What I Just Found Out
This morning, I was finishing the uptown leg of the bike loop around Central Park, delivered by that winding final curve. All downhill and green, green trees; right at the end there and up to 110th, you know the one.
I had decided to bike uptown because I’d noticed that my legs were barely working anymore, being withered and run down by disuse to the point where I almost couldn’t stand. I could stand, but only in a floppy and rather embarrassing way, like one of those breathless blown-up car salesmen you see on the side of a highway. I wanted to toughen my legs up. Getting on top of them was much like getting on a bicycle, actually; for me, both included the same precarity as I waited for my muscles to get serious. So I climbed onto a bike rather than walking because I figured there wasn’t much difference.
Also, my heart was broken. Believe me, I understand that term gets thrown around, but for now, I really do think it belongs here. I offer it clinically: the affliction was akin to that of my legs. In my chest lay a physical pain, an unnatural heaviness, as though someone had taken out all four of my heart’s chambers and replaced them with a single antique television. The television only played a droning static where once it might have played “The Andy Griffith Show”; its wires were frayed and splitting and sparked sometimes to cause me pesky electric hurts. Perhaps this was the cause of my wobbling knees, newly saddled with all that weight left over from the twentieth century.
They were feeling better, though, as I pumped them along, past the Met’s wide ass, now a playground, now two kids playing the saxophone. I let my legs rest as I mounted that final slide, and the wind inside my ears was gentle and violent at just the right turns, like waves. I felt strong again, less afraid of the air around me than normal. It blew incoming thoughts away from my head with its cacophony of smoke and flies.
And then I made a discovery. It hit me as I turned for a moment to look at a dog. I realized that if I rotated my head such that my cheek, as opposed to my eyes, was up front to receive the wind’s loving advances, all the watery noise in my ears would go slack, and the air would feel as still and quiet as if I weren’t moving at all. You should try this the next time you find yourself on a bicycle: identify a hill, go down it and then wait for the breeze to start lapping at you. Then turn your head to the side, your nose perpendicular to those oncoming gusts, and notice the strange silence.
It could be that I’m late to this understanding, that I’ve missed out on some rule about wind that everybody else is aware of. But as again and again I craned sideways and glanced at the Technicolor trees, who aired their show for millions daily but seemed to look only back at me, the total absence of sound was like a clearing of dust from my brain. There was clean, steady peace. To me, at least, it was new. For those moments when I grasped it, I almost didn’t miss the person who otherwise I would have recalled with such sadness, riding alongside me like a gear-spun butterfly one morning when it wasn’t hard to stand up. On a bicycle coasting downhill, you have the means to switch the din of the world off and on whenever you want to, and the trees will stand witness to your deafening relief. I just found that out today: now I know.