The old truck’s alternator blew, and I sat in the cab in the school parking lot and sobbed. “I’m supposed to be tutoring children right now.” I wailed to my mother. She’s in Texas, but I’m still young enough to need her voice.
What is this? I thought, aggravated, later when I had gotten over myself, and the truck had been towed. I used to be so resilient. A truck explosion couldn’t make me cry.
After dusty kickball in the gravel diamond behind the school, four thirty arrived. My sister had brought me a car to drive home in, and I did, with the windows open to the long evening sun and the first warmth of March.
I didn’t know where I was going to bike, if not up the old telegraph road. Well, it used to be there; I used to bike it as a kid. A torn trail of rock, mud, and low branches that connected Rogers Point to Dyers Bay, it once tumbled out of the woods by the alpaca farm. I needed the adventure of finding it again, so I find deep mud, boulders, and pools of water as I scramble down the ruts left by ATVs. I roll my pant leg and smear chain grease on my one exposed calf. Most bike rides I stay on the road, calculate miles. Now it’s not about the miles I’m doing but what I’m doing for my soul.
Now everything is after 5.
The dogs on the Mogador road don’t see much action, so they bark and follow me for a bit before they determine that’s enough of an event for one day. The moss and moist overshadows the road so even though I’m climbing hills, it feels cold. They’re tapping maple trees in the forest and the trailers around here seem to crumble. There’s a way the world sags but still holds on. My bike seat is loose, so loose that it clinks and slides. I stop for a second to re-adjust it. I regret not bringing anything with me. A phone, for example. What if I get stranded out here… or maybe an Allen wrench. Why is my seat loose anyway? I probably should have checked that before I left the house, like you check a girth before a ride. Problem is I’ve been horseback riding my whole life but the bike thing is new.
I keep going with the hills and barrens, waning red from winter. There are men hovering around brush fires, so all I smell is smoke until I smell marshes, salt, and tide on both sides. This is where I end up, on a peninsula and the road keeps going, though the opposite direction is where I should head. It’s a half hour into this ride with fading sun. I have a sense for streets, so since I’ve turned this way, I’ve felt a need to turn around, the six mile way back out to Dyer Bay and then Route 1 and home. But against the need is the draw to find out where it goes. Down the hills, around the curves, worried only about the gray moment before night when drivers can’t see you. Entre le chien et le loup, my dad would always say. Curiosity killed the cat.
Finally, I turn around. The road takes me back to a world more diesel and pond, less ocean and wood smoke. There’s the farm where we used to buy eggs, shaggy horses in the yard and the sign that says it’s also a dog grooming place. Like the hairdresser down the street, it’s a house and a hand-painted seven digit phone number to call.
On Route 1, it’s hot unlike the cool of the forest roads. A child runs out screaming down his trailer steps down to the driveway’s end. “Stop it! Stop right there!” he hollers, so caught up in his game of cops and robbers he doesn’t realize he’s talking to a person and the person is me, going by on my bike. Here’s the part where I feel stronger than everyone, everywhere, somehow, because I don’t need Red Bull for wings and the ride has restored everything that needed restoring and the wings are there and I got them for free, the daylight well-spent.
On the dark side of golden hour after the sun has lost its promise, I pull my bike up to the barn, carry my bike seat inside with me, salt in the creases of my eyes from the wind. As if that was the only tears I’d felt that day. In me is the liberation of my own body. Who needs an engine? I’ve forgotten mine exploded. Only thinking, I’ll ride further next time, with more daylight and an Allen wrench.