Dr. Wendy Walsh: Thump. That was the only sound I heard. What followed was a horrific vision -- the body of a man tumbling on the pavement in front of my car, his motorcycle not far behind him. I screamed and slammed on the brakes. As I jumped out of the car to run to him, I ordered my 11-year-old to call 911.
It's every driver's worst nightmare -- a motorcyclist in our blind spot. That day had been a busy mom day of errands successfully accomplished despite the bickering kids in the car. I was driving my new Prius. Having just made the big lifestyle change from a succession of enormous SUV's, my blood curdles at the thought of how that day would have gone had I hit that man with an SUV. But the Prius, and its blind spot, was new to me, and as I moved into a left turn lane in a busy commercial area in Los Angeles, there it was. That sudden, terrifying thump.
When I reached the man, he had gotten to his hands and knees. He looked up at me and quietly said, "You didn't see me?" Clearly I hadn't -- and I felt like a fool, although I was thankful he was talking. Then my eyes began to take in more details of my victim as his hulking frame rose up from the pavement. The dude had to be 6'4", about 250 pounds, with tattoos covering every inch of visible arms. His ears, lips, and nose were dotted with gleaming piercings. His helmet had spikes shooting out from the crown, and the piece de resistance, a sticker on his bike that read, "I'm a Devil's Diciple [sic]. Don't f*** with me."
I was nervous, so I started talking -- going on and on about my 6-year-old who had been screaming in the back seat. I paused to take a breath and, hoping for some empathy from this man who might easily make my kids orphans, I asked, "Are you a parent?"
"Yah," he said, "I have four boys."
That's when I felt all the blood leave my legs. My knees started to buckle. Tears began their swell from behind my eyeballs. My thoughts raced, "I could have killed a father. I could have killed a father."
The man I hit is named Ramiro Tovar. At that moment, he must have seen my remorse and compassion, because his next words surprised me. He gestured to me and said, "Don't you start crying, or I'll start crying." That was it. Two total strangers realizing we have more in common than not -- the love for our children.
The next minutes were a whirlwind of sirens bringing police, ambulance, and firefighters -- all kind men who assured Ramiro and I that we were both very lucky. I looked at the undoubtedly expensive tattoos on his arms, now glistening pink with road rash. I kept asking him how he felt. He said he felt OK. The interesting thing about this man, is that his attitude reminded me of an old-school tough guy -- the kind you might see in an old gangster movie, still going strong after taking a bullet. Ramiro shook it off, sucked it up, and refused to go to the hospital. In a country where so many quickly sign up to play victim, this was a real M-A-N. So manly, that when he called his brother on his cell phone, he ordered him not to tell his wife, because he didn't want her to worry. This man had just had a terrifying accident and his big concern was to protect his wife. I was impressed.
After the police reports were made, Ramiro gave me a big bear hug and said, "Just fix my bike. That's all I care about." I squeezed his frame for a beat longer and whispered a most heartfelt apology. Little did I know that this man and I would be breaking bread three days later.
That evening, after I had made dinner for my (now somber) kids and was draining a large glass of red wine myself, my cell phone rang. It was Ramiro. His voice was low, almost a bit shy. He told me he was home and his wife had finished crying now. Then he gingerly asked me if she could cook dinner for me that coming Friday night. He said we could discuss how the repairs could be made on our vehicles and whether using my insurance was even necessary. I rushed to accept the invitation. I had a strange desire to see Ramiro again, to meet his lucky wife, and to connect as people. I think we both felt that our lives had crossed for some reason.
As soon as I accepted the invitation, pessimistic voices tried to derail my plan. Friends told me not to go. They warned me it could be dangerous. They told me to bring a guy with me. They told me not to bring my kids. I flirted with all these ideas, but in the end, I listened to my stomach and my girls, donned some pretty sundresses and proceeded up the 405 freeway to an apartment in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
The meal was delicious. I brought him a gift -- a DVD of the Academy Award-winning movie called "Crash." I met Lauren, his second wife, whom he met in Mississippi when he moved there after Hurricane Katrina to do some home rehabilitation work. She had been his bank teller and the site of a huge, Hispanic, biker was new in her part of the country. After some time convincing her family that Ramiro was a gentleman underneath the black leather, they married and moved back to Los Angeles. I learned about the Devil's Diciples, a 40-year-old motorcycle club that has national get-togethers with (you guessed it) beer, campfires and fights over women. I shared with them some facts about my life: being a Canadian, raising multi-racial kids in Los Angeles, and how I'd never met a real bike gang member before. We each made jokes about the stereotypes we had heard about each other. I laughed at the enormous bottle of hot sauce on the table. I told him it was the biggest bottle of "Mexican Ketchup" I'd ever seen. He told me he thought I might not show up for dinner. He was surprised I was so "nice."
It's been 10 days since the accident now. The insurance adjusters are doing their thing in slow, bureaucratic fashion. I've been speaking with Ramiro every day. He and Lauren have friended me on Facebook -- and now my news feed includes status reports about the Devil's Diciples. It surely adds a little color to all the other, more run-of-the-mill reports. I have invited them to spend a weekend at the beach with me (yes, really). I feel a deep connection to this man, this father, and this husband. And let me tell you ladies, when a guy who looks like Ramiro tells you that he'll always have your back, it feels really good. Don't mess with me world -- I've got a guardian angel in black leather!
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression.|