Flicking back the throttle, Percy’s front wheel lifts slightly, as the red light vanishes for green. Pure exhilaration from speedy acceleration fills my body with tingling delight as I race along Plenty Road, through the ever-expanding industrial area of NE Melbourne. Free from thought and obligation as I roar past countless mechanics and panel beaters, the ropes of my anxiety too slow to latch on.
I laugh triumphantly as I turn sharply onto the C746 and into the winding roads of King Lake National Park, those spiralling thoughts dematerialising on the wind.
Tall gums wave their arms over the road, shaking off their sharp, fresh scent. I bend into the curves, enjoying the shift through gears and accelerating out. The panels of flat, straight asphalt, in contrast with dense forests of Box Eucalypts and Stringybark, a canopy for the lush ferns and Banksia flourishing beneath. Breathing deeply, I speed up, enjoying the rush of wind past my face.
A black and yellow curving-arrow sign is noticed too late; I hit the curve too fast.
Electric fear zaps my chest, burning its way through my body and to the tips of my fingers, wrenching them from the throttle mid-corner as I try leaning tighter inwards.
The back wheel wobbles, the instant before I pull myself out of the turn. Muscles aching, tingles of shock race up my spine as I straighten and slow my pace, mind wavering, breathing stifled. Pushing open my visor, I gulp for oxygen, panting in and out, in and out. All I hear is my sister’s voice, as I shakily cruise through the onlooking eucalypts.
Still in her scrubs, tea in hand as she unwound after an intense night shift, I remember my sister saying, “Em, the paramedics pulled a guy into emergency last night; he’d come off his bike. His lungs were perforated, his leg broken, bleeding internally and we had no idea where from… it was hectic, but we stabilised him. I told him you ride too, on an older bike.
“He said they’re more dangerous… Em.” A frown.
“He was wearing all the right gear and wasn’t speeding! Em, he was hit by a car; the driver didn’t see him and pulled out in front of him.
“He went flying and it’s not certain if he’ll walk again. He’s lucky really, he didn’t hit his head harder and that he’s coherent so soon after.”
She looked at me, blue eyes full of a deep concern that hit me like a baseball to the stomach.
I’ve faced the most disapproval regarding my riding, from my sister, an Emergency Department Nurse at Footscray Hospital.
The stories she tells me after coming home from a particularly stressful shift are something to shock even the most hardened of people into a silence of horror and disbelief.
When I first told her I wanted to get my motorbike licence, I was bombarded with her words of disquiet: danger, risk, ABI, irreversible damage. I went ahead anyway and now get a weekly speech, usually a story about someone who came into ED.
Each time I bite back a little bit of fear, fear not for myself but for my sister, my mother, my father and my friends if anything were to happen to me.
I slow the bike’s pace, using its thrumming rhythm to calm my shaking and let myself breathe into that calm sphere of presence again.
Emily has her own website where, in her words: “I like to share my nonsensical ramblings with the world, or at least the thoughts I’ve managed to gather into something decipherable and maybe, hopefully, beautifully enjoyable.”