“Did you lose consciousness?” asked the ER nurse. “I don’t think so,” I shakily replied. My eyes darted between the nurse and my wife, hoping that neither one would detect the lack of conviction in my answer. Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. I knew my name, what day it was, and that I had crashed while riding my bicycle. I was in pain, but I could stand and walk on my own. The nurse cleaned and bandaged my road rash, and the doctor sent me home with a prescription for pain killers.
I spent much of my convalescence attempting to piece together what had happened on that Sunday afternoon. While I was able to remember bits and pieces, there were gaps that I simply couldn’t recall. During this same period, I began experiencing difficulties concentrating and performing familiar tasks. It was as if I knew what to do, but I’d forgotten how to do it. My overall emotional state also changed–I became easily frustrated, and would undergo extreme mood swings. Because I hadn’t yet been given the all-clear to resume riding, I attributed the problems to cabin fever.
When I did resume riding, my reflexes were dull, and I lacked confidence (as well as spatial awareness). Once-familiar trails felt completely foreign, and I avoided the site of my crash for several weeks. As time passed, my road rash faded, and I became stronger and more confident. Along with the physiological recovery came mental and cognitive improvements. Try as I might, however, I was still unable to remember specific details about the crash. The most significant one being the crash itself–I have absolutely no memory of actually crashing. It’s as if that moment in time has been completely erased from my memory.
One year later, the only physical reminders of the crash are the scratches on my 29er’s handlebars. The damaged helmet has long since been replaced, and bowing to superstition, I discarded the tires I was riding. While a small part of me would like to know exactly what happened on that particular Sunday afternoon, it’s probably better that some of the details remain forgotten.
Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument. The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or even increase by incorporating extraneous features. — Primo Levi