The little boy had to be 5 years old. Maybe 6.
He was clearly all excited about riding his ‘big boy’ bicycle. He had his helmet on, and a big ear-splitting grin on his face.
I remember seeing that grin – that helmet – as he went rocketing down his driveway and out into the road in front of me.
Missing my car by, oh, a foot. Maybe two.
I slammed on my brakes (easy to do – I was only going maybe 20 mph on SE Stark at the time). Watched as he made it to the other side of the road, so very proud of himself for going as fast as he was going. Without! Falling! Over!
And then I sat there, shaking uncontrollably for the next few minutes.
His mom? (Or so I presume, anyway.) Came trotting along – but she was a good 20-30 feet away. Started calling to him to stay where he was, up on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Flashed an apologetic grin or two at me, as I sat there in shock with my hands over my mouth.
(Did I mention that this wasn’t a quiet residential side street? Uh, no – Stark is one of several different east-west arteries through NE/SE Portland, in fact. There were all kinds of people on this road trying to get across town, and it was 5:30 pm – still rush hour.)
I finally thought to glance into my rear view mirror, to see that cars were lined up behind me (wondering what was up, I’m sure). Thought about pulling over to talk to the child’s mother – but I wasn’t yet in control enough of myself to have a rational conversation.
So – after making sure that the child was staying put – I inched off down the road towards my own house. Breathing deeply, trying to prevent the hysterical reaction I could feel bubbling beneath the surface, scanning every single side street, every single driveway.
What could I have said to her, anyway?
“Lady, I almost killed your kid. Where the FUCK were you?”
“At least he had a helmet on – but maybe you should have taken him to the sidewalk right across the street to practice riding (as opposed to the secluded 45-degree slanted driveway that serves only as an accelerant into traffic)?”
So instead, I went home and had a quiet nervous breakdown for 10 minutes.
24 hours later, I still shake every time I think about it.
I have the feeling I’ll have that reaction for the rest of my life.