Team Lizard Collectors is a pretty big outfit. It has about three hundred members, most of whom I’ve never met. There’s another contingent who I kind of know by sight but have never ridden with, or I’ve ridden with them briefly and talked to them briefly-er. Especially there’s a dude who sometimes shows up at Telo and rides around in a TLC jersey and a floppy black pair of shorts.
Last night I was at the Team Lizard Collectors Prayer Circle, which was being held in the Chapel of Beer at Strand Brewing Co. One of the dudes there was Floppy Black Shorts Dude. He was normally attired. As I nursed my craft water we started talking and exchanging the pleasantries that bike riders always do. “How’s the riding going?” “Got any carbon?” “Are we friends on the Stravver?” and etc.
It started out pretty normal but then took a hard left turn.
“I’m going pretty well,” he said. “Upgraded to Cat 4 and I’m pretty pleased with that.”
“You should be,” I said. “It’s hard to be that deranged and that old all at the same time.”
He laughed. “Well, I’ve come a long way.”
“We all have,” I agreed. “I came from Texas. I bet you haven’t come that far.”
He laughed good-naturedly. “Thirteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever come out of the ICU.”
“Really? What happened?”
“I was at work one day in my boss’s office and I felt something go pop in my head, then I felt kind of light headed, and then I sprawled across his desk, cleared it off like a broom, and collapsed on the floor.”
“Dang. I bet he was surprised. Most people just say, ‘Can I have a raise, sir?'”
“Right. I lay there and fortunately he was ex-military and in a few minutes EMS was there and the next thing I knew I was in the ICU.”
“Not the best ending to a Monday.”
“Or any day. Because I had something called an arteriovenous malformation, or an AVM.”
“I’m no doctor, but anything with ten syllables or more sounds real fuckin’ bad.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s basically a malformed network of blood vessels in the brain, and if it’s your unlucky day, a vessel breaks and you stroke out.”
“Dogdamn. I guess you lucked out then?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You didn’t have a stroke. I mean, you look fine and everything.”
“I totally stroked out. When I woke up I couldn’t move the left half of my body. The docs said I’d never walk again.”
“How long ago was this?”
“About thirteen years.”
“I said ‘fuck that’ to the prognosis and decided I’d come back, even if I had to learn everything over again, which is what I did. First day of rehab they put a ball in my hand and I couldn’t even move my fingers. It took hours and days, man, just to be able to close my fingers around a ball, and once that happened, I had to learn the other thing.”
“What other thing?”
“How to let it go.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“I’m not. It was like that with everything. Standing, walking, using the left half of my face to talk, every possible use of my fingers, arm, hand, leg, foot.”
“How long did it take?”
“But I saw you out at Telo the other day, hammering like a madman. You look great.”
“I’ll never be 100% on my left side. My ankle is all messed up and never really recovered, so I have a bit of a limp and can’t run anymore. But I don’t care. I can walk. I can ride. I got my life back.”
I looked at him for a second. He had this incredible smile on his face, the smile of someone who has been where you never have, and returned from it alive. Someone whose toughness and fortitude go out to the very limits of human endeavor. Someone who appreciates the simple act of breathing in and breathing out, the true gift.
“You know the best part?” he asked.
“What?” I said.
“I work for the government, so in order to really get up into higher management, some degree of significant brain damage is mandatory.”
“You know it!” he grinned.
After a few minutes the Prayer Circle started and we all began praying to the deity of Leibert. But Floppy Shorts Dude, I’m pretty sure, was praying to something else.
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