Wednesday, October 22, 2008

1971 – Braces accident

I hadn’t seen the blue car stopped dead in Rothery Road, heading west into a low-slung sun.

Perhaps it was the sun playing tricks. Perhaps it was practised familiarity. But head down, peddling down the slight incline from the Rothery Road rail bridge, the first I knew of that car, waiting to turn right into its driveway, was me sailing gracefully through the air – a split second after my old bike hit its chrome rear bumper.

I marvelled, momentarily - as my bike’s front fork buckled - then sailed, seemingly timeless, before my face slammed into the car’s roof. The braces on my teeth drove deep into the soft, warm flesh of my mouth. Numbness and blood mixed as I rolled off hard into the sharp gravel beside the car.

I blacked out, but not before wondering in horror how much damage I’d done to my mouth, and those expensive, unpleasant braces, due to come off in less than a month.

The equally shocked middle-aged driver somehow managed to find out who I was and where I lived, me equally shocked at fumbling with my own home phone number. Where I went to school wasn’t in dispute, despite blood and saliva that had splashed down the front of my white shirt and over my loose blue tie.

The man left his car standing in the middle of the street and lifted and walked me to the back of his house where his wife gave me water and a place to sit inside their dark, cool back room. Their cat meowed loudly, and their caged birds shrieked their own welcome.

I’m not sure how long it took Dad to turn up to load me, still dazed, and my battered bike for the short drive home.

I stayed away from school for several days, unable to move my raw, smashed mouth around those unforgiving braces and wiring, but relieved I hadn’t damaged anything.

And when those braces came off at their allotted time, my mouth felt utterly empty. My gleaming teeth seemed assembled tightly in a cavernous, breezy cathedral. And while they were beautiful, I was left with those stubbornly healing scars. Like two strands of fleshy barded-wire welts, one inside my top lip, the other inside the lower lip. What’s more, I was to find they’d never disappear.

I replaced my bike’s bent fork the following week with a different coloured one, and resumed my riding to and from school. The different-coloured fork and my healing scars were badges of honour, and a constant reminder to stay vigilant.

Several years later, at university, I’d find myself pondering issues while rolling my tongue gently across those welts. Slowly, from one side to the other, then back again. First the top scar, then its lower running mate.


Blogger metalmouthjeff said...

Did u enjoy yoir time in braces?

9:39 PM  

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