That last bit might seem like embellishment or the poet's license, rest assured those were my actual feelings as the events unfolded. I had known fear and some physical pain, but never this sort of debilitating panic. In the past when I would embark on some dangerous stunt it was always possible to calm myself down, hit kill-switch on brain and leap "into the breach". The breach before me appeared to be the gaping maw of hell and it was my fervent desire to simply back away from the queasy and clammy horror enveloping me. They talk of fight or flight, both escaped me while my limbs hardened as concrete and my head filled with helium. It was like the last few moments before anesthesia takes over as the orderlies are wheeling you down the hall to surgery. Consciousness fading fast under the purplish white fluorescent tubes, the sound of the gurney wheels on cold tile, swish of the nurse's scrubs striding alongside, masked faces looking at you, but not at you , stampeding heart, not wanting to be anywhere but home and not hurt, leaving this god-awful nightmare behind, but inevitably arriving at the two doors, masked figures turning to open them with their asses, elbows bent and latex hands aloft....brighter, harsher lights, more cloaked ghosts wielding sterile pain but speaking in a soothing tone that you can't trust.....a chemical sleep creeping in to steal the last vestiges of control over your world spinning off its axis.... artificial darkness that comes oozing in from the outer edges of sight....the red light at the end of the tunnel nothing more than swelling, pain, stitches and blood.....
I'd like to say it was courage that helped me take my next few steps, figuratively and literally. What a wonderful story, triumph of the human spirit over fear! How heartwarming a thing to describe vanquishing those demons of the unknown and setting sail on the seas of adventure! Bullshit. Nothing more than herd mentality moved me in those moments. As the juiced up morons hungry for blood sprang forward to leave the classroom and mount their fiery death steeds, I followed, caught up in their undertow, praying that my stooped shoulders and shuffling feet would not give away the ruse, that no one would ask, "Are you ok?". Void of free will, we eager lemmings waddled to the cliff to be thrown over en masse by Disney drones. I held breakfast down as I stood up, after all I couldn't sit there and ask someone to call my mom to come and get me.
Man and machine did make it on to the racetrack that day. We were slow and shaky, dragging toes and hard parts in all the wrong places. The walls used to corral the redneck wreckfest of Nascar loomed, begging to grind bone into powder, to feast on shattered dreams. By lunchtime the control rider assigned to me was frustrated at my lack of progress, and it was evident on his scowling visage. I was, apparently, having trouble understanding the two word phrase, "Follow me", much to his consternation. I tried, but as hard as I did, I could not keep up. I would blame my bike, but the control rider was going so slow Tiny Tim's powerchair could have kept up.
By sunset things must have improved somewhat, as I was granted a race school card that would enable me to purchase my race license, the next step toward fulfilling my promise.
Immense enjoyment came from being on the track that day, panic and fear melted into elation, despite realizing that I possessed no skill whatsoever. Sure I could make it go, stop and shift gears, but getting the damn thing around a corner in reasonable fashion eluded me. It was amazing to discover even though I had been riding motorcycles in the dirt and on the street for more than ten years, I truly had no clue how to really ride them. Watching the fast riders make it happen in true form was hypnotizing, the subtlety of movement, the preciseness, the ability to pitch something on its side at breakneck speed into a corner knowing you would come out the other side unscathed and on to the next, brilliant. A psychological gauntlet was thrown down, after all it was merely human beings doing these things, just men (and a few bad ass women) who breathed the same air as me and walked the same earth. It was offensive to think that they could do things I could not, called into question my intelligence, even my manhood. This was a thing to be studied, practiced and studied some more, an art that could never be fully mastered. A reason.
Shannonville Ontario, Canada