Like most young men of my generation and geography; I grew up doing dangerous things and taking risks as a rite of passage. For some reason it was important to me and my ilk to push what’s reasonable to what’s outright dangerous and foolhardy to prove our manliness and bravery. Scars, bruises and broken bones were something to be proud of, badges of honour if you will.

By the time I was in my early 20’s I had dabbled in most of the standard risky sports and activities. I had leaped from an airplane that was not about to crash, I had tied rubber bands around my feet and jumped off platforms 100’s of feet in the air. I moved to the mountains of western Alberta so I could ski down slopes better suited to avalanches than skiers, then in the summer I rode by bicycle down similar slopes, I’d been flung out of boats into raging white water to be raked across rocks and branches and sucked under water until I nearly passed out and (presumably) drowned. After each blood-pumping experience I’d stand up, dust myself off and say “Let’s do that again.”

Then one day that all changed.

When I was 24 years old I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan for a few months. While travelling with some other Canadians I found myself in Hiroshima. Hiroshima if you have not been there is not what you would expect as the world’s first city of nuclear devastation. It is spectacularly beautiful, I was so lucky to be there in the spring when the cherry blossoms where in bloom. They literally (yes literally) carpeted the entire city, the grass, the roads, the pathways, even the rivers were covered in pink and white flower petals. Stunning, even to a 24 year old adrenaline junkie.

We took a ferry ride over to the small island of Mia Jima. When we got off the boat it was raining (more on that later) but undeterred we decided to rent bicycles to tour the mountain paths. Now, be advised, these were not “mountain bikes.” On no, these were the types of bikes you’d probably recognize from the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” They were red, with big ape hanger handlebars and whitewall tires… seriously. Helmets were not included in ¥800 fee.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a pretty accomplished cyclist in my day, so I took the lead and was the one encouraging my companions up the hills and ever further on the paths. After a while we found a beach to stop at and take a little rest. We took pictures, talked about what we were going to do that night etc etc. Then the rain started to pick up, what had once been a light drizzle had now stepped up to full on deluge. The kind of rain I always associate with that scene in Jurassic Park where Nedry is trying to smuggle the T-rex embryos in his barbasol can when he gets attacked by the spitting chicken dinosaurs. In just a few minutes we were all soaked to the skin; it was time to head back to town for Yaki Soba and tea to get warmed up and dried off.

As before; I lead our little exploring party on the bike path as we headed in. For some reason the rain had the effect on me that it drove me to ride faster, to take chances and attack curves at speeds that Pee Wee’s bike was simply not prepared to handle and before long I found myself in a predicament.

I had moved ahead of my friends to the point I was a curve or two ahead of them, I was accelerating down a hill toward a sharp left hand curve when I realized I was going way to fast to negotiate the turn. I tried the brakes but everything was soaked and slick and quicker than seemed reasonable I found myself off the path and into the sticks, a fraction of a second later my front tire struck something, a hole, a rock a log… hell it could have been a leprechaun I really couldn’t see much in the rain. Suddenly I was vaulted over the handlebars and into the air.

As I sailed through the air like something not meant to fly through the air I had one of those moments where time slows down and an eternity seems to pass in the blink of an eye, time both slows down and speeds up. It seems to me there is a word for that, but I don’t remember what it is, maybe I’ll google it later. As I flew I realized that I was about to die, in a few seconds my head was going to collide with a pointy rock, a fraction of a second after that Pee Wee’s bike was going to crash into me, and a few seconds after that my companions were going to come around the curve and find me lying in the mud with my head on backwards crumpled under this terrible bicycle. I imagined the entire scenario that was about to play out, first they’d try to help me, get me back on my feet, revive me and so on. Then when they realized how bad I was hurt one of them would have to rush to the nearest town (at least 20 minutes away), where they’d have to explain in a mix of broken English and Japanese that one of their friends was hurt. That would trigger the paramedics rushing out to the path where I lay (likely already cold and dead) and so on. There’d be all kinds of drama and panic as my lifeless body was hauled back to Hiroshima and then to Tokyo and I suppose eventually flown back to Canada. My travelling companions would be milling around waiting for help to arrive, trying to help me or whatever. In time the moment would be over and they’d go back to their lives, but their trip to Japan would forever be marked with the death of that guy from Saskatchewan who rode his bike into a rock. Someone would have to call my Mom and wake her up in the middle of the night to break the bad news, then Mom would wake up my Dad and the two of them would sit there and cry on the edge of their bed as the reality of their son dying alone and far from home in a muddy ditch sunk in.

I was embarrassed and furious with myself for making such a stupid mistake. It was humiliating to think of all the shit I was going to cause because I was riding too fast on a wet path.

A second or two later I found myself standing on the path; I was looking down at my bike. The front tire looked like a cookie that had a bite out of it, my head was spinning and when I reached up to my face I felt blood, mud, rain and probably some tears. I was calm, and in just enough pain to realize I was still alive.

Half a minute later my friends came around the path (much more slowly) and they helped me it together. I picked up my smashed bike and lugged that busted piece of shit all the way back to the ferry terminal. The sketchy old man at the rental place tried to fine me for the damage, but I played the “no Japanese” card and wandered away.

Over the next couple of days I surveyed the damage to my body. I had a few chipped teeth and a wicked cut across my face, my neck was stiff and store but in general I was mostly unscathed. About a month after the crash I realized that a tendon in my neck had “popped” it kind of feels like a frayed cord under my skin.

Today I can still touch that frayed cord of a tendon on the left side of my neck and it reminds me; slow down, it’s raining.

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This post was submitted by Marko.

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