The Bicycle Trip

I have fallen off my bike, scraping my whole leg raw.

 

I try to tend it myself,

sneaking past the living room where the encyclopedia salesman is entertaining my parents,

gritting my teeth while picking out the gravel.

 

I can’t reach the top shelf with the bandages and medicine.

 

I stand by the living room,

balancing on my good leg,

waiting with silent tears.

 

Sensing something, the salesman turns,

taking in the scrapes and my tearstained face,

leaps up,

exclaiming his surprise,

turning to them,

clearly expecting them to do something.

 

Only then

my mother rises,

brushes past me,

returning to hand me the bandage box

in dismissal.

 

The salesman,

still shocked,

is saying how his daughter,

(about my age)

would be screaming.

 

Hearing him with the box still in her hand,

my mother realizes

this is now about

her.

 

So she kneels and pours Bactine

directly onto my wounds, and

applies bandages in quick, sharp movements,

radiating displeasure

while seeming to do the nurturing thing.

 

But the salesman,

actually worried about me,

stays by my side.

 

I find him fascinating;

watch him say soothing things,

while my leg is assaulted anew,

wondering what it would be like

to be

his daughter.

 

Finished, my mother stands abruptly

and I feel her relief until the salesman says,

“Now for a cup of cocoa!

We always give my daughter cocoa when she’s done something special and

you have been so courageous.”

 

Momentarily flummoxed

because she had no intention of spending another moment

on me,

my mother heads dutifully to the kitchen.

 

The salesman sits me down on his footstool,

chatting brightly about my bravery,

my bike and

how the accident happened

while the milk and my mother heat up in the kitchen.

 

I participate politely,

curious if this is how it is

in other people’s homes.

 

My father, having never moved from the sofa,

is trying to draw the salesman away from me,

back to the encyclopedias

(which he has no intention of buying because “that’s what libraries are for”).

 

I feel his displeasure from across the room

because this is going to make it harder

for him

to reject the salesman’s pitch.

 

But I am protected by the salesman, for the moment,

and talk shyly until the cocoa arrives.

 

I thank him most sincerely,

for more

than he will ever know,

and escape to my bedroom.

 

There, I sip the warm, chocolate-y goodness,

aglow in the salesman’s attention,

which almost compensates for my stinging leg, and

the shadow of what will happen when he leaves.