Looking death in the eyes

Waking up that morning, he felt strange. Like he had the intuition that something will happen. He had that sensation before. Something was telling him that he should take it easy and slowly make his way to his next destination. He had in mind to stop in a few places on his way just for the sake of checking them out. He hoped to find some gems, wished the surf forecast was wrong… which is rarely the case, especially when it says FLAT.

It was sunny, warm and slightly windy, a normal morning of riding. La Carretera, El Litoral follows the coast and goes more inland by sections. It crosses multiple little villages where people sells goods, street food, and fruits. The road is bordered by little makeshift shacks made from crooked pieces of wood and scavenged roofing. Some are restaurants, some are stores and other houses maybe? The roads in Central America are really busy, they are not only used by cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks. They are also shared by pedestrians, horseman, ambulant vendors, tractors, horses carriages, livestock transit and cyclists. Basically, anything can be encounter on the road. One should be 100% aware of what’s going on at all time. It can get pretty hectic by moment. Lepirate already encountered so many close calls, nearly getting kicked by a donkey, locking both wheels before running into a horse, almost getting hit by a bus which passed him by the right while he was getting out of the highway… That cold sweat that goes down your spine, that feeling when you save the situation at the last second (close call) it’s almost a daily experience. There is no place for distraction when driving an overloaded bike at 100 km/h. Making your way around multiple fixes potholes and different kind of moving organism almost become an art or a dance.

Normally when he was trying to do some mileage, he was following the normal conduct of the other people on the road. Overtaking from the left and right, using the shoulder when needed, overtaking 3-4 cars at the time, pulling in between two semi-trailers at the last second to escape from the incoming traffic… His months of driving in unregulated roads changed his riding drastically. He became more and more reckless, making risky maneuvers sometimes for no real reason. But that morning, it was different, no mad driving, no crazy passing, no speeding. Just a slow progression to make the little 200 km that was separating him from La Libertad to El Cuco.

The easy going morning ride suddenly changed. A semi-trailer truck, which was coming from the South, 300 meters ahead, made an emergency stopping. It was now in the line of Lepirate (which was heading south). A huge cloud of gray smoke lifted from the skidding tires on the tarmac. There were one car and a motorcycle in front of him. Definitely, something happened, but he was still too far to see what exactly. The car and the other motorcycle had stopped so he used the shoulder to go see what happened. In front of the semi, a green bicycle with a metal delivery basket is laying on the side. As he got closer, the driver of the semi jumped out of the truck in a panic/shock motion. The driver was saying something that was sounding like a praise to all the gods. ‘’Fuck, someone got hit!’’ Lepirate thought. He switched to the incoming line to reach the back of the truck. Few meters pass the trailer, a man his laying on the ground. There is already a few people gathered around the victim. Without thinking any further, Lepirate parked his bike and took off his gear the fastest he could to assess the situation and offer his help. The witnesses were just looking at the guy, speechless and action less. None have started to assist the men, which look in pretty bad condition. He had one eye open, the other half shut. A small gash on his forehead and some blood coming from the back of his head. He had multiple severe road rashes and at the first look, his left leg was broken halfway down his shin.

Looking that no one is doing anything, Lepirate had to take the situation in hand. He evaluated the man vital signs. There was no pulse and no breathing. He immediately started the reanimation CPR procedure. He called out to a guy to hold the man’s head and asked a lady to call the ambulance. The man stayed put and offered no help, no one else did neither. The lady was also helpless, asking around the ambulance phone number which no one seem to know neither, so she went back to Lepirate:

The lady: ’’Qué es el numero de la ambulancia?’

Lepirate: ’’Es tu puto pais, no es mío, como puedo saber?!’’

After maybe few minutes, the man was taking some inconsistent breath. Maybe 2 per minute, but still no pulse. He was still not showing any sign of consciousness. On his breath, there was a mixture of rotten food and alcohol. Lepirate almost threw up at first, but got over it, thinking a life is depending on his help.

After maybe 5 minutes which seemed like an eternity, the men inconsistent breathing stopped altogether and there was still no pulse. Lepirate asked around again if anybody has called the ambulance. He concluded that no one did. He felt in a situation that he never wanted to end in. There was no point of him continuing to do the CPR if there was no ambulance already on the way. So he left the man and went to retrieve his cell phone on his bike to call an ambulance (911 actually work in most places in central America, even if you have no time on your SIM card). It took forever to have a clear answer to the where about he was on the highway. He asked the crowd around, but people was just clueless and was looking at Lepirate like he was from another planet. ''Kilometro trenta y ocho!'' a younger fellow finally said. He transmitted the info to the lady which he hoped was still holding to the other end of the line. He really felt like he was in a village of ignorant, clueless, useless, retards (When he calm down, he later realized that it was only a lack of education). At least, finally, the rescue was on his way.

