Touch and Go

by Betsy Housten
Maybe you felt the crash splinter your bones like a hammer 
into drywall, saw a blind headlight scrape the maple tree 
before the Buick broke it. Maybe your hands braced against 
the seat back while your skull smashed the overhead light. 
Every summer my mother told me the story: June 6, 1964,
your blood on the ceiling, encephalitis on a doctor's tongue. 
Four years from seat belt laws. The year she turned fourteen, 
your smallest sister, crying in the ICU. Maybe you pictured 
the boys from the car while you wrestled the coma: Walker 
hanging out the window, Jimbo in the back next to you, 
Manara at the wheel, mouth warm with beer. Touch and go
said your nurse. Three days later, your pulse quit fighting.
December 10, 2017: a man turned his car into the bike lane 
without looking. I could not stop him, could only holler 
as he collided with my bicycle, then clatter to the asphalt 
elbow first, bones stacked by split-second instinct, helmet 
cracking on the tar. The road tore two layers of clothes, 
dug its bloody teeth into my arm. I wrenched my body up
as the man pulled over, traffic stopped on all sides of us,
the day holding its breath, and when I reached his window 
a fury shot from my throat: first my own terror, but then 
it kept going, roaring out of a deep place, an old place, 
ancestral marrow remembering how a young girl sobbed
in a hospital room before I was born, hoping against hope.