"H" is for "Hit-and-Run."
This pivotal scene from REVIVAL: The Donald Braswell Story leads to the hit-and-run accident that changed Donald's life forever.
Cardiff, Wales. 1995
Like a siren, the Raleigh calls my name.
I need her, and she understands my needs. Swinging my right leg over the racer’s frame, I relish the simple challenge of clipping my bike shoes to the pedals without either foot touching the ground. Winning the balance test today, I push off and build speed, moving through the village side streets as I merge onto the main road to Cardiff. The bike’s a loaner, and I’m a loner. We’re both free, and it’s a great day.
|Donald Braswell (circa 1995)|
As a cool wind snakes its way through my jacket, I think about the Welsh National Opera’s production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and our upcoming final two performances. I’m thirty-two, healthy and my career has as much momentum as the bike beneath me. I perform Pinkerton—the lead tenor—to standing ovations. The possibilities—and the potential—power my adrenalin.
I press down on the pedals and a satisfying burst of speed rewards me. This is my time. I exit a traffic circle (roundabout the locals call it. Scary is a better word, what with everyone driving the wrong way) heading in the general direction of England and my goal, the city of Penzance in Cornwall, one hundred forty miles distant. I see a bridge with metal guardrails coming up. A white car appears in the distance. Back and forth, it gently weaves across the two-lane road, like the weight in a grandfather clock.
Wow, this guy must’ve started early this morning, or never stopped drinking from last night. My heart rate quickens as does my pace. Stop now? Fly across the bridge? Too slow to make a decision, the wheels bump over the metal edge and I’m on the bridge. I hate going backward in anything I do, so the escape route is the end of the bridge, about a hundred yards away. My athleticism moves the bike into “full speed ahead” mode. I’ll beat this drunk, maneuver the bike off to the side, watch him go by and offer a few choice words.
My heart pounds, but I control my breath. The car, a white sedan, is closer. How fast is he going? It shudders and straightens back into its own lane. Is he in control now? The end of the bridge is only fifty yards away. I exhale all the air in my lungs and push again, but with much less angst. I’m going to make it.
I clear the bridge with about twenty yards to spare. Leaning back on the Raleigh, I take a deep breath and look to the side for a good spot to stop. Too steep here. Little bit further? There. The grade’s not so steep. Whoa, is that a buried pipe? Watch the pipe! Where’s the car? I snap a look and see the sedan swerve again over the faded, white broken center line. He’s coming directly toward me. On instinct, I turn the front wheel, curse and brace for the head-on hit.
Seconds before impact, the driver’s eyes widen. Hasn’t he seen me this whole time? His arms turn the wheel. It’s something—enough to save my life—as it’s his side of the car and my bicycle that meet in a grossly unfair battle.
The show must go on, I repeat, repeat and repeat. The lights dim.
Fade to grey.
Tomorrow: "I" is for "Internet"