With Your Last Heartbeat
They say that the heart was discovered thousands of years ago, and since then, the human being has given it many meanings. For Christians and Jews it meant the throne of God, for the Egyptians emotion and will, and for Chinese culture it represented the mind and intention. It is loaded with values such as tenderness, compassion, hope and, above all, love. That love that people learn to feel for others, which is so beautiful and pure, so warm and joyful. And it is precisely this same heart…
"Ah... five more minutes, please... mh? Heh?!" I said while opening my brown eyes in surprise while I stared at something over my light table.
… the one that was going to be the heart of my story.
"Oh! I'm going to be late!"
I was pushing the pedals of my bike as hard as I could, just a couple of minutes after my day started abruptly. The morning was beautiful and the weather was ideal, and in the warm morning sun I was speeding through the streets of the neighborhood. With my backpack on the back, my short summer clothes, my childish face and my yellow bicycle, I felt like a racing driver driving his supercar. And while leaving everyone behind as I cruised the streets, I couldn't stop thinking about the unbelievable bad luck I was having.
"I had to wake up at six in the morning to have breakfast, wash and fold my clothes, prepare everything and travel, but my cell phone ran out of battery!"
I remembered the panic I felt when I looked at the time on the digital clock in my room, still in a drowsy state, just to then discover that my phone would not respond at all.
"Now I have to arrive to college in… twenty minutes! Damn, on my first day."
To get to my new college, in the north of the city, I had to travel across more than fifty blocks from my neighborhood, which was at the other end. Being a meticulous person, I had checked my navigation app several times the previous days to find out how to get to my destination. I couldn't help but intermittently close my eyes and lament the situation.
"Normally it would take me half an hour to get there, so I had to leave my house a little while before, but…"
I shot a determined look ahead, which penetrated the road.
"I have calculated it. If I hurry up and I'm so lucky all the traffic lights are green, going this fast, I can be there in… twenty minutes!"
Thinking about it again reassured me. It was always comforting to feel strong.
"I still have a chance!"
As I let out this scream, I applied even more force to the metallic pedals and went through another section at high speed. After two streets flat out, I came to an intersection with a busy street.
"Let's go! I can't waste any sec-"
I was overjoyed when I saw that the traffic light was red. Instinctively, I looked to the right, sensed where the traffic was coming from. The first thing I saw, unmistakably, was a green and white bus going at full speed.
I applied the brakes of my wheel with full force, and thanks to the sudden change of speed, I was almost thrown forward over my bike. The rear wheel skidded to the left, opposite the way my handlebars had turned, as the bus honked its horn vigorously.
Luckily, and in a terrifying scenario, I braked just above the pedestrian lane and the bus passed about two meters away in front of me. I was still shaking a little due to the drag that almost sent me directly underneath that bus' front wheels.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" I yelled in vain at the driver.
I wasn't the kind of person who broke the rules, and I even felt a little guilty for having been in a borderline situation involving another person. In addition, I used to know some of the drivers on the green bus line, and possibly I would have been hit by a familiar driver, one of those who always said 'hello' and knew where you were going.
The traffic light quickly turned green. If it had happened ten seconds earlier, I would have saved myself a bad moment. I crossed the street, still shaking, but with the need to speed up again.
"Hey, watch out!" someone yelled at me from the left side of the block.
I turned my head to see who was talking to me so suddenly. Standing in the doorway of a small, old-fashioned store, a woman was waving her left arm, with which she was holding a bag. I immediately recognized her.
"Oh! Miss Irma!"
I veered off course to the left to go between the parked cars and get on the sidewalk right next to her. I stopped the bike parallel to her bakery and got out quickly.
"What did you just do? That was very dangerous! From this side it looked like you got hit by the bus! You gave me a good scare" she told me not with a scolding tone but with concern.
"Sorry about that. I'm running late for college! Say hello to Don Hugo for me!" I told her in reference to her husband, who also ran the business and with whom she had been married for many years, according to what she had told me. I quickly adjusted my backpack and tried to push myself to leave at full speed.
"Wait! I'll give you a croissant, they just came out of the oven" Doña Irma tried to hurry inside the store.
"Eehh? But, but…"
I hesitated at least three times between continuing on my way or waiting, but my inner spirit forced me to stay. It was nothing strange; she always gave me buns or something delicious when I passed by her shop. I was a regular buyer and several times I helped her with some heavy stuff that came in or delivering things with my bike, as did the whole neighborhood when they saw her for the last two or three decades. So, it wasn't weird that she wanted to give me one of her pastries for free. Rather, when I strayed in the first place, I already knew that I could receive one. I'm sorry punctuality, but a croissant is not denied to anyone.
