// College. Fall semester, 1997. //
There is something in the air on the first day of a new semester. Everyone fresh and ready to tackle a new load of classes. A clean planner begging to be filled in with papers and tests. Freshman on bicycles at intersections. The usual.
That August morning I picked up my friend, Heather, on my way to campus. Over the summer, we both transferred to USF from UF and neither of us were quite familiar with the layout yet. Although our apartments were a good 20 minutes from campus we had, miraculously, arrived about 10 minutes early. I pulled into a parking spot near the building where Heather’s first class was and we started to chat. About 1 minute into our conversation we noticed a guy we knew sitting in his car a few spaces over. He was really odd and slightly creepy so we quickly reclined our seats all the way back and finished our conversation lying down. This is probably where karma started to plot revenge on me.
Carefully, we peeked up to check if “Ben” was gone. Yep. Coast was clear for Heather to get to class. My class, however, was in another building on the other side of campus. So I was making my way over to Modern Dance and Theory… Yes, this is a true story, folks. My hardworking and loving parents payed money – college tuition size money – for me to roll around on a floor and create animalistic shapes with my body while a man with a beard played the bongo drums.
As I am making my way across campus, I am stopped in the left turn lane at a red light. Because I am a cautious driver, I stopped on yellow – when I could have easily just hit the gas – which made me the first car in line at the light. I glanced at the clock. Yikes! Modern Dance and Theory starts in 2 minutes – hope I can make it in time. The arrow changes from red to green and I start accelerating, when out of the sky falls a young woman onto my windshield!
She turns and looks in at me. We both stare, saucer-eyed, at each other while time is standing still. I realize even though I am in the middle of the intersection I need to hit the breaks, because I now see her bicycle on the hood of my car. Her bike falls off in front of my car and she slightly slides down from the hood to the pavement.
I immediately roll down my window and start profusely apologizing. She hops back on her bike and starts riding as fast as she can. So I take the hint and start following her, yelling out my window, “Can I please drive you to your class? Let me buy you lunch. I am SO sorry! Are you sure you’re OK?” At this point she realizes I feel terrible and that this was all a silly mistake, so she turns to me compassionately and says, “LEAVE ME ALONE! GO AWAY AND STOP TALKING TO ME!”
But not really. Because I continue to follow, continuing my pleas and apologies. Until I see tiny tears rolling down her cheeks. Then I really take the hint.
It was really hard for me to focus on my 5,6,7,8’s in dance class. I could not stop thinking about how this sweet, young girl (I had convinced myself she was a freshman riding form the nearby dorm) was going to receive a call from her parents this evening asking how her first day of classes went and she would have to tell them that she was hit by a car. That her college career will forever be bookended by a green Nissan Sentra rolling into her and her blue bike as she was ambitiously trying to make her way to an 8:30am class.
I thought of her not along ago when I came close to hitting a runner in downtown Nashville…but that’s another story.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Do not cross intersections on foot or by bike when I am turning. I do not want to hurt you but I am afraid I will.