My bike’s heavy aluminum. Not sleek, rather dinged, tires fully pumped and lock firmly around its middle tube. It’s heavy lifting to a bus’s bike-rack on tired days, and smooth on my arms on awake days. When it rains, the fat seat saturates itself and the disintegrating handle-rubber gets crumbly.
When I was in nursery school, I used to spend hours playing in the sandbox in the rain. The trick to not being made to stay inside to avoid getting a cold was to accept I was going to be wet, and continue to play (and to clench my teeth when teachers asked to see if I was chattering).
When heaven opened up the levee of the great river in the sky right over my Metro station yesterday, I called a friend to complain bitterly, and then sidled into the rain. It was cold and smacking at my skin, each drop an insult to my warmth. But by the time I reached my racked, rakish bike and mounted, I didn’t notice the soaked seat because my pants were through.
I biked out of the parking-lot singing “Darling, Won’t You Wait” to hold back the dark and cold, then “Cotton Picking”, “Tom Dooley”, and “Mountain Dew”. Normally I must share my path home with slow businessmen hauling out-sized briefcases, taking up half the sidewalk. But during the downpour I was alone in my exposure.
As I biked, I watched other travelers huddled in their warm, bright cars and buses. My isolation–and their rolled-up windows–granted me a special freedom: I could sing shrilly and brassily and loudly without shame. My classically-trained, pure, big voice turns heads and embarrasses me with attention when I only want to sing for company, not entertainment. Usually when I sing as I walk, run, or bike, I only use enough volume to play with small dynamics but not loud enough to wake the houses surrounding me. A few months away from lessons–where I can sing at my best and brightest–I start to seek out opportunities to express my voice fully.
This night of biking in the rain was my first truly alone in months. As the rain tapped my pumping knees, I belted, made ugly and clear sounds, for myself alone. At the top of the hill, at my little house, I slithered myself off my newly washed bike, and crouched to hoist it up the stairs.
It was as light as I’ve ever felt it.
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”–H.G. Wells