The boyfriend is outside mending my bike. His hands are black with grease; his white shorts will never be white again. It’s steady work, a mechanical hands-on fixing job. He holds the bike like the Italian chef tosses pizza dough.
The wire that goes from the handle bars to the gears is catching. I knew the bike wasn’t changing through the gears well. I didn’t know why, but he did. He knew how to fix it.
But I shouldn’t let him just get on and mend it, even if it is what he’d prefer. It’s my bike. I should take the time to learn, the time to really know how my bicycle, which I depend on, works.
Or maybe I shouldn’t. There are lots of things I’d like to be able to do. I’d love to play the violin. Of course the phrase of note is ‘to be able to’. On occasion I amuse myself by picking up the Midget’s violin. I’ll even play at it for a while, or at least until there’s discomfort in my fingertips. I enjoy it, but I don’t love it. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, I must get my hands on a violin. It’s the romantic notion of being able to play that calls to me. I’m no violinist, I’m no bicycle expert.
Why cycle at all?
Cycling is addictive. Starting out might be hell. In the early morning, when it’s bitterly cold and not quite light, why would I want to get out of bed and exhaust myself trying, and failing, to get up the hills. But when I’m on the road, when it’s quiet and there’s nothing but the smooth repetitive motion of my legs – feet clipped in moving as one with the bicycle – my mind can float, half focused on the road, and relax.
This is different to running. When I run I’m more attentive to how my feet strike the ground. When I run, it rarely feels smooth, and at a slower pace my mind is more aggressive. It has problems to solve and it’s going to make them known.
I have no great aims of being ‘a cyclist’. My challenge is to climb one specific hill. And, more importantly, to be healthy enough to keep my fitness from being a barrier. I cycle for the sake of my poor body, which spends its days slouched in an office chair craving motion like a coiled spring. I cycle because it makes me feel free.
My bike, my responsibility?
Mending the bike is my responsibility. It’s my bike and me who uses it.
I can either leave the boyfriend out in the sunshine, where he’s content tending to my bike, or I could go get in the way. I could go take responsibility for my own belongings, or I could accept that I have my own abilities and my own contributions to make.
He looks content in the garden. His mind is focused on the task at hand, and I know he wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t want to. If he felt I should be out there, if he felt I should be the one with greasy hands he’d say so, wouldn’t he?[Yes, this lived in a drafts folder for far too long.]