The white dashes become a solid blur. I hear nothing. With my helmet thrumming on the gas tank in time to the rousing chorus of four pistons howling, screaming to redline, sensory deprivation is complete. There is nothing else. Nothing else matters.
The brake markers appear too soon, flashing by on my right as I mentally prepare for the turn. Or do I? I certainly don’t remember ever preparing for a turn, mentally or otherwise. There is a brief moment of wonder as I begin to count the markers down, subconsciously. There is the sudden traffic to my left, at a standstill compared to the speed I and a few others are carrying into this decreasing apex right corkscrew of a turn.
I wonder at my speed. How fast, I think? 200 mph? Faster? Slower? It doesn’t matter, not at all. What matters at this moment is the bluffing game happening at the speed of thought in front of me. The slower, more novice riders are bailing, afraid or unable to maintain the speed required to pin the turn. No faith. Fearful.
This memory staggers me as I struggle to wake up. Two years into this battle with this disease and I feel the toll. Not very often, but more than before. My body won’t respond. My brain is screaming at me to just get up. I can hear my wife preparing breakfast and my two year old son repeating his morning demand for his daddy. “Daddy, daddy, daddy.” Over and over and over.
My arms begin to work, my brain takes over my body and I swing my feet to the floor. More or less upright, the next step now is to clear my head, get some feeling back in my extremities and rise. Sometimes this is immediate, requiring no thought. Sometimes, it takes a lot of thought.
The apex of the turn approaches, now right in my face. Right there. There is no escaping this. No wishing it away. This moment arrives as surely as breathing, as inevitable as death. Brake or die. Brake too soon and lose. If I flinch for only an instant, other riders will dive beneath me and take the apex. In the straightaway to follow, I will certainly lose my place with the front-runners. If I flinch.
If I don’t? Provided my tired motorcycle, in dire need of an engine rebuild and better tires holds up down the stretch, I will surely place second. Maybe third. I know better than to hope for first. The leader is a master. A true enigma. Only a devastating engine failure could harm his lead. At 200 mph, one second covers a lot of ground. Two thousand, nine hundred feet, give or take a foot or three. That’s a lot of linear earth to travel in one second.
My helmet thrums harder and I get ready for the inevitable reactions that will happen in the next few milliseconds. I have a choice. I can continue, throttle pinned, straight into the wall. Or, I can sit up straight, downshift three times as I grab the front brake lever with three fingers, maxing rpm’s for each shift, feathering the rear brake to avoid spinning out into the apex of the following sweeper, using my torso as a parachute of sorts, and stay in the race. The decision is inevitable.
I get to my feet, waiting for the vortex to stop spinning, and make my way across the bedroom into the bathroom, still stumbling a bit, pins and needles erupting all over my body as toxins begin to descend from healing muscle tissue, intestinal walls, and abdominal fluids into my circulatory system and finally mainlining into my brain stem. I wait for the cruel emotionless slap of memory loss, only a few seconds in duration, with my hand flat on the sink, my toothbrush, forgotten for the moment, drowning and softening in warm, then hot water. It passes. I’m upright. Ready for another day.
Twelve years earlier, with adrenaline slamming through my veins, I forgot the wall and pinned it all on a victory. Tired motor straining, I sat up straight and dove for the apex of the turn, picking off two more riders on my way to third place. There were no fiery crashes or moments of glory. Just me, on a worn open class race bike, with my thirtieth birthday around the corner, accepting that I was not quite good enough to beat the big dogs.
I did run with them though. As breakfast smells fill up the house and I face the small whirlwind of affection and temper of a not-quite-three little boy who looks like his Mom and acts like me, I realize that was enough. More than enough.
I’m blessed with another day.