It sneaked up on me.
I thought I had it under control, and that it was just this really fun thing to do with my friends. Then I started doing it alone … and I liked it a lot.
But this past week, I went a couple days without it. I didn’t think it would be that hard. I was moving across town, so I was driving a car full of stuff instead of riding. I didn’t think a day or two without riding would really be that terrible. But when I woke Tuesday, a mere 48 hours after my last ride, I didn’t feel right. I tried to write, but my head felt like jell-o and my guts were all twisted. I drank several cups of coffee, but I just got more tired. I thought I was getting a fever, but I didn’t have a temperature. Nothing was appetizing, and my friends were starting to worry.
It’s nothing, I told them. It’s totally normal for me to lying on the hardwood floor, pushing my face into the floor boards, rambling on about the mind-centering power of juggling.
Of course, it was not entirely normal.
After we dropped off our last car load and moved our things in, I decided to take the bus back to pick up my bike, then ride it over. After all, I was probably going to need it for something important, right?
By the end of the bus ride, I was shaking.
I tried to read my copy of Real Change, but I kept seeing bikers ride by outside the window. I could practically smell their bar tape, feel the sweet Tri-Flow lubing the joints of their chains, hear the long hiss of a slow leak releasing the tension inside the tube.
Fuck it. I pulled the next stop cable one stop too soon and rushed out the back door. As soon as my sneakers hit the sidewalk, I started running. Out of my way, college kids, I’ve got two wheels waiting for me, and they ain’t rolled for days. I bounded across cross walks, yelling, Pedestrian right of way, pedestrian right of way, coming through, thank you! At the rate I was running, it was becoming absurd to try not to step on the cracks in the sidewalk. I was making absurd leaps, then stopping short, then talking small strides, then large. But it was taking too long, I had to give it up. I leaped forward with long running strides, stepping on whatever cracks were in the way. It was all about speed now. Nothing else matters. Must get there. The blocks went by much more quickly. Good thing there are no laws against jayrunning. The pungent smell of the oil change place hit my nostrils. Almost there. Keep running. There’s the alley. Leap over the speed bump, someone left the fence open, thank Jesus. Fish for the keys to the garage. Oh that’s hard to do while running. I’m here. Get the keys. Ah, they’re stuck to a stray thread inside my pocket. Remember to murder this pocket later. OK, got it, unlock the door.
Oh my god.
There it sat, just how I left it. An old oil stain swirled around its kickstand like a pedestal. A spider had already claimed the space behind the saddle, a spiral of web stretching down to the brakes. I ran my fingers along the bar tape, tracing its path around and around the drop bars. I squeezed the brake levers. Still firm response. I grabbed my helmet and put it on my head. Immediately, my headache faded away.
I picked up the bike and put the top bar over my shoulder. I carried it’s weight out the garage door into the blinding sunlight. I put my right foot into the stirrup. It grabbed my foot and squeezed. I took a deep breath and noticed that I was smiling. How long had I been smiling?
I pushed off and slid my left foot into place. I began to pedal. My heart raced. I felt a rush of euphoria as though my whole body were in the final stage of that pins and needles sensation you get after you wake one of your limbs from sleep.
I am a bicycle addict. I feel sick if I go without it. And you know what?
I don’t care.