I didn’t cry when it happened. That came eleven days later. At the repair shop. An epic cycling crash over railroad tracks came at the end of an otherwise sunny ride with my friend, Jessie. I successfully hopped the first set of tracks, then tried to move left to get a better angle on the second set, but a car zoomed up next to me and I braked, losing the momentum to hop again. Like a witness in a police report, “it all happened so fast.” The front tire hooked and everything flew sideways. My hands went out, knee smacked down. I heard my helmet hit, felt the pavement under my shoulder. And then Jessie was standing over me, cars pulled to the side, another cyclist hopped off his bike to help.
Now, the bike was up on a hook, the mechanic frowning at the sagging chain, the wobble. I rubbed my thumb into the deep dent on the seat horn, which was facing a very wrong direction. It felt like anointing a dead thing. And then I cried. The mechanic kept tinkering, humming, knowing me well enough to keep his back to me so I could have my tears to myself. And then he muttered, “Almost done. Take this home and get back on it. Go for a ride. An easy one. Get back on it.”
The bike is whole again. Me, not so much. And I’m not talking about the soft tissue damage to both wrists, the huge purple bruises on my legs, or even the bone bruise on the lateral condyle of my right tibia. The physical parts will heal, thanks in part to the quick reaction of barflies coming to my aid. Jessie took care of the bike, while ziplock bags of ice were handed over, a bottle of Aleve was presented like a birthday cake, and a cold IPA delivered to ease my cursing.
I’d planned to write this story along the lines of “she got back on the horse that threw her.” A fist pump followed by some Deep Thoughts. But yeah, that hasn’t happened yet. Because I can’t quite make a fist and just typing this hurts. And in a bigger way, I’m quite paralyzed by the reality that the one thing I didn’t want to happen, happened. I fucked up and crashed. And that seed of doubt, that lack of belief in myself has always been there, it never left, even through all the glorious rides in sun and rain, on city streets, country roads, churning up hills and flying down the backside. I thought I could do something, but turns out I can’t. Now that seed of doubt has blossomed into a dense hedge I can’t quite see over.
So many times in my life I’ve had to decide whether to quit. Or keep going. When I landed in New York without a job or a place to live. When my marriage to Tim was on life support and we looked at each other, not with a lack of love, but a lack of will. When friends told me I should start my own business in a small, foggy town, leaving behind a steady job despite the not-so-steady paycheck.
What’s the magic dust that makes you decide not to quit? Is it as simple as weighing the pros and cons? Getting injured is not an option in my business. My body IS my work, so bike riding, or doing anything risky, is a huge con and impacts my bottom line. If I can’t move my body, Little Fish closes. And then there’s the fact that I’m a big baby and that I hate pain. I’ve never been one of those, “I have an incredibly high pain tolerance” kind of gals. Nope. I like cashmere, and head rubs and cupcakes – soft stuff.
Now, nearly two weeks later, when I close my eyes at night and that bike crash plays like a relentless loop, over and over and over in my head, what I notice is this…enough time has passed that I can press rewind and go farther back. To Elk City, cruising a sunny and winding road, past cows and rusty trucks, following the river and passing in and out of shades of light and over the first crunch of fall leaves. And there it is. That dumbass grin on my face.
It took six years before I thought marriage to the Ranger was a good idea and I agreed to accept his twisty tie (from a loaf of bread) and become a wife, again. I spent all that time fearing that if I gave it another shot, what happened the first time would happen the second time, bone dropping excruciating pain after a long, dry desert of loneliness. And then I got over myself. Of course, I will make more mistakes, in my marriage and on my bike. And I might just crash again. And while I know that on the list of pros and cons, a dumbass grin is, in the practical scheme of things, a pretty small pro, I know it will win out. Because happiness trumps fear. Just as soon as I have another nap.