What happened next unfolded in slow motion. The bike bumped, the cover flew off the smoothie, the drink jettisoned up and spun around, spraying thick, iced juice on innocent bystanders. A chorus of "ooooh's" echoed and as the cup fell to the ground it splashed the remaining drink over my bike, my body, and the cement. I was thankfully wearing a hat and sunglasses and didn't have to meet anyone's angry eyes. A kind man ran to me with a wad of napkins. "These are for you," he said, but he kept half of them and crouched down to help me clean up the mess. "Thank you," I said in a low voice. We scrubbed like Cinderella and I grabbed a few more napkins to clean off my bike, my shoe, my sweats. I was dying of thirst but too humiliated to go back and ask for more. I hopped on my bike and rode off - Wicked Witch speed - to my apartment.
What did I learn from that? I asked as I peddled furiously. I could still feel the eyes watching, could still hear the collective gasp from the crowd. My shoulders and neck hunched in shame. I suddenly began to notice the other physical symptoms of shame as they played out in my body - the feeling of ants crawling behind my ears, a weight on my eyebrows, a flutter in my stomach. Ah ha! I thought, as I neared home. These are the feelings the character in my novel experiences on a daily basis - an hourly basis - every second of every day!
I am home now. Thirsty. 4-dollars poorer. But I am ready to dig in to my novel again and give it the shame layer it is currently missing. Wipeout as creative inspiration? You betcha.