What kind of person am I? I like to get the power down early coming out of a bend, feeling the wheels slide a bit then grip again. Sometimes I like to scare myself, a little frisson runs through me at those times, like an electric tingle.
Back in the good old days I used to ride a motorbike much too fast, I would challenge the physics of centrifugal force, pushing the bike down until, often, physics would win. The tyres would let go at the crucial moment and I would be sliding along the road again. Undeterred, I would mount up and, ignoring the protests of my skinned knees and elbows, I would go again.
It never occurred to me that anyone cared about me. I was like a knight of old, when I put on my leathers and sturdy, well padded, boots and gloves, I was dressing for battle. Like armour, it made me feel invincible. My injuries were many and often serious. The number of times I almost died on the road were too numerous to remember. The square inches of skin I lost from shoulders, knees, and elbows leave scars that remain to this day, despite the fact that I haven’t ridden a motorbike for thirty years.
When I was in the zone though, it felt like synergy, I was one with my machine. The road unrolled like destiny, each successive corner taken faster until there was nothing left. My focus perfect, gear changes made with precision, braking and accelerating smoothly, feeling that little slide as the grip of tyre on road was pushed past the limit. The tingle of fear just before the judder as grip was regained.
Patterns being what they are, this behaviour runs through my life. All my life I have taken risks with my body and the rest of what makes up me. Emotionally I have been just as reckless, it never occurred to me that anyone actually cared. Focussing only on the next bend, with total disregard for anyone travelling with me, there has been plenty of collateral damage. My sensibilities, such as they are, bear the scar tissue of the risks I have taken, of the times I have torn away without due care. When I look back now, with the hindsight that age gives me, the distance in time that I thought would protect me, the scar tissue knocks off and the wound is raw beneath.
Age brings me regret. The people I have hurt with my careless behaviour, myself included. The times I have missed the turning because I was going too fast, thinking that there will always be another one. It can be argued that this was how it was meant to be, the people I left behind were not meant to travel further with me, but I feel a sadness that reaches to the deepest parts of my being. There’s a sense that once started the tears will not stop, the well is bottomless.
But I live on. It happens again and still I live. Another precious soul is ripped away and I no longer have the armour of my self-centred youth. This time I feel it immediately and there is the fear that I won’t dare to risk again. Play it safe and never find myself wedged under a car again, play it safe and never experience the exhilaration of the little slip and grip of a cornering manoeuvre executed to perfection as I get the power down early.