Crash: The award-winning essay by Darien eighth-grader
Published 10:54 am, Friday, March 29, 2013
The following is an excerpt from Jonathan's piece "Crash," which received an honorable mention at the regional Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. His other entry, a persuasive piece on gun control, received a gold medal at the national level.
My body ached in pain. No, I lied. My body burned with excruciating and unbearable jolts of horror. I might as well have been stabbed. Every time I inhaled, I could feel my bone chafe against what I thought was my broken shoulder. I strained my abdomen, trying to get up from the crash zone. I couldn't do it. Did I break my neck? Is my arm out of its socket? Did I puncture a blood vessel? My heart raced, while my friend anxiously dialed 911. "What's the emergency?" I heard the operator say in a mundane voice. Those three words will forever be engraved deep into my mind. I was no longer an eighth grader coming to terms with the three tests I had on Friday; I was officially an emergency.
My hands trembled with fear, as intense waves of pain oscillated from my right neck and shoulder. I closed my eyes, somehow thinking that I would wake up from this nightmare. Half an hour ago I was watching the newest Comedy Central show. Forty-five minutes ago I was on the bus talking with friends. An hour ago I was in French class frustrated at my conjugation short falls. Now, I was planted on my back, not knowing when an ambulance was going to get here and if I was ever going to use my right arm again. I would give anything to go back two minutes, before I was the idiot who went off the jump; the same idiot who crashed head first. I closed my eyes replaying how I went from teacher's pet to victim of a biking crash, subject to possible hospitalization. The jump was I'd say one or two feet, by most standards small, but by mine an immense towering behemoth, belonging to the skyline of Chicago, not a door-mat suburban town like mine.
See, I just started this "sport" "mountain biking" at the insistence of my neighbor, a zealous thrill junky; the kind that makes an annual pilgrimage to the mountain biking slopes of the Rockies. I grew up using bikes as transportation; a more efficient way of walking, not a thrill sport. I never found excitement from doing jumps or going over rocks. The only impact I got out of these "thrill sports" was cardiac distress, not this so-called "adrenaline rush". I've always prided myself on the fact I've never broken a bone or dislocated a joint from its socket, the product of my careful and cautious demeanor. All that ended when I tried to play the role of "dare-devil".
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For the past five days my neighbor would ask me to go biking with him. I started off by going over small rocks and seemingly trivial gaps. With every six inch wonder I would hold back with reservations, until I was either coerced or cajoled into jumping. To my disbelief I was finally obtaining "air" or whatever he called it. To me, it was a half second of dreadfulness. My bike would fly up into the air, with me anxiously trembling, as the bike suspended across the patch of dirt or pavement. I would always wonder whether or not the tires of the bike would land right. I did ten jumps, then twenty, then thirty. Maybe, just maybe I was getting the hang of it. I took things slow and with prudence, until I finally gave in and then I would pedal with all my strength to the area of protrusion. Every time I successfully did a jump, my mind would shimmer with excitement; knowing I defied my emotional reservations, and my disparity in experience. I slowly started becoming a believer in the so-called "adrenaline rush".
Every day I would go outside to meet my neighbor and embark on an afternoon's worth of uneven terrain and rocky inclines. I always thought of myself as the studious wimpy type, never did I think mountain biking was ever going to engage me as much as it did. Suppose there was an alternate ego, an Evil Kneival, lurking inside of me. The thought of an adventurous dare-devil version of me subsided the day my neighbor started asking me to do the black jump. This wasn't any jump. This was a last ditch; do at gun-point kind of thing. The fun of mountain biking halted the moment he mentioned the black jump and me in the same sentence. "Come on, you're getting really good, you can do it," my neighbor coaxed. "No way!" I would persistently respond. "Just do it, you're not going to get hurt," he would chime over and over. The black jump was a towering monstrosity, that lay midway down a fairly steep incline. Although it was only one to two feet tall, the amount of space between you and the tree line seemed longer than your standard Toyota. As soon as you went off you had to sharply veer to the left or right being careful not to apply the brakes too vigorously. Every time my friend attempted to get me to try it, my mind replayed all the worst case scenarios. What if I crashed head first and died of traumatic blunt force to the neck? But what if I didn't do it, would I be glad or regret that I would still feel like that wimpy kid -- the same wimpy kid I was trying so hard not to be?
