by D. C. Haddock
Some days, in the Spring and Summer, I decide to sit my rump upon a seat that is entirely too small for it and pedal down the road. The site is akin to that of Idol Rock, the immense boulder precariously balancing atop a much smaller one. However, glaciation and water erosion didn’t have anything to do with the strange-looking relationship between bike seat and buttocks; a few genes and a German heritage did. Just as Thoreau wanted to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” so too shall I embark on my miniature Odyssey with only my bike, my rump, and no expectations.
As I begin to roll along the path slowly, I witness the leaves up ahead blowing towards me with a sudden gust of wind, and I can see the energy rushing towards me like a tidal wave, and suddenly I am meeting the energy head on, and as it hits me it pushes the tears out of my eyes, and I know I have stepped over the threshold, gone through the portal, passed the Point of No Return. “If you love living a mystery as I do, alive is the place to be,” said Reg Saner in one of his more philosophical essays. The mystery of a few short hours lay ahead, and I shall experience each minute as though it were a droplet of water escaping between my fingers.
One of those minutes involved my passing of an elderly Hispanic man sitting alone on a bench with a little black dog at his side. It was actually only just a fraction of a minute, a couple seconds really, but as I approached and zoomed pass, I waved and said “Hello,” going so fast that I only needed to turn my head in his general direction and speak loudly, my voice cutting through the wind tunnel I was travelling through. His dog barked at me, and I took that to mean “Hello,” back. I imagined up a life as a mute for the man, with only a dog to communicate for him; what a marvelous, and terribly sad life that would be! To never be pressured to have to answer aloud a question that is asked of you, to be spared the embarrassment of stumbling through your sentences! If I were him, I would write long, beautiful letters to explain everything to everyone that I ever wanted them to know, without trouble or tribulation. Of course, that little dog was probably just barking because… it’s a dog.
I met with a second obstacle when three kids were pedaling towards me, each one spread out evenly along the path so as not to let me pass easily. They made no attempt to move to one side. Neither did I. Suddenly it became a game of Chicken, and I imagined what would happen if neither side gave in, all of us colliding into each other in a burst of confetti with a loud BANG! like a firecracker, four piñatas perfectly cracked open and leaking sweets and sparkles onto the hot afternoon pavement. I liked the idea of someone coming along and finding candy strewn about instead of a pitiful, gruesome site. I ended up dismounting and was relegated to walking on the grass around the little motley crew, like Pac-man avoiding ghosts in the most circuitous route possible. At the next street crossing, I stared down every car that passed by until they stopped, and I stomped across the road, my pride wounded by a pre-teen street gang.
Awaiting me before the wooden bridge was another man sitting on a bench, except this one was a little younger, had skin as dark as ebony, and teeth that reflected the sun into my eyes. I know this because as I speedily approached, he was staring at me full on and beaming like he was greeting an old friend, as if both of us had long expected to see each other just at that precise moment. I slowed to a lazy roll, and called “Hello!” and he said “Hello!” right back, his voice as sweet and smooth as honey rolling over the lip of a jar, a lilt of the tongue that made me feel like I was still a child sitting behind my old pond, my naked feet in the water, my toes mashing the slimy algae against the shallow bottom. And he plunged into a conversation about the weather, about the birds in the trees, about life, and held my head under the tepid, sun-touched pond water of nostalgia until I thought I could feel right at home in this warm, watery grave.
But I kept rolling along lazily, remembering the last bit of the journey ahead of me, knowing what I came for. His silver-tongue had lulled me like the sirens and nymphs of Homer’s writings, but my feet remembered how to keep pedaling. The way on from here would be nearly effortless. The last leg of the trip was deserted of people and street-crossings, the silver-tongued man far behind me, and I was surrounded by nothing but trees. They loomed over me like sentinels, only letting the sun shine through in patchy dissidence; and here is where I charged at warp speed. I was riding so hard and fast that the trees were nothing more than a tunnel of green, and I was cutting through the pavement like butter, sinking slowly into the earth until the worms became my only company and I could count each layer of strata.
And the next day, I supposed I would probably sit my rump upon a seat that will be entirely too small for it, and pedal down the road again.