We moved to Venice, CA, when we left the desert.
On our second day in our new city, I saw a woman on a bike in the middle lane of traffic. She was probably in her sixties. One pant leg rolled to reveal blue and white striped knee socks, her curly gray hair secured in two short pigtails and shoved under a helmet with stickers and an orange chin strap.
I don’t know if she was confident. We were in traffic, and I never spoke to her, but she looked confident holding her bike at the light and even more so navigating cars and making her way once the signal flipped. If a person could ride a bike in a busy city, they could do anything, I thought. No way they were broken or scared.
I decided on that day to buy a bike and teach myself to ride in LA traffic.
I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was eleven. It was a ten-speed burgundy. I guess I liked burgundy back then. More likely, the color was chosen for me. I didn’t ride much after the initial push. I don’t remember if I enjoyed riding a bike or not.
None of that mattered because I saw a woman in traffic. I wanted the determined look in her eyes. I wanted to be brave and different and unafraid. It would take time, but I would buy a bike and make myself like the glorious creature I’d created in my mind.
We’ve been in California for two years in July. I do not own a bike. I walk a lot more, but the bike never happened. I looked online. My head turned for a while when we passed bike shops. I’ve seen people riding bikes in traffic since, although I never saw the same woman again.
I could take this as a failure. Some might say I felt a spark that day and didn’t follow through. I didn’t have the discipline, others could argue. None of that is true.
I simply forgot who I was sitting in traffic that day. I forgot that I’m clumsy, rarely know where I’m going, and the only bike I’ve ever loved was one bolted to the ground in a spin class.
I didn’t want to ride a bike in LA traffic. I wanted to be someone other than myself. I wanted to know where I was going and how to get there. I wanted to be strong and unafraid.
That woman on her scratched white bike was unknowingly all of that for me that morning. She was nothing like me and everything I wanted to be just by showing up for her day.
I will never ride a bike in traffic. Heck, unless Michael and Maggie finally drag me onto one of those city bike tours they love so much, I may never ride a bike again.
That’s not defeatist. It’s reality. I didn’t want to ride a bike back then. I wanted to be inspired, wanted to be the strong mistress of my road.
We are all made for different things, and our power is not always a solitary venture. Sometimes we need to look around and watch how others are rolling up their pant leg, packing snacks, and weaving through the obstacles.
I hope I see Bicycle Woman again. I won’t thank her because that would be weird even for me, but I will silently celebrate us both instead of trying to squeeze myself into her helmet. It has been two years and I am stronger now. I hope she is too.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Dreams.