8:09 a.m. 4th Street west of Cherry, Long Beach, Feb 28th, 2023.
I am on the phone with my sister, driving to a coffee shop.
8:10 a.m. Cherry and 4th Street, Long Beach, Feb 28th.
I hear a man screaming in the intersection before I see him. I tell my sister “Oh shit, I have to go.”
I pull over; he has a Yamaha MT-03 on top of his left leg. His helmet visor is up. I make eye contact with him as I get out of my car and yell across traffic “Are you okay?”
“I can’t get my leg out!” He is scared.
I respond: “It’s okay, we will help you.” I look towards a woman and man who have stopped in the intersection with me. The man keeps traffic stopped; the woman looks to me, unsure what to do. I tell her to stand there and help me balance the bike when I get it up.
I lift the bike off of the rider, tilting it on its tires. There is no smell of gasoline or mechanical fluid. I see no blood. I am thankful.
I do not know if the rider’s leg is fractured. The woman holds the bike for a moment. I take it from her. The rider rises. I tell him “Take it slow, it’s okay.” When I turn around, the woman is gone.
I look into the rider’s eyes; his pupils are dilated. His sympathetic nervous system is fired up. I hope it is just that. “Let’s get your bike out of the way.”
The rider follows my lead, and we move the bike to the northwest corner of the intersection. For the first time I am conscious of its weight. I tell the rider “I think you need to get looked at, brother.” Traffic resumes.
He says: “Where should I go? I don’t know anywhere.” I look up, and scan a map of Long Beach in my head. “St. Mary’s is probably the best option right now…” I make eye contact with the man in the intersection. He nods and says “St. Mary’s, yeah.” as he gets back in his truck.
I look back to the rider. I ask if he feels like he can ride. “Yes, I can.” His speech is clear. He is not showing immediate signs of head injury. I am thankful.
I pull out my phone, and load a map to St. Mary’s. It is 1.3 miles away. It’s only two turns to get there.
“My name is Victor.” the man extends his hand.
“I’m Ian. It’s good to meet you, Victor.” I take his hand and shake it. I become conscious of Victor. He is probably in his mid-50’s. He is Latino, with white hair and beard. He’s shorter than me, maybe by half a head or a bit more.
I show Victor the map and explain it.
I look him in the eye and ask “Do you think you can manage that?”
“I think so.”
I do not think so. I look up, again.
“You know what, Victor? I will lead you there. You can ride?”
I pick up the duffel bag that was on his bike. I smile at Victor, consciously.
“I can take this, too. Let’s get you there ASAP.”
Victor looks me in the eye. His face is slightly flushed.
“Are you sure? Don’t you have to get to work?”
My brain grinds to a halt on the question. I snap myself back into the moment.
“Sure, eventually – but right now I am going to help someone who needs it. Let me get my car.”
“Okay, thanks Ian.”
I notice my sister is still on the phone as I run to my car.
“You’re still here?”
“I’m not leaving. Do you need me to get in contact with Mili?” She knows I am meeting someone this morning. Sister continues:
“Is she on Twitter?”
“Instagram.” My sister finds Mili and tells her I might be late.
I look to Victor. I give him a hopeful thumbs up. He returns it. I am thankful.
I lead Victor to the hospital.
We arrive at St. Mary’s. I overshoot the ER parking lot, Victor does not. I park in Lyft parking. My sister is still in my ears. I grab Victor’s duffel bag from my car and jog over to the ER entrance. He has just gotten himself inside. His helmet is off, and the triage nurse asks what’s happening. Victor looks to me; he is sweating. His pupils are slightly less dilated. He looks shaken.
I tell the nurse: “This is Victor. He just laid his bike down on 4th and Cherry. I led him here.” The nurse nods and starts getting Victor’s vitals. Victor asks me: “Ian, can I get your digits?” I nod, and look for a paper and pen.
I give him my number. He thanks me. He holds back tears. He stiffens himself: “I’m gonna be okay.”
I grab his hand. “I know you will be, Victor. But you call me when you know you’re okay, okay?”
He softens again. “Okay Ian. I will. You have to go?”
“I do. But you call me.”
“Okay, I will.”
I look at the nurse. He nods at me.
I am back at my car.
“I’m still here.” My sister has not left me.
I am silent as I drift into the parking lot. One thought screams; I share it.
“Don’t you have to go to work? What the ever-living fuck?”
Without hesitation, my sister responds: “No! I don’t! I have to do the right thing.”
I sigh. She and I talk until I get a call from a client.
I finish the first draft of my experience this morning.
While writing, it is clear: we have failed men terribly.
Why are an injured man’s first thoughts after having a fear-inducing peril remediated
“Am I inconveniencing this man who is helping me?” and “Am I getting in the way of his job? Of his worth?”
“Don’t you have to get to work?”
No, brother, I don’t.
What I need to do is tell your story. It won’t get the traction it deserves, because your troubles are politically inconvenient, socially invisible, and algorithmically hard to monetize against.
I believe you’ll be physically okay, today, Victor – but you deserve better. You and everyone like you deserves a chance at being okay beyond today, and not just when you need acute help.
If you’re a man reading this – know that you are worth care, no matter your job, no matter your standing, and no matter how little meaningful representation your struggles receive compared to others.
If you’re anyone reading this – know that we can do better – we must. To care for men does not mean to ignore the struggles of those who aren’t men; it just means to save some of your head, heart, and hands for men, specifically.
You don’t have to lift a motorcycle off of someone, you just need to do what you can.
I haven’t heard from Victor, yet. I call the St. Mary’s switchboard. They connect me to the Emergency Room. I tell them I brought in a man this morning after a motorcycle accident. I wanted to check on him. After a moment of searching, the operator found Victor’s record…
“He had a foot injury, right?”
“Yes, he did! That’s him.”
“Well… it looks like he left. We checked him for head trauma and he didn’t show signs of it. We had him set up to go to X-ray but when we went to take him back he was gone.”
“Well, damn. I tried.”
“You did! Thank you for that. That karma is gonna come back around!”
“Thanks, nurse. I appreciate it. Take care.”
“You too, sir. Bye bye.”