I’d been sitting there just watching Nat practice, and I got that tickle, that itch, that thing that says to pay attention, but I didn’t know to what. I snapped a pic, far off, of her team practice, and later when I got home and looked at it I was struck by the sunset, and I wrote a few words, then when I sat down to do this piece the soccer pitch came back to me. I feel like I really got the end here, too, the way I’d hoped when I started those sentences out, which doesn’t happen too often.
This morning was the first ride in to work of the season that was cold enough for full-finger gloves, a jacket, a skullie, and at the office a few people complained. They said not yet. They said too cold too soon. They said could we believe it. They said they could not believe it. They said were we ready for it, and they said we were not ready for it.
I said, that, yeah, I guessed it had been cold.
I’d dug through my drawer this morning and gotten out the gloves I hadn’t worn since maybe April, and I’d put them on, and they had fit just like — just like the saying says they do. But it was not their measure that had felt so good to me. It was the fact of wearing them. I like riding in the change of seasons — the change part, the time between any two periods of the year that is neither one—and the one that we are heading into, autumn, is the time I like most of all for riding. I couldn’t wait to get out into the cold of the morning in my gloves and ride down the hill, and I had to get out there as soon I could because the temperature might spike this time of year.
A few nights before, I’d arrived early to pick the kid up from soccer. I sat sideways on a bleacher a little away and watched the sun set, and I could hear the coaches talking without hearing any of their words. I could smell grass, and dew, and socks, and softball mitts from the other field and the dust kicked up over there, too. My daughter and her friends were lying and sitting in the grass, or sitting on their soccer balls, and punching each other on the shoulder, and leaning against each other as they stood swaying a little. The treed horizon went orange, then pink.
My tubulars were a little low. I could have ridden them, but I took them to 80. There was a bottle in the cage that I have been refilling without a good rinse for about a month. I lifted it out and took a sip from the few that were left in it. I must have sweated onto the top tube last time I rode because there was a ghostly smear. I found a clean rag and wiped the metal clean, and out of habit while my hands were there I checked the rear brake cable for rust and wear and whatever else might be assaulting it. You check the pads, too, once you do that, and you might as well get to the front while you’re at it. I put my bike on the stand, not clamping it, just nosing the saddle on the open clamp, and ran through the shifting, and went ahead and cleaned and lubed the chain. I took another sip from the bottle.
On the way home the other night, after soccer, I’d said to the kid, “You only get so many long late summer nights like this. Seems like you’ll get them forever, so they won’t mean much to you when most of them are happening, but that is part of what makes them.” In response, she’d only told me how the middies had let the center go soft so the older girls they were scrimmaging against had scored, and I had nodded and said yes, damn, that was no good was it, next time, next time, my sweet girl. And I had been so happy for her for not caring at all about what I had said, for just living out the evening, and so it was that when I finally pulled my bike from the stand I had found enough things to do that all I was doing was pulling it from the stand to get on it and ride, and the first cold morning of the season would be lived instead of catalogued as it happened, and that’s how I did it, and I must among the people who had noticed the cold and asked me about it have seemed like a fool, like some kind of fanatic lost in what he had done and where he had ridden, some strange sad soul maybe so far gone that as he was walking away from them he must have been talking to his bike saying softly thank you sweet girl.
Originally published in The Selection, September 6, 2013