The collision occurred very suddenly and very slowly as all split-second things do. When we hit, the motorbike went down beneath me but I was left standing so that it felt as if I had dismounted very nimbly. I did not see if the motorcycle taxi driver and his passenger went down but, if they did, they were both on their feet when I next saw them. Neither wore a helmet and both looked very young and very scared.
From the corner of my eye, I saw a man approach quickly from the sidewalk. We were collided on the yellow line between the opposing lanes of traffic and, for some reason, at that moment I was very conscious of not being the one who holds up traffic while he throws a fit. If there was any fit in me to throw, the man who came from the sidewalk stole it all away. While I bent and lifted the motorcycle from the ground, he began to hurl abuses at the motorcycle taxi driver.
‘You mother fucker! He was clearly in the right!’ he said. ‘You go the wrong fucking way! You cross the street the wrong fucking way. You are not fucking looking! You should be fucking dead! One less fucking pem-pem driver would be OK!’
The pem-pem driver looked very scared. He did not try to explain or defend himself and, as the man continued his harangue, I reviewed my motorcycle. It was scratched in several places and the crash-side mirror was wrenched out of place. The crash bar was bent near the frame but it had done its job and absorbed most of the collision. I slipped between gears to check the transmission and I found that the shift lever was bent inward but the gears changed smoothly enough. Then I started the engine and listened but heard nothing troubling as it revved to life.
The man from the sidewalk shouted all through my revisions but he stopped when I looked up as though realizing he had taken something that was not his. I looked at him and then I looked at the pem-pem driver.
‘Are you alright?’ I asked.
He nodded and I turned from him to his passenger.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Alright. Get out of here.’
The man from the sidewalk slinked away as though I had commanded him as much as them. I did not look at either of them again. I mounted as the boys lifted the fallen motorbike and pulled it out of my way. Then I merged into traffic and continued as I had begun, riding towards downtown. Usually I went uptown but this morning I had a meeting in the other direction.
He just had venom to spit, I thought, thinking of the man from the sidewalk who had stolen the fit that was mine to throw. It certainly wasn’t to help me and it probably wasn’t about the pem-pem boy either. It was just the excuse to spit bile. That thought made me angry with him but not very and pretty soon I thought no more about him.
But what about me, I thought as I drove, not thinking anymore about the man from the sidewalk. How could I not get angry at all? A collision is no small thing and that boy was at fault, and I felt no anger at all. The thinking about not getting angry began to make me angry with myself. You spent a long time training yourself to be a fighter and breaking the meekness in you. All that work sharpening your edges and now this and feeling no anger and a ‘Get out of here’ and then you drive off? The old you would not have been so stoical, I thought. The old you would have shown some gravel!
I thought this rapidly and angrily for several blocks until the adrenaline peaked and I could not control feeling less angry. They all do it, riding recklessly, and it was bound to happen, I thought. If it wasn’t him, it would have been any other one of them. You’re alright and you can’t expect anything of them, I thought. They aren’t worth your anger. I thought it again and then I thought about what it meant to think it.
Doesn’t it mean to get angry that you expect the person to know better, I thought. That might be true, I thought, at least in some cases. Well, it feels true in this case, I decided. So, if you expect nothing of them, then what respect can you have for them? So, maybe to get angry is actually to show them some respect, I thought. But you expected nothing and so, when it happened, you felt nothing. There was no anger because there was no respect to injury.
It could be, I thought, or it could be something else entirely. If it is that, I decided, it is bad thinking and a very ugly thing. It was a prejudice I had discovered and, usually when I uncover a prejudice, I cannot rest until I grind it out. The realizing it – that it is bad thinking – is always enough because I expect myself to know better. Failing my expectations, I get very angry with myself and the anger compels me to grind it out. But now, as I rode from the accident and towards a meeting that would be about helping these same boys and girls that I discovered I did not respect right now, I realized that the bad thinking was still true for me in that moment and, it being true, I could not grind it out.