My usual ride is about 12 miles one-way, for the sake of getting back and forth to work. I have a nice view on the trip; the lake is to my left and soot-laden architecture of an old city to my right (I ignore the pre-fab condos). When the asphalt changes and I immerse myself in the morning Loop traffic, I feel a rhythm begin: right on Chicago, left on Clark, cross the river, right on Wacker. These are pre-programmed and I do not need to remember them. Ever.
I stop at Wacker and La Salle, grab a Camel and let flame touch tobacco. I watch the day unravel with a fury of blurred cars and pedestrians lost in concrete veins, traffic signals regulating this pulse all the time. I stare, wanting to see the meaning of it all, but only find myself looking beyond this mess, beyond the obvious and flashing to different times: my red Schwinn with ape-hangers and a metallic red banana seat (my Dad bought a top tube from the local shop to convert this bike from a “girl’s” to a “boy’s”) creeping down the Chagris River in Panama with 70lbs of death on my back, seeing my first son open his eyes for the first time on May 28th, and walking up to Holy Family Hospital having my Aunt tell me my Grandfather just died.
I shake this and flick the butt to the curb, my lighter in my pocket (I always double check). I catch a break in the light and swing through the intersection, now southbound on La Salle. After Lake, I am cutting a path through buildings. They are so goddamn tall they appear to fall away as I look up at them. It is dark and the sun is out.
My mind is waiting for Adams, so I let it do its job. Miss the green at Randolph. No hurry right now so I stop, half in the crosswalk. Waiting, thinking, and my rear wheel is pulled to the right. I guess my other half was too far in the crosswalk for one gentleman. I make sure he knows that I disapprove of this; I get the middle finger and a challenge. The bulldogs tense, I shudder but not out of fear. Words like rockets sail across the small portion of road between us, something about my mother. My eyes will not let go of this bastard, this morning stain. My bike falls away as I am drawn towards him. I stop, go back and grab my bike and continue my journey with this man. Inches separate us now; I count the hairs on his nose and can tell what he had for breakfast (black coffee and a donut - there’s powdered sugar in the cracks of his lips).
How many children do you have? Where are you going? What do you do? Are you happy? Do you know what the **** you just started?
This thread fogs over the anger, the volatile reaction this man has caused. 2 quick jabs and he’s mine. I can do this. Something tells me to. I am pulled from inquiry to violence so quickly now that I am becoming enraged at everything. **** him. **** anyone that thinks I am a speck on the road. **** you for not stopping. The world outside me has now become muffled.
An orange vest appears between us: “Honey, you need to get on your way. Better things to accomplish today. Don’t you agree?”
My face relaxes and I see the Chicago police car hovering kitty-corner, fully aware of my presence and what might have transpired.
“Yeah. Not worth it.” (Why the hell did I say that? Such a cop-out)
I turn away with my bike and from the distance hear, “It’s about time he moved.”
I look towards the speaker, another older man, and he catches my glance and replies, “You’re stupid AND ugly.”
I am not sure, but I think he was talking to me.