Cycling week 38
It was a patchy week of rides – stopping, starting, stopping – that ended with needing to have my bike bolt-cuttered off a fence. Thank you, nice man from Bicycle Junction!
Worked at home today, so there was no morning ride today; however there was a rushed lunchtime ride through town into a hard grey wind, eyes streaming, then back home up the hills.
At the moment up in Highbury there are a lot of blackbirds running around importantly, waiting till the last possible moment to take flight as you wheel towards them. What’s going on in the blackbird community?
This lunchtime ride felt more difficult than usual, and although it was partly because of the wind, and maybe because of my sagging fitness, it was also because of my tyres. I’ve been putting off pumping them up. It’ll only take a couple of minutes, but those are long minutes. Pumping up your tyres is like peeling garlic – it’s necessary, and there’s an element of satisfaction to it – everything will be improved if you do it – but it’s also fiddly and grimy. Let the tyres squish for one more day.
A no-ride day. Over the last week or so, I’ve softened (... like a tyre) and can’t handle cycling in rain.
Back on the horse. Slogged through the morning circus of Raroa, SUVs and little trucks blasting past. In terms of cold grey morning rides, this Wednesday ride raised the bar yet again – the coldest and greyest yet, like being slapped in the face by fishes the whole way.
Rode home at lunchtime to finish up my day, and this was a good ride, much quieter on the roads, blue sky bursting through now, and more reckless blackbirds on Mt Pleasant. Also saw a bunch of goldfinches.
Back off the horse!
I've been hemming and hawing about whether to write about last week, because it’s not cycling-related. In fact, I was walking when it happened – so, there’s another mark against walking as a mode of transport. But maybe I'll say something about it, because in some way it was about travelling (?) – just in a more flailing style than usual – and because it's the reason for all this stopping and starting.
None of last week's rides were good rides, and when I look at my notes about them it's clear that something wasn't right with my brain. 'Moon looks like horrible eyeball following me', 'Every driver seems to hate my guts', this sort of thing. I had been feeling too strange to enjoy my bike rides, and I wasn’t sleeping very well. I had an unhinged, paranoid feeling that was building into little ripples of panic. Thursday was a bad night – a sudden meltdown where I began punching myself in the face, which took me by surprise. I’d thought people punching themselves in the face was a sort of stock-image idea of a crazy person, not really a thing that happened, but there I was doing it. So on Friday I walked instead of cycled. As I walked, I started to feel that I wasn’t quite in control of myself. At one point I realised I was muttering ‘I can’t, I can’t,’ so I sat down on some steps. I knew I had to get a handle on the muttering – I couldn’t wander around in public like that. But then another part of my brain said, ‘...Or could I?’
I wasn’t able to get myself to care enough to stop the muttering, and I couldn’t just keep sitting on the steps, so I gathered myself up and kept walking and kept muttering. As I was walking down the hill next to the university there was a sharp, bright, decisive moment when I stopped muttering – it was as if my brain said, ‘The muttering is no longer enough’ – and started screaming. The phrase ‘screaming your head off’ is exactly right, because I felt like I no longer really had a head – I was all floating in bits. I saw my arm shooting out and throwing my phone hard onto the path, then my sunglasses followed, then both of the bags I was carrying. I seemed to be whirling around, and then I was clutching onto a sign or some other object, then I was leaning over a rail. I registered that there was a bus idling alongside, as if thinking about what to do, then it huffed and slid away. Another wave of panic came walloping through and I was bellowing again, like Ludo being set upon by goblins in Labyrinth. My vision seemed to have gone underwater – later I found that I’d either wiped my contact lenses out of my eyes or they had popped out on their own, like cartoon eyeballs on stalks – and then I was sitting somewhere trying to pull clumps of my hair out. I could blurrily see the feet of people standing around me and heard them asking if I was OK and they were returning all my things to me, including my broken phone. It was a blessing to have lost my lenses, because it would’ve felt even more mortifying to be able to see anyone’s face clearly.
For a few days I was too nervy and raw-brained to walk anywhere by myself, in case it happened again, and I still haven’t been able to wear the shirt I was wearing when it happened. The pants are also a problem. I now think of them as ‘the crazy pants’. But they are very useful pants for cycling, and I need to be able to wear them, so hopefully soon they'll lose their crazy charge.
The whole thing was scary and deeply embarrassing – to have a meltdown in public, like a massive baby, has always been one of my worst fears, even though I know that people have been melting down in public since the beginning of time, since before there was even a public to melt down in. I also worried knowing that I would have alarmed and even frightened many people who were just trying to go about their business. But what I found was that people were actually really kind about me going crazy. So it wasn't as terrible as it could've been.
In retrospect – after a psych appointment and an appointment with a GP who insisted that I practise smiling and that I might be somehow taking in the 'pheromones' of all the depressed people at the university – I confess that I also find it a bit funny.
The morning ride. Chilly air again, but a gold-blue sky. The Leg has been much less gripy this week and as I rode along I realised with a flood of relief that I was feeling pretty normal, bordering on cheery. 'Normal' really is one of the great experiences.
After work I zoomed into town for a poetry reading. I locked my bike to a fence and then after the poetry reading I couldn't find my bike lock key in my bag or any of my pockets. It was gone, lost to the night. I blame poetry. Nothing to do but leave my bike where it was, amateurishly leaving it with all its lights still clipped on, so of course when I came back in the morning some fucker had stripped it naked of the lights. I hadn't been able to find a spare bike lock key anywhere at home – I have about fifty other bike lock keys, none of them right, and why I've kept them I don’t know. So I went sheepishly into Bicycle Junction to ask for advice, and a nice man said he could help liberate my bike for me. After that, I bought a new lock. A new era of locking begins.
A silly ending to the week, but an ending.