faith—question confidence, your own inner balance, stop praying to yourself for just a second, or worse, become aware of the prayer and wonder how in hell it’s actually working. Grass stained, stinging, blood poking out, I rise tall and feel divine.
As we drive back to the city, Natalie in her convertible taunts Gabe in his gonzo Riveria, tempting him to race the twisted guts of torn-up 35W. In the revving Riv with Gabe I put my helmet back on, and Gabe thinks it’s funny so drives faster to show Natalie and Andrew in the other car how funny I am. They go faster. We go faster. I take off my helmet so it isn’t funny anymore but quickly put it back on.
It is too scary to not be funny. We are all going to die.
Later Gabe says I fell off my board to prove I need a helmet. I think I fell because I needed to fall, to know I’d be okay. The first real ride of the summer, the first lost control out of the way. A cyclist who witnessed it grunted as he passed me, “You okay?” actively pedaling by, and I know it is true.
Didn’t need that skin anyway. That illusion of control. The belief I can get away with anything. The fear that I won’t.