He went back to the man, he felt impuissant facing the situation. The guy was most likely dead and there was nothing more he could’ve done. ‘’Who am I to judge that this man is dead and that it doesn’t worth keep on trying to reanimate him?’’ He is no doctor and has nothing more than a basic first aid course. Lepirate felt some deep guilt, not being able to do more and having to stop the reanimation maneuvers to call the ambulance. The man was showing absolutely no vital sign and his body was getting cold…

Lepirate sat a few meters aside from the scene, next to The Beast, like she can comfort him. He looked straight ahead in the nowhere. Passing cars were slowing down to pose eyes on the dead corpse laying on the steaming tarmac. This is inhuman he thought. So he went on to find something to cover the body at least. He asked in one of the little shacks/restaurants for a table cloth, which they refuse to give to him. In the street, a sheet with some food splattered around, probably the content from the basket the guy was carrying on his bicycle. A clueless dog was having a feast. Lepirate kicked him away to grab the sheet and shake off the rest of the food for the dog to resume his lunch. He then went and gently covered the body under the eyes of a dozen and more local witness looking at him. They were probably thinking: ‘’What the hell the white man is doing?’’

The crowd slowly thin out, having now nothing more than a covered body to look at. Lepirate went back to his bike and sat next to it again. The mom and probably the young sister of the victim arrived. They were crying and indistinctly saying things in Spanish. Lepirate felt more and more guilty that he couldn’t have done more. The mom lifted the sheet to pose her eyes on her dead son. She cried louder uncontrollably, people tried to comfort her then brought her away from the scene. Lepirate was still troubled and decided to wait till the cops or the ambulance show up to tell them what happen. While waiting, a foreigner from Australia arrived on a bicycle and came to sit next to him. He told Lepirate his name but it was of no importance at the moment. They had the usual small traveler talk. The Oz guy asked him if he’s all right. Lepirate said he was fine, at least he thought so.

Police took forever to arrive and even longer to look at the body. What if there was still something to do? The officer in charged of the scene went to interview the driver of the truck which was in serious shock. Lepirate went to see the officer to tell him about what happened and the whole status of the earlier injured and later dead man. The officer looked at Lepirate with such indifference. No fuck was given about his version of the fact. The officer was sending an impression on Lepirate. The feeling that the dead of the man was nothing and it’s no more than one less mouth to feed. Like if life down here have small to no importance. Frustrated by the situation, Lepirate decided to just leave, there was nothing more he could’ve done here. He gave farewell to the other fellow traveler and blast out of the scene.

His mind rambled in many phases of guilt, compassion, sadness and helplessness. He reviewed the whole scene over and over to see what more could he had done. Did he really try everything that he had in his power to attempt to save that unknown guy? The remoteness of the place, the slow time of reaction of the first witness, the lack of knowledge about basic reanimation… are all factors that cost that man’s life. He liked to think that the man died at the moment of the impact and his attempt of reanimation was the most he could’ve done. ‘’He already had no pulse before I assess him, everything I tried was already the best I could’ve done’’.

The rest of the ride went smoothly, just like nothing happened. Maybe it never happened? At least he would’ve preferred that nothing happened. Forever, he’ll have in memory the face of that nameless man and the feeling of his last breath on his hand. There is no soap that can wash it and no Ctrl+Alt+Del that can erase that bitter scene neither. The road is a beautifully threatening thing. A blink of an eye can lead you to your last breath. The road deserves to be treated with respect and in no matter to be rushed. She will unroll at her own rhythm, her passengers should be aware and listen to the signs she put on their way. Disregarding the signs can lead to fatal results. This is where the expression ‘’Go with the flow’’ take all his sense. Lepirate riding did get affected after that day, he downgraded a lot on the crazy maneuvers he was getting so used to do for the last few months. May this experience be his last one of the kind. He thought: ‘’ What if would’ve been only a few kilometres faster, what if I’m the one in such a critical situation?’’ Kind of thoughts you better not have and just deal with it if it happens… Still, he was grateful that he listened to his guts that morning. Nothing happens for no reason. Sometimes the Universe challenges you to see what you’re made of and prepare you for what’s next he has down the line for you.