The other day I had a pretty bad bike accident. I was going really fast down a hill, on a street where I’ve ridden many times before. There were no people around, no cars. There was nothing to distract me, except my own thoughts. I was thinking about colors. I was feeling my power, and the glory of being alive.
I hit a curb and flipped to the right, landing on my right hand, shoulder, and knee. My helmet and head were intact. A kind woman living nearby helped me with hydrogen peroxide, water, bandaids, and a sit-down on her steps. Ned picked me up in the car, and it was over.
Except that it wasn’t. I became depressed for two days after that. I still lived my life, functioned fine, but I was sad. Even though I got right back on the bike the next day, it wasn’t fun.
It wasn’t fun because I was riding in the company of fear, and I was being very careful. I was trying to prove to myself that I could still do it all, eyes only on the road, head cleared of all color. I took another ride the next day, a brief one with my sister, her kids, and Benj, and it was slightly better, but I was still subdued and grayish. But because Laura makes me laugh so much, I felt a lot better at the end of the day.
So, today I had enough time and I rode all the way back to where I’d fallen. The familiar tingling pain of pumping pedals up hills bloomed in my muscles. Gradually I felt my body settle into my bike, with deep pleasure. I rode fast down the hill, just like the other day, and when I got there I spat on the ground. While riding back home, I found myself singing and psyched, pushing the pedals very hard and fast. I aimed for a low curb, and took it hard but in good control. I swerved in and out, on purpose, delighting in the return of my mastery.
I thought about how it is with this kind of high joy, that there has to be a kind of recklessness, a forgetting, in order to fly like that. Suddenly I thought about Nat, and my fears of going out in public with him, of being hurt by him, and lately, of him getting hurt — on a bike or anywhere else. The more he moves outward into the world, the more fear I feel, right there next to my pride, my celebration, my elation.
I found myself wishing I could experience that crazy wild fun joy with Nat — with my boys; what would that be like? Will I ever get to a point of utter blissful forgetfulness going out somewhere with Nat? I think so. It has already happened in tiny bursts, on bikes, in the waves, in my dreams. It’s gotta start somewhere. But, also, it occurs to me now that it may not be possible to, because they are my children, and I will never be reckless with them. I have to settle for the watchful kind of happiness, always in the company of the fear phantom, because balancing motherhappiness is just not the same as balancing on a bike.