On the day I turned twenty-six, just hours before my small celebration, I nearly died. This marks the second time I nearly died on my birthday. The other being the day I was born. I was premature and almost didn’t make it past the delivery room. I am very fortunate that the doctors knew what they were doing and were able to save my life. But on my twenty-sixth birthday, if not for one of the millions of speed bumps here in Guatemala my fortune might have changed. Speed bumps, or as they are called here tumilos, are actually illegal in Guatemala. But that doesn’t stop people from erecting them in front of their houses. Most small towns along the Pan American Highway have at least one tumilo for ever person living in the town (not kidding). Typically I curse these stupid speed bumps. But now I owe one my life.
It so happens that the tiny one way street I walk down every day on my way home from the gym only has two speed bumps, well one full one and one that’s been chiseled away by annoyed motorists. I’ve walked this street manny times, it’s almost second nature. So, on my birthday I was thinking more about being twenty-six and what that meant for my life than my walk home. It’s funny what a birthday can make you think about. Thoughts of future relationships and the desire to start a family drifted through my brain. A glimpse of my life as a writer floated in front of my eyes. Right now I am teaching in Guatemala, but at twenty-six is that where I want to be for another year? Can I find what I am looking for down here? Do I want to go back to school and could I do that while I’m living here? Just teaching was okay for twenty-five, but the passing of another year sure makes me wonder. So, I was deep in thought and rocking out to Snow Patrol when I decided to cross the street.
The traffic for the one-way street is supposed to come up the street towards the gym, the opposite direction I was walking, so I could watch the on coming traffic. As I was about to cross the street, a car turned up the street so I adjusted my pace accordingly and stepped off the sidewalk to cross before the car sped past me. Unfortunately here in Guatemala one way streets are really just a suggestion. Like flossing or changing your oil, no one really does it. I should have known that a car would be coming the wrong way on the one-way street. But I was to busy enjoying my birthday. So, I stepped out on the street and, Wham! Whack! However you describe being rammed into by a car and flung into the air. I landed on my feet a couple of yards away from the car. Instantly I started pointing with my index finger at the car, trying to help him realize that he was going the wrong way. Then like a spike being hammered into the train tracks I realized I’d just been blindsided by a car, on my birthday. Is this what I want out of my life? As I stood shaken next to the curb the car zoomed off and I was left to walk home with a sore knee, hip, and elbow.
Why didn’t the accident do more damage to me? Was my health my birthday present from God? The car had just crossed over the speed bump and started to speed back up when it nailed me. These speed bumps might not be legal, but I am sure thankful for the one that helped save my life. The rest of my birthday was great. And I am very thankful for all of the Birthday wishes I received. Here’s to turning twenty-six and having a shot at turning twenty-seven!