After a few seconds, she came out with a cardboard-wrapped medialuna in her hands, a typical kind of croissant made in Argentina.
"Here you have!" She handed it to me.
"Thank you! See you later," I greeted her with an energetic smile.
"Don't do crazy things again!" She warned me while shaking her arm to greet me.
"I won't," I yelled to my back.
I put the croissant in my backpack and quickly headed out into the street. I couldn't eat while driving, and it's always nice to have something for recess, so I kept it between my books for the rest of the journey.
And so I was, on my bike. I'm Leonardo Soraire, but you can call me Leo. I'm a 18-year-old boy and a university student, or well, I will be starting to be one today. I have short brown hair, a bit short stature and a relatively athletic body. That day, I was wearing comfortable summer clothes and, at the moment, a big smile because of that beautiful yet rushed day.
I continued on my way just as quickly. Every once in a while, I ran into someone I knew, and knowing myself, I could not help myself but to talk to them.
"Hey Leo, good morning," say Carlos, the butcher.
"Hello, Carlos, sorry but I'm running late!," I said without slowing down.
"Alright, but did you see the match yesterday? The Burners won, it was amazing!"
And so I braked. Carlos was, like me and most of my neighbourhood, a Burners fan. The Burners were my local football team, and after many, many years of bad results, it seemed that we were starting to aspire for something glorious and going back to our original place among the big teams in the country. I'm sorry punctuality, but a croissant and a football talk are not denied to anyone.
"Have you seen it? We are now third on the leaderboard. If we keep going like this, we can probably enter some international competition for next year," I started enthusiastically talking to him.
"I hope so. It was 3-1, right? Finally we can win a match without suffering the last minutes"
"Yeah, even if the referee seemed to be against us..."
It was then when I realized I couldn't be doing such a timewasting thing. As soon as I remembered my goal, I climbed onto my bike again.
"Sorry, I'm late, I really can't talk now. See you next time!," I said goodbye as I quickly started riding my bike away.
"Okay, see you!," he waved my arm to say goodbye, too.
And so, after many disturbances, I could continue. I rode several more blocks through some narrow streets until I reached a crossroads with one of the main avenues. I quickly merged into traffic cautiously and continued along.
"Ah, it feels great!" I said when receiving mild wind in the face.
Deep down, I really enjoyed that. I loved going out on my bike and touring the city, and traveling like this to my place of study filled me with energy, despite the physical fatigue. I could be delayed, but the adrenaline of running against time was exciting for me.
A few blocks later, I saw how a large green space appeared on the right.
"The park, let's see..."
I quickly put together a mental map. I knew my neighborhood and most of the southern half of the city like the back of my hand. I had always had a good memory, which was very useful in these kind of situation.
"To get to my college, I have to go through the city to the northeast, so at some point I'll have to turn right. So, if I cut through the park, I'm going to be saving a lot of time" I thought.
I kept pedaling until my bike reached the corner of the park entrance. I turned my maneuver to the right and my bike crossed the iron gate swiftly, without hesitation and began to go through the first of the many park roads. Since it was early and on a weekday, there weren't many people. Rather, it was almost empty.
"Well, this should save me some time" I said as I vigorously pedaled.
Traveling in this way and with so few people around, despite the delay in the schedule, was a very enjoyable activity. You could relax feeling the wind on your face and the vertigo of speed. One of life's little pleasures.
The path entered a slightly steep but long descent among the great lake on it's center. The park, with many undulations and vast trees, fit in with the typical temperate vegetation of the area.
Thanks to the descent, I began to gain speed little by little. The trees were falling behind faster and faster, and my adrenaline rose. At the same time, the hope I had to get to my destination on time grew bigger and bigger. What followed was a small curve to the right, followed by an intersection that could be seen in the distance.
"If I take this intersection to the left, I will be able to leave the park without a problem. From there it's four blocks to the next avenue, I can go about eight more and then..."
While I was calculating how I should continue my journey, however, something was about to take me by surprise. It seemed to me that something was moving ahead.
I quickly focused my attention on what laid ahead. All the tranquility, all the calm and the sensation that I had been experiencing was about to vanish thanks to the bicycle that was approaching at great speed from the right.
"Oh! Watch out!" was the only thing I managed to scream.
I slammed on the brakes hard and the bike screeched loudly. I felt a sudden pull, but this time, contrary to what happened with the bus, I couldn't brake in time. Before I knew it, the other person was in front of me.
I felt a strong impact and was thrown forward. The only thing I remember from those moments is the sensation of being in the air, and then falling with all the weight of my body on the asphalt. I didn't feel terror, pain or despair. I was just freefalling into the road, shocked and confused. Who knew what was going to happen next...