The story I kept wishing for seemed so much better than the story I had that I finally decided to write about the wishing instead of the having, and with that I found my way into the real story. Or so it seems to me.
When I got on the bike, my body complained to me. It did not scream. It did not whine. It just communicated its various discombobulations: Hey, your right knee aches. Your glutes are sore. Your right wrist is not in pain but in a state such that you will be made aware the entire ride that you own a right wrist. Your lungs and heart have agreed to conspire to turn breathing at even the easiest pace into labor.
I said to my body, quoting Santayana, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
No I did not. I thought of that later. What I really did was, I started pedaling my bike around the parking lot to warm up a little. After awhile I thought of the quote, but I never even said it out loud. It would make a good story if I had.
Another thing I also had done for real besides to pedal around a parking lot was to pray for rain, so we wouldn’t have to race. I didn’t pray out loud, and I didn’t pray exactly to god, not the uppercase one anyway, but I had prayed in my head with actual words: Please oh please oh please rain.
It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it didn’t need to be: The weather radar all day long had shown a supercell of thunder and lightning and wind and climactic damnation set to descend upon this race course at exactly the time we were supposed to start.
In a year of hard weeks I was coming off one of my hardest, and I knew I needed to rest more than I needed to ride. But if there was going to be a race, I could not stand for some reason to miss it so I found myself desperately wanting to race a race I desperately hoped was not raced.
I was not embarrassed in any way by this. I shared my ambition to be unable to race with my friends as we spun around the parking lot. They understood, or said they did, or anyway didn’t say anything at all. Only the cyclists have seen the end of good sense.
After we did a lot of laps it was time for us to ride over to the course. We saw the last couple laps of the early race. The pack was blown apart. A swirling gale had come upon us, and blown clean through the race, and the riders we were watching barely understood a simple headwind. I envied them the experience, and I said so, and a bunch of guys sitting around on their bikes agreed, and we talked about how much fun it would be to race in this chaos, how crazy it would be, how great, and I took back my prayer but could not take back the weather radar and the storm wailed into us and the officials grabbed the lap card and all the other stuff and ran off and the race was cancelled.
My knee and my glutes and my right wrist, my lungs and my heart, especially my heart, they said to me that I should not have listened to them, or least not have answered their complaints with a prayer but, instead, with a sacrifice. I did not vow that I would the next time, but I should have because that, too, would have made a good story. Instead I just felt like something had blown clean through me, and what I did was all I could do, which was to pedal to my truck and take the front wheel off my bike and slide it into the cab and get in after it and sit in the front seat looking at the deluge washing down my windshield for longer than anyone might have a reason to.
Originally published in The Selection, July 27, 2012