After a few days of avoiding biking for fear that I would be pressured into doing the jump, I gave in to both the demands of my neighbor, and my inner rage to prove the fading presence of my wimpy kid side. What could even happen? It's literally a foot tall, there is no way I could screw this up, bike, bike, bike, then stand and shift my weight back, and there you go. On the other hand I could crash, and God knows what would result. ITS NOT THAT BAD, I CAN DO IT; well on the other hand I could forget to brake and hit a tree and break something, you know a lot of people die doing things like this. I guess my Evil Kneival alternate ego was in the mood that day because before the two sides of my inner dilemma had a chance to cross-examine each other I was already planning my strategy as to how I would do the jump, "Jack," I yelled, "I'm going to do it."
I mounted myself on the bike. The tiny ounce of fear and discretion I had was heavily outweighed by my megalithic sums of adrenaline. I later learned that adrenaline was a fancy incognito way of saying stupidity. I was undeterred by the jump's dark and chilling vibe. For the past five days it served as a catalyst for fear and discouragement. Today, September 11th 2012, it will serve as a catalyst for my acceptance into the mountain biking world. I stared at the jump, like I would a life-long foe, seeking vindication of my superiority. I began rigorously pedaling towards the jump. One push, two, then, three. I stood up as my bike neared my point of ascent. I bunched my shoulders up and braced my knees. The two and half inch tires of my bike collided with the slick black surface of the jump. I could feel the gravity trying to polarize my body off the seat as the surface began to incline. The triumph was nearly tangible, as the two wheels separated themselves from the one object that stood between me and dare-devil. The impromptu light of the sun shined on me as my bike was suspended three feet off the ground. Black. Snap. Pain. Expletives.
I pried open my eyes, as the responding police officer made his presence known. At this point my right shoulder felt like goo being pierced by the jagged edges of bone. He asked the standard questions as he took my pulse. My good arm couldn't stop shaking, an indication of my immense anxiety. "How did the crash occur?" the police officer asked trying to sound both sympathetic and professional at the time. "I went uh went off off the jump then I cra-ashed," I quickly stuttered inarticulately, still petrified at the current state of my shoulder. I tried to sit up, thinking that maybe whatever was broken somehow would "feel all better", but as soon I heard the bone crack against the skin I realized this wasn't a little "boo-boo".
I can't believe this happened. I was always the kid who opted out of the double blacks and towering roller coasters, yet I was still the kid who was planted to the ground in pain with a broken bone and an oxygen mask strapped on my face like a muzzle. It was only a foot high, I wasn't supposed to get hurt, but look at me NOW. What the heck happened anyways? I can't decide whether to be nervous about all the medical possibilities, be scared of the imminent reaction from my Mom when she finds out, or be mad at my neighbor for pushing me into this in the first place. The responding paramedics swiftly attached a neck brace and rolled me onto a back board. My heart began to finally slow when they said it was most likely an injury to the collar bone. No punctured blood vessels or internal bleeding for me.
In a matter of fifteen minutes I was transported to the hospital. A cold brick building, a lifeless place, considering it was supposed to promote it. My gurney was wheeled past the bleak, white tiles of the Emergency Room. With the heart monitors and trauma patients, it was clear I wasn't in my pediatrician's office with the colorful fishbowl. I was carefully rolled onto the bed in the ER and attended to by the nurse. Then I had x-rays taken. "Mid-shift clavicle fracture," the radiologist announced to me and my Mom, who met me at the hospital when I arrived. As I looked at the x-ray I realized they got paid way too much; it would take an idiot not to know that my BONE WAS SPLIT IN HALF AT THE MID-SHIFT! I was handed a sling, pain-killers, and instructions, and shown to the exit. Apparently they thought surgery was unnecessary, a welcome relief to me.
I slowly plodded out of the Emergency Room of Stamford Hospital, a depressing brick labyrinth. I get that it would be sacrilegious to make a hospital cheerful, but for GOD's sake, it doesn't have to look like Riker's Island! While the residual effects of the broken collarbone slowly started becoming known, I comforted myself with the good fortune I truly possessed. So what if I couldn't play baseball or manhunt with the neighborhood kids or participate in any of the other sports I loved so much for the next six to eight weeks. What if I did puncture a blood vessel? What if I did break my neck? What if did lose the ability to use my right arm again? It is easy to say breaking a bone is a part of life. It is even easier to say suck up the pain and deal with it as a part of life. But what isn't easy is to admit that you made a really bad mistake and to learn from it. As much pain as I was in, I realized don't let people push you into situations you aren't capable of; know your limits, and abide by them, and maybe, just maybe you won't be the idiot who crashes head first.