I’m on my bike.
I don’t want to be. Well, I do kind of. But not really.
I’m not in shape, and my husband has no concept of time or distance.
Well, he does, and I know he’ll turn back if I ask, but I also know he wants to share this time with me and that he has hopes of riding the rail trails again.
I’d rather walk. Snap pictures. I’ve tucked my camera in the phone pocket on my handlebars. But it’s too hard to stop and get off and go again.
So I keep pedaling. Up and down. Round and round.
“How did this thing get into seventh gear?” I yell at the speck far in front of me.
He stops and waits and reminds me how to downshift.
We go a short way on pavement, and then it’s gravel. Some oiled, some soft. I swerve back and forth to find an easy path, harder and smoother without so many chatter bumps. I decide I need an even bigger behind or padded bike pants.
I feel a catch and a pain in my left knee. The one where the wave took out my ACL. I lean my inner wrists on the handlebars and flex my fingers. My right hand, especially, tends to go numb. My thighs throb.
I focus on the gravel that crunches under my tires like Bubble Wrap.
And the wheels turn.
I’m determined not to give up. Determined not to whine.
We pass fields of alfalfa and corn and beans–where occasional volunteer corn soldiers stand guard. Two deer on my left turn out to be just brush formations. Something skitters in front of me. A mouse? What are those scattered field flowers? Yellow black-eyed Susans? Purple cornflowers? I’ll have to look those up later.
Sue’s horses graze in the field. I tease Dennis about the two of them being an item years ago. He insists they weren’t. Just part of the same “saddle club.” Her husband, and now her son, farm our land. I remind Dennis how Glenwood (yes, his name–a teacher and also member of that saddle club) told me I should be prepared to have horses all my life. And how that’s part of why I married him (Dennis.) And how we only had horses for about three or four years. And now I’m stuck with him. And he laughs.
Down the road, cows gather around the hay feeder. Dennis points out what used to be an old red one-room schoolhouse.
There’s a musty and then peppery scent on the air. I can’t decipher what it is. I do recognize the odor of manure. Smells good.
The humid breeze whistles through my helmet.
A giant blood orange hangs between heaven and horizon. And I ask it to stand still and wait until I can taste its deliciousness in my lens. But it spills its juice behind the trees, leaving only lavender and pink streaks.
And the wheels turn.
A deer, a real one, runs parallel with us and then veers off into the corn.
We turn left, back on pavement, and the small hill just before home, just before the finish, is ahead.
I’m getting cranky, and I start to whine.
My wheel slides off into soft sand. I catch myself as I start to fall, and I twist my back. So I walk the bike the rest of the way up, and I’m mad at myself that I’m grumpy. So I get back on and press on to the end as headlights pass us in the dusk. And black rubber turns earth brown, and a little lifeless yellow butterfly flop-flops on the front tire as the wheels turn.
From the archives and dusted.