mad in pursuit memoir notebook
DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever
Whenever I jump on my bicycle I get a thrill of freedom. Its so simple.
It wasnt always simple for me. I was late to get the hang of it maybe 8. My brother (3 years younger) got his two-wheeler while I was still content with my oversized tricycle. I was shamed into figuring it out for myself, on his bike, when no one was around to see.
We lived in a quiet residential neighborhood in north St. Louis, where the sidewalks were broad and the blocks were big and square. Riding a bicycle around the block was an expedition for a child. I was just getting the knack of handling my brothers bike when I set off down the street one late afternoon before dinner. As I neared the corner, a women red hair and business clothes crossed my path.
I ran right into her. Knocked her down.
The details of the impact are lost I dont think I knew even then what really happened, although a crime scene analyst might find fault with both my steering and brake work. All I remember is that suddenly the woman was sprawled on the sidewalk, angry as hell. She screamed at me while she picked herself up and straightened her clothing. I must have mumbled my apologies.
Youre SORRY??!! Im sorry! Youre sorry! Were ALL SORRY! she screeched as she marched away.
Shaking, I continued with new caution around the big block. There I was, the pretty-near perfect (if athletically challenged) child, now a criminal. Not that I wasnt regularly capable of thumping my brother or teasing the cousin who lived upstairs, but this was BIG. I faced my parents over dinner with a newfound sense of guilt, opting for the cover-up. Why disillusion them about me?
Maybe slow-won skills bring the most joy. It wasnt long after the incident that I was given my cousins refurbished English racer, a very adult bike with three speeds. I was suddenly more liberated than any of my friends, who either didnt have bikes or, if they did, still had child bikes. I could go farther and faster than anyone. I could explore. This physical joy, this independence from motorized vehicles has colored my lifelong cycling experience much more than the trauma of knocking someone down maybe part of the joy is in gaining enough mastery to be in control and to know that I could ride 10 miles every day for a decade and never knock another red-haired woman on her ass.
July 23, 2000