I remember someone once described the experience of crashing a bike to a non-cyclist as something like, “imagine stripping down to your underwear, getting in your car, accelerating, then opening the door and jumping out.”
This Tuesday, during our morning workout, I dropped my chain mid-sprint at about 28mph. I lost my balance, went over the bars, landed on my back, felt my head swing back into the ground, then slid and rolled over. I ended up on my back. My helmet was cracked—they’re a one-time use kind of thing and awesome (thanks Lazer!). My front wheel was off my bike (weird), and I could feel my pulse through my entire body.
After the initial shock wore off, I took inventory. I didn’t lose time (good!) I can feel and move my arms and legs (good!) and my collarbone doesn’t feel broken (awesome!) So, I started cursing softly, thinking about how I should have fixed my front derailleur a few days ago.
My brother, James, and a few members of my team were there to help me up and over. With good people around to make jokes and take photos the whole thing was pretty chill. I ended up taking an ambulance to Roosevelt hospital after thirty minutes and a few failed attempts at walking. I ended up with road rash on my ass, hip, arms, leg, shoulder and back. None of which was near as painful as the soreness in my chest, shoulders, and neck. And none of the soreness or the road rash compared to the stoke of coming away without a single broken bone or frame.
I’ve crashed a decent amount—into cars , cab doors, other riders, on slick roads, and now because of dropped chains. I remember someone once saying, “it’s not if you crash, but when and how bad.”
At about 25th St, this crazy wind came out of nowhere. Another 10 blocks, and a 20ft wall of pollen rose out of a small park, and we turned our heads to keep from inhaling most of it. “What the hell?” I asked. Just a minute ago the air was so still we could feel the morning humidity hanging there, and now… this.
I love New York City between 5 and 6AM, it’s so quiet. The roads are empty, and you can ride down the middle of 1st Avenue without ever looking behind you. Street vendors are setting up for the day and the smell of bacon is surprisingly strong, hitting you ever few blocks. It’s a different New York, one that few New Yorkers get to experience often.
But the uncharacteristic calm and empty streets can turn on you like a bad trip. Like when 30mph gusts come out of nowhere and you think that this is what happens when a nuclear bomb is detonated a mile away—first wind, then you’re evaporated. I asked James to indulge my imagination and consider this possibility, but he politely refused. Either way, we took the 1st Avenue tunnel that morning and for a minute we were safe.
A young girl was reading what looked like a rapper’s crime novel. The book’s title ended in the letters, “II,” denoting its predecessors, and all in the same font of that 1998 Juvenile album cover, bejeweled.
Another girl, maybe 27 and definitely cute, was reading Chronicles of Narnia. She has a wreath sitting on her green tights.
Others have magazines and newspapers, a few catch their reflection in the window between stations. The rest stare into their phones moving tiny digital gems and candies around one another, or endlessly running, jumping, and ducking a smaller self towards no end.
Maybe it’s just loneliness in me, that inherent longing we have to be connected, but I feel love when I see them. Sitting their doing their thing, being people. In our silence, I feel like I know them in some way, and I am so happy they have interests and something to do in between here and there. So, without much to go on, I give them all vague personalities, and my favorites get back stories and conflict.
The guy now staring at his phone, while his thumb hovers, is deciding how to make his girlfriend’s day. He wants her to feel special. He wants her to be excited to see him, and he imagines himself lifting her up when he walks in the apartment later that night. In his imagined future, his girlfriend loses herself in him as her feet dangle above his shoelaces. But really, for two months now, he’s been walking in to an empty apartment. Standing there, in the moment before he turns on the light, he finds himself relieved. He guesses that he’s happy to avoid the inevitable fighting. After grabbing a snack and turning the TV on, he throws pieces of popcorn to the dog. During commercials, for forty-five seconds at a time, he thinks about what she might be doing, then throws popcorn at a waiting dog.
There’s a couple sitting close to one another. She’s 48 but looks older. The husband is turning 56 this weekend, and they’re back in New York to celebrate. Each of them have visited once before, separately, back when they were just teenagers. Now half a lifetime and a eye blink later, his hand is in his wife’s lap. She cups it with both of hers, looking terrified in a way that is almost calm. It’s a look worn into her face after decades of stress and worry, years spent imagining the worst and getting the expected. His hand sits there, neither of them thinking about it. The look and the hand, it’s who’ve they become together. They’re on their way downtown, to see Ellis Island and look up the great grandfathers and mothers who sat on a boat with cupped hands. They’re uncomfortable in this city, constantly looking at the map on the train’s wall behind them, second guessing navigation. But they are here, and when they leave the trip will be perfect. Their grown-up children will be comforted knowing their parents are in love and they’re busy. Back at home, the husband and wife will sit together while Al Rocker does a bit in Battery Park on their living room screen. An out of focus Statue of Liberty will stare into the camera from behind Al, while the husband puts his hand in her lap and slips his fingers between hers without a word.
A man in his early thirties, with an over-sized Letterman jacket on, plays a game on his phone that is too young for him, while a thin younger woman in a pencil skirt looks over his shoulder, her head tilted back out of his periphery. But he sees her, or doesn’t have to. The game is better shared, and he trusts her to watch. He dies, and in a second, she shrinks just a bit. The game restarts and she inches forward, almost forgetting her anonymity. I forfeit mine, smiling.
Roommates: Chelsea & Zach.
Love these dudes.