I am stained, between the ears. It’s a god-awful mess. There is ego everywhere and ego’s terrible counterweights, self-doubt, fear, and insecurity. It’s like someone’s made a smoothie out of my dysfunctions and spilled it on the shag carpet that lines my cerebral cortex. I’m irritable.
I put together a water bottle and stack my wallet and phone with it on the corner of the kitchen counter. This is how I get my act together. I make a pile of necessary objects. I go up the stairs into the bedroom and then the walk-in closet where I make another pile, liners, shorts, shirt. I put a full minute into debating sock choice. That’s where my head is at.
I get dressed.
Somehow, I manage to get my whole self and the various necessary objects into the car with the bike on the rack. I doublecheck the backseat to confirm shoes, gloves and helmet are there. Who hasn’t made that mistake? I take a moment to find some music, something really loud to keep the demons at bay. The demons are pretty hard to keep at bay, and anyway they like loud music.
It’s Friday, and on Friday I ride with Meghna who lives across the park. I drive over there and get her. She racks her bike and climbs in shotgun. We exchange how’s-it-goings. This particular day we’re both going to go with the abbreviated version, the polite and concise. The truth will come out later. There’s time.
The thing is, I’m hoping the ride is going to fix all this, that the stain between my ears is going to come out in the wash of swooping turns, relentless rocks and roots, the occasional well-ridden obstacle. I’m hoping the flow will come and wash me clean, and then I’ll be able to say, “I was in a bad place, but now I don’t even know why.”
Meghna is making the same gamble. We ride mostly in silence for a while, waiting for the magic to happen. You have let the washer do its thing. It fills. It agitates. It rinses and spins. Sometimes I’m such a mess that a single wash doesn’t do the trick, but normally, if I apply myself, pretreat with the last vestiges of my patience and some caffeine, then it works. I ride in one way and come out the other.
Meghna and I begin to talk as the ride progresses. Everything is starting to flow. Fun is gaining the upper hand over frustration. Stoke and hard-won fatigue crowd out the negativity. Back at the car, pulling off sweaty helmets, she says, “Good one,” matter-of-factly. “Yeah,” I agree. “Needed that.”