I’ve always wanted to ride my bike through the golf course near my beach house. The paths are so flat and smoothly paved, and they invite me with their jet black expanse. From the road you can watch them wind around the fairway, up to the green, and then into the not-quite-a-woods-but-too-full-of-trees-to-be-a-screen-of-foliage. I’d ride with my helmet clasped securely under my chin, clasped a little too tightly, so it won’t fall off if I crash.
Because I might crash, even if I haven’t ridden into anything since last summer when I tried biking home from the supermarket with four two-liter bottles of seltzer dangling in plastic bags from the handlebars and I couldn’t turn the corner because it was too heavy to steer and I hit the street sign in front of all those people waiting for the bus and I felt like an idiot and had to walk the home, wheeling the bike next to me. Or maybe the brakes won’t work and I’ll fly over the handlebars like that time I was eight and smashed my front wheel against the U.S. mailbox on the corner right by the park.
I’d rather not hurt my head. Being unconscious would be like dying a mini death, and as much as I sometimes like the idea of not being alive anymore and hearing all of the things people would say about me once I was gone (because I’m selfish and want them to like me), dying would make me miss out of writing and listening and observing and it would make people like Cecelia and Audrey and Tal and Sadie and Clara and Lily and George and all the other people I think might possibly care about me upset, and I hate upsetting them, though I really do seem to screw up and upset them all the time. I hate myself for that.
Back to the biking on the path. I’d go past the trees and the next few holes and come out on the other side onto the road. I’d bike along the side, breathing in, holding it, and exhaling all to the count of three because biking in the street scares me.
I’d head south and onto the busy road. I’d go past all of those houses and boutiques that sell a million little fancy things that I never want to buy now that I’m older and don’t collect figurines to put on my dresser. I’d go past the place where you can buy swimming pools and sheds. I’d go past the bumper boats and remember the times I steered one of those little boats around the pool and kept pressing the spray button so that the water would spit out at my father and hit him in between the eyes. I’d gloat again at how I managed to slunk down in my seat enough so that the stream of water would go sailing over my head and get someone else wet. I’d go past the go-carts that smell like gasoline and reckless driving and think about that time when some idiot father let his son lean over from the passenger seat and steer the cart while he pressed the accelerator
to the floor and they smashed into me really hard and my cart slammed into the safety rail and the seatbelt hurt my neck.
And I’d head all the way to the grocery store parking lot before turning around and heading home. I’d head south again towards the water and home so that I could say hi to the harbor with its many boats and bushes that look like honeysuckle but taste like arugula when you try to eat them for the nectar. I’d make up some story in my head about what I was seeing that was full of run-on sentences and odd and incorrect grammar because it sounds best that way to me. But I’d never write it down. Those stories are strictly ephemeral and used only to interpret the world around me.
I’d ride down my street past those old ladies that walk down to the landing everyday even though one of them is over a hundred and the other one is 98. I’d think about how much I value lucidity and how scared I am of losing it. I love wrinkles and grey hair, but I never want to lose my thoughts and my mental speed. Whenever I’ve been given medication that does that to me, I worry that I’ll never be smart again. But it comes back after a week or so of not taking it.
I’d hop off of my bike onto our front lawn and start wheeling it down the driveway and complain about how close it is to our house that I can hardly fit next to my bike. I’d take the bike down the steep wooden steps into the basement, but I’d keep my helmet on. I know that one day I’ll fall and hit my head descending those stairs, and if it’s going to happen, I’d rather do it with a protected head. And once it’s propped up on its kickstand, I’d unclasp the helmet, rub the sore spot under my chin, and walk back up the stairs holding tightly onto the bannister. Back out on the grass, I’d turn around and lower each black metal basement door one at a time. And after the final metal bang, I’d turn around and walk into the house, my adventure complete.