Your life opens up. So THIS is what love is about! The more you learn about him, the more fascinating he becomes. You can see a future here. You travel together. You begin to record and write about your experiences. Then one day for no reason, he hits you - hard. You are in shock. What happened? You did nothing wrong. You hope this is a one-time event. You vow to be better. You tentatively recommit. Then out of the blue, he hits you again and the cycle repeats itself.
Did I say cycle?
Once again in Los Angeles over Christmas, I rent this beauty.
I'm running at a good clip, passing a fellow cyclist. The path is not congested, there are no sharp turns to be made. But there is by definition a fine, invisible sprinkling of sand. And before I know it, I hit the ground too fast to even brace myself. I hear the familiar and terrifying clattering of the bike. My head bounces off the pavement. I'm wearing a helmet, but when I sit up, I can't move my arm.
And here is the great difference between New York and California: in a twinkling, I am surrounded by 5 beef cakey lifeguards, the front line for EMT here, all focused on me with concern, and smiles that would light up a stadium. If only I could reach my phone! No one will believe I could ever attract babes of this caliber. It's the one highlight of my final escapade.
I will not take the reader through the painful ambulance ride, the drudgery of the ER, the x-rays, the scans showing a shattered humerus - and having to once again be taken care of by my long-suffering sister. My heart is too broken for that anyway. I know it's going to be 4 to 6 weeks. I know my riding days are coming to an ineluctable end.
And like any woman in a halfway house who looks back on her abusive relationship, I can no longer ignore those red flags. Bono. My late friend Jamie Johnson, who died on his bike. A woman in her twenties I heard about just a year ago, riding in a group with helmet, not particularly fast, who hit a pothole and went down at an odd angle. Paralyzed for life. Friend of a friend who spent 3 months in the hospital with a hip injury. Twice. The wife of my internist who will never walk again without a walker. Young still. My own orthopedist, former cyclist, who was so badly injured on a downhill in Europe that he was out of work for a year and a half. In short, every cyclist I know on one level or another. There may be people this never happens to. I am not one of them. The fact is, I love the bike, but the bike does not love me back. Not the way healthy people define love.
In my heart of hearts, I knew this day would come eventually. I just didn't think it would come so soon. And it’s jarring to be here so abruptly, having just recommitted to this blog.
I have no regrets. I wouldn't take back a moment of it. There is nothing like cycling: the exploration, the sense of adventure, the pure joy of being alive. The breathing of outdoor air, of real air. Discovering parts of New York, of Missouri, Ireland and France I would never otherwise have seen. Riding has made me healthy and strong - but not invincible. In the space of 3 years, I have had three injuries, and three lengthy recoveries. This does not bode well.
Many years ago, having suffered a romantic betrayal, I consulted a friend in a healthy marriage. I will never forget the question she asked me. “How can you love someone you don't trust?” And how long, I ask myself, before the betrayal has much worse consequences?
For the record, and before you even suggest it, spinning is not a viable alternative. That would be like giving up the Goth bad boy for the stamp collecting guy in high school who wears the pocket protector and whose idea of adventure is rearranging turtles for the class science project. This guy might one day make a good provider, but no woman in an abusive relationship is ever gonna trade her abuser for this. Love is still love.
I’m not ready to give back the ring. The thought of selling Lola, even worse Lucille, is more than I can bear right now. I will put those decisions off for another day.
For now I just need to heal, and think about how I can look for joy in other ways. Nothing will give me what cycling did. But somewhere out there is a healthier love.