You do irrational things when you hurt. For instance, when my husband left me I stopped cycling to work. In the beginning this was just common sense because I was, to say the least, distracted, and cycling in New York requires about as much attention to detail as manned space flight. The rules of the road are vague suggestions to most car drivers; running red lights and Speed Racer behavior is so prevalent you would think that they’re handing out prizes for it. And the fact that there are so many of us packed into a relatively small and badly-maintained space makes for crankiness all around.
But as the weeks went by and my mental state improved slightly I still did not get back on my bicycle, and here’s where the irrational part comes in. The woman who lifted my husband from beneath my unsuspecting nose is a cycling advocate—that is in fact how they met. So, in revenge for taking him, I thought. “I will get you back. You want more people cycling? Then I will stop doing something that keeps me in shape and gives me joy. So there. Take that! I bet you feel bad now!”
If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.
One Saturday my friend the Hungarian offered to take me out for a spin, to get back into the swing of things. He and his wife had rented a holiday cottage on Long Island that came with a couple of beach cruisers and I was staying with them for the weekend. He would act as my emotional training wheels, as it were.
Granted, cruising around a small village on the North Fork of is not exactly analogous to stepping into the asphalt asylum that is New York, but we’re talking the baby-est of baby steps.
While we rode I explained to him that getting on my bicycle felt like another victory for a woman who had already taken everything from me.
“It’s just a bicycle,” he said. “Don’t think about her. You’re riding, that’s all.”
I enjoyed the ride, but when I got home I didn’t take my bike out. Weeks went by and it sat in the hallway. I passed it every day on my way out to the subway. I briefly considered selling it—now that would really show her!
Then one day I got up. It was your average shitty soon-to-be-divorced day and I was shuffling through the usual range of emotions, loneliness, shock, anger, grief, despair; all the fun stuff. I had an errand to run in town–a computer fix–but it was hot and I didn’t feel like baking on the subway platform. I got out my bike pump and pumped up the tires. My bicycle—she is named Vanille—did not reproach me for all those months of neglect.
Sunday is a good day to get back in the saddle—it’s quieter and drivers are not actively trying to kill you. Or if they are, at least there’s fewer of them.
I took my computer into SoHo so that an infant could examine it and tell me it was too old to be of any further use. A wasted trip, essentially. Except that it wasn’t.
I rode home. Vanille is a Brompton, the Rolls Royce of folding bicycles, and she is a thrill to ride; nimble and fleet.
I rode hard up the Manhattan Bridge and gulped in one of the best views of the city—hazy and heat soaked. I cruised down the other side, enjoying going fast and being free.
It’s difficult not to be happy when you’re riding a Brompton. In fact, it’s quite easy to be joyful.
So joyful that I think I’ll do it again. Tomorrow.
It is, after all, just a bicycle.