CBW bought me a bike for my birthday—assembly required. So now that he’s assembled it, I’ve been riding around Brooklyn, and getting it— sort of. And I’ve learned just how out of shape I really am. Geez.
I’ve always kept to doing a little something here and there so as not to get sloppy. But I’m not my 25-year-old self, or hell, even 30, anymore where I can go from zero to sixty with little effort. My thighs feel the burn at every hill I encounter. I’ve conquered the first one on my path to the park, but there’s another beastly one that’s getting the best of me. And it’s the one that I need to make it up to cap off my fourth mile and get out of Prospect Park.
I can’t ride all the way up the hill. Yes, I’m that sad-looking woman sweating plantation bullets and walking her bike up. I’ve been setting little markers to push myself further each time—the stoplight, the yield sign, and yesterday I made it past the sign and to some obscure tree before my legs said, "oh, hell no" and I got off to walk.
It is my sixth day riding. Last week, CBW and I were in the street at midnight when the constant flow of cars finally stalls and he was running behind me grasping the seat to re-teach me how to ride. That cliché people use “it’s like riding a bike” to convince people if they’ve done something once they can do it again with ease? Not entirely true. I hadn’t been on a bike in twenty years. And while it came back quickly enough, it wasn’t without a whole lot of effort and faith: Dear God, don’t let me bust my head wide open when CBW let’s go of this bike.
There were kids in the street tossing a football— it’s Brooklyn. Just go with it— and this little boy, about 8 or 9, is confused, watching me wobble back and forth up his street. He yells, “Miss, what’s wrong with you? You can’t ride a bike?” as I ride usteadily past. I inform him that I’ve forgotten how. He says, “All you have to do is pedal…. But you got to go a lot faster than that!”
So from that to this, journeying to the park, then around it, and riding in the street with cars now, I am quite proud of myself. Even if I can’t get up the hill… yet. I will make it bit by bit, just like how you eat an elephant. I’m making headway. I can see progress. God is not through with me yet.
But I guess that’s not good enough—at least for this random man and woman riding together up the hill yesterday. I’m off the bike by the time they encounter me, and I‘m huffing and puffing concentrating on getting one foot in front of the other. This man, shouts something, which took me a sec to figure that it was for me. The woman with him follows up (all nasty sounding), “He was trying to help!”
I say, in between a huff and puff, “Okay, thanks.” A clear brush off.
She shouts back, “Thanks but no thanks, huh?”
Now mind you, she is riding up this steep &^% hill. Why she is concentrating on me, I have no clue. Even seasoned riders, the real thin ones with the logo biking outfits and professional bikes, are focused going up this steep hill.
I give her a weak smile that says, “I heard you, move it along.”
But nooo! That’s still not enough. “If you learned to ask for help, you might get some,” she shouts.
This is not a conversation. I am ignoring her. She is talking. I am dying my way up this hill.
“Maybe if you asked for help, someone might help you! That’s how I learned,” she shouts again.
Well, @#$%ing great for you.
What I want to say, “Lady, I know there’s this perception that folks don’t ask for help because you know, everyone’s trying to be Superwoman or we think asking for help is a sign of weakness. But that’s not me, and with all due respect, I don’t want your $%#ing help. I met my goal for the day, and I’m all right with me. Janet."
Really, if you know a thing or two about being helpful, you know that often when people think they are being helpful, they’re really just butting in where they are not welcome. I find that people who really want help ask for it. And if they need it and don’t ask, they’re usually not in a place to receive whatever well-intentioned message you’re trying to deliver... like me, going up this hill. I got this and good day!
But I don't say all that. Every ounce of energy I got is getting me and the bike up the @#$% hill. So the lady keeps yapping, off in the distance now. I turn up “Bad Religion” in the one headphone in my ear, singing about an unrequited love I don't feel, but remember having felt all too well and zone out until I get the top of the damned hill.