I came up yelping, wiping the blood from above my eye. A silver Mercedes skidded over in the gravel. I screamed out of pain. I cried. This fucker hit me out of nowhere. Me, I’m the one! Confusion punishment throbbing why? What answers? This dry earth in my bloody face. A man emerged from the Mercedes like a turtle. He pulled out a smoke.
I felt my rib, a tendon in my hand ballooned. People began surrounding us. A Kyrgyz man who spoke English said he saw everything. He went ahead and alerted my fellow cycling partners. I had to go to the hospital. I might have had brain damage. The perpetrator offered to take me and he agreed through the man who spoke English that he would take me to a bigger city, if need be, for my brain.
I went in his car to the local hospital. He was chain smoking and scattering through sentences in Kyrgz or Uzbek or Russian on his cell phone. I picked up “Amerikanski,” which he repeated in a nervous cadence. He turned to me and put a banana in my hand. I kept the camera rolling.
I was rushed in through the waiting room past several people with bandages. Women in chef hats led me down a dark hallway. They sat me up on a cold metal table and gripped my arm, as an older man, the doctor, poured alcohol over my wounds. I yelped in pain in a high register, and the doctor laughed. I held my iPhone with my good hand. He screamed “No!” I felt the nurses’ fingers. They painted my body with a blue substance to stop the bleeding.
My cycling comrade, an aspiring doctor, said they didn’t have a stethoscope and that if I passed out, he would have had to crack open my skull with a wrench. We wouldn’t know if my brain suffered from damage for some time. By then the man who hit me had escaped and dumped my belongings on the side of the road. He was gone. I got this information from my comrade minutes before two cars of policemen appeared at the hospital. One of the policemen with a big chubby face put me on the phone with someone in his office who explained in English that I had to come to the station immediately. I had the information, showed the police pictures of the guy who hit me, the car, and the license plate. They laughed at my cracked iPhone, which had flown a great distance. The chase was on.
I walked around the hospital grounds and breathed in my pain. I walked through a dark hallway full of people with bandages hunched over in lulls. I walked to the laundry room where a woman squeezed the sheets by hand, traces of red wringed out. I went to the cliffs overlooking the bridge, from the other side of the snaky river where I took the picture. The scene of the crime. Then finally the police got me to go to their station.
We walked through a gate into a terrace. Straight ahead were the barracks for officers. To the right, a potent smelling outhouse, and amidst the terrace, like statues in a garden, was a junkyard full of crashed cars. We waited around. I had to fill out some paperwork. The police insisted I did not take photos. I was getting hungry.
The gates began to rattle. In the back of a police car we see the man who hit me pulling in. The Mercedes followed. Everyone standing around identified my head wrapped in bandages with the shattered imprint on the windshield. I called my friends in Bishkek. They told me that I was a fool for letting the perpetrator out of my sight for a minute, that he was mine, that his car was mine, and that I should take his organs.
We spent the next 6 hours in the police station. The guy who hit me brought some candy and delicious Jalalabad spring water. Salty spring water. As an Uzbek living in Osh, he must have grown up on this stuff. He chain smoked cigarettes and low strolled around in his Adidas as we each took turns inside the police office. He looked down, but would glance at me across the terrace occasionally. By then I was sure my brain was not so damaged.
A translator sent by the friends in Bishkek showed up from Jalalabad and began to explain the situation. The police told me that if I wanted to leave I had to agree that my story would be that I fell—I was never hit. The police were afraid of the higher-ups in Bishkek. Outside in the terrace the translator told me how the police were speaking of the guy who hit me, the Uzbek. It did not bode well. What would I take for my broken bike and injuries? What punishment should fall on this man who hit me so recklessly? Who was I to decide?
The afternoon sun was beginning to wane. The police decided we had to revisit the scene of the crime for evidence so we all got inside of cars and drove back across the river to where the accident happened. When we arrived there, the police asked why we had removed the evidence. There was nothing to see except a few skid marks on the road and the patch of gravel I slid across. We walked back and forth. The police pretended to take measurements. The sun spread out over this high desert and soaked in sweat. Justice mired in this bureaucracy seemed further beyond our reach.
When we got back to the station, I stood across from the perpetrator. It was clear to me now that he, as an Uzbek, was going to get it much worse from the police than what he was going to have to give up to me. I doubled his initial offer of $200 for the damage to the bike wheel, signed the paper work with my left hand—like I was learning to write—took his cash, and we got into hired cars. He paid me $40 more than we agreed on. I may have caught a smirk on his face, or perhaps he was doing so to show the police that he was sorry.
With the drivers chain smoking the last pack of Marlboro Reds my comrades brought, we dove through these great mountains with only a short stop in the middle of the night for a plate of mutton. Back in Bishkek twelve hours later, I shuffled through the dark corridors more hospitals. The echoes of wounded and sick people in various states of disillusion filled the endless hallways. After finding the right person to pay, we were admitted into a room with windows. I was able to receive a sketchy head inspection by a tall man with hairy ears who confirmed that my skull was still round.
END OF PART II