Just breathe. Stay calm.
The wind burns my face. September isn’t supposed to be this cold.
Stay calm. Everyone else is. You can’t make a fool of yourself already. You just started this school three weeks ago!
Everyone else looks calm.
Don’t look down! Don’t think about falling!
I look down. My stomach lurches.
I look around. Everyone ahead of me looks like they’re riding with ease. I can imagine that everyone behind me is struggling to ride their own bikes at the turtle-like pace I’ve created for them.
Come on, Whitney. You learned to ride when you were 6!
My mind begins playing devil’s advocate with itself.
But… you also haven’t been on a bike in years!
I try to push those negative thoughts out of my head, but they keep wedging their way back in. I feel my hands shaking as they grip the handles with an iron grip. Am I really that cold? Maybe I’m just that nervous.
I’m surrounded by people I just met. If this was last year, in grade six, I could have handled it. I knew those people for eight years, since we were four! Now I’m in a new school and I barely know these people. I can’t make a fool of myself. It’s barely a month into grade seven.
I keep pedaling. We’re on the side of the highway, riding towards the biking trail. It’s supposed to be the ‘beginner’s’ trail that we’re headed to. I can barely pedal straight on the paved shoulder of the road – how am I supposed to navigate through branches, rocks, and dirt?
Without warning, I hear it behind me.
Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don't fall!!
A glossy yellow car zooms past us, barely two feet away from the edge of the road. I can’t move. If I move left, I hit a car. If I move right, I hit the edge of the road – gravel instead of pavement. And then there’s that drop into the wooded area…
The next thing I see isn’t the road. It’s that steady drop I just wasted my time thinking about.
What do I do? I’m falling!
I see the trees. I see the boulders that edge the side of the highway. I’m still on the bike. Is that a good thing?
I open my eyes.
Well, that’s strange. I don’t remember closing my eyes.
Now the trees are in front of me, right at my feet. And so is the bike. How did that get in front of me? I twist my neck up and around to see the people on the top of the hill. The people who didn’t just fall off the highway.
My new friend Mat yells to me. I see him. He’s off his bike and he looks worried. Did everyone see me falling? I remember screaming as soon as I turned off the road. Maybe everyone turned to watch it all play out?
The owner of the camp we’re staying at comes running. “Don’t move your body! Don’t move your neck!”
Oh, she wants to see if I broke my neck. Awesome.
Good, I guess my neck isn’t broken.
She leaps through the boulders that I just crashed my bike down, coming to rescue me. I’m nearly already on my feet. I know I didn’t break my neck, there’s no need to continue laying there surrounded by rocks and dirt.
“Are you ok? That was a pretty big fall. Good thing you have your helmet on!” She looks worried, but I can tell she’s pretty relieved. She probably didn’t want yet another injury occurring under her watch. My best friend broke her arm when we were camping there last year.
“I’m fine... I’ll be fine.” I don’t even care about the bike. I don’t care about what’s happening. I want everyone else to leave, to continue on their bike ride and stop looking at me – the girl who can’t even pedal a bike straight.
“You’re bleeding. We’ll have to get you bandaged up. Can you walk back to the main cabin with Mrs. Favreau?”
She carries the bike back up to the side of the road, making sure I get a sturdy grip on it before she calls to the rest of the students to continue following her to the biking trail.
I look at the teaching assistant, Mrs. Favreau. She smiles and then removes a Kleenex from her pocket to dab at my chin, which apparently is bleeding quite badly.
First month of grade seven and I’ll have a Band-Aid on my chin. Ugh.
“So, think you can walk the bike back to the cabin?”
I start walking the bike, still looking down in embarrassment. After a few steps, I notice the bike’s front tire is almost knocked off the axle and is now spinning with a noticeable waving motion. I can’t help but crack a smile.
At least the bike is hurt, too.