I was biking home over the bridge tonight, as I am WONT, and first, I had this amazing revelation. On the first hill up, about halfway through, I was feeling really tired and was like, fuck it yall I’m going into an easier gear.” I have never done this on this hill before. It seems like an act of weakness. But today, 9 months into this game, I relented. And it was revelatory! I just enjoyed riding up this hill, the sun setting, the wind blowing, me alone on my way home, thinking about whatever I wanted. People passed me on my left and right. I saw their shadows getting closer and would move out of their way. I didn’t care. I was enjoying myself. Why some people passed me on the right when I was on the very right-hand side of the bike lane, which they had to veer all the way into the WALKING lane (something I’d never be able to do, for fear of “getting in trouble”) to get around, I don’t know. Perhaps this transgression thrilled them. I marveled at their calf muscles. I kept gliding along.
Along the straightaway (lol, no idea how to use this term but going for it anyhow) I switched back to normal person gear and went on my merry way. The 2nd hill is shorter and somehow much easier to mentally handle and I was enjoying it, too. People kept passing me and I kept internally nodding to them as they went. A lot of these people are this certain breed of bike rider that is really into the whole bike riding thing and really ENJOYS passing you and when they do you just feel how important it is for them and they sort of radiate unhappiness and smugness, but also success. I want no part of it. They often travel in little unintentional packs, these men (always), because they are all trying to pass each other at the same time. They get in each others way in a way that is totally unnecessary - just, as I see it, a complete manifestation of their inner Smallness. This swarm of bike children. I guess I don’t mean to discount these men altogether, just this part of them. This is a personality flaw. I think, if encountered with it, they would feel embarrassed. I think I would enjoy tell them they are one of These People, as a way to falsely establish my dominance, which is a personality flaw of my own.
Anyway one of these bike flocks was gaining on me on the second hill. I could see their collective shadow approaching, and one of them (the pack leader?) was starting to shout. I think he said some “you” sort of word, like “honey,” or “doll” or, “hey there.” I don’t know. It was minimally objectionable, if only because this is the world we live in. I didn’t flinch but began to suspect, in these few seconds, he meant me. I looked to my left and saw a pack of 3 or 4 (it’s always ambiguous), sidling up to me, the Alpha bike looking at me as he held forth. He was moving past me but also looking over his shoulder, and saying something about how I needed to adjust something on my bike, how honey I saw you getting on the bridge and you really, for your own sake, need to [something something] —” Other heads in the bikeswarm looked over their shoulders, too, and I looked back at the sea of them and nodded, said, “Okay, okay,” even though I didn’t quite hear him. He kept explaining what I needed to do and then said, “Better yet,” (he was far ahead now and really had to yell), “COME TO MY BIKE SHOP AND I’LL FIX IT FOR YOU.” “Okay!” I nodded. I scrinched my face up and craned my neck to hear, or pretend to try to hear, when one of the men in the bikeswarm actually slowed down and turned around to look at me and yelled, “YEAH, GO TO HIS BIKESHOP IF YOU WANT TO COME BE MANSPLAINED LIKE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN MANSPLAINED!” And I was so baffled because as he yelled this I looked at his face and realized it was my boyfriend, who has been a part of the bikeswarm all along, but I hadn’t separated him from the pack in any way, or looked in any of their faces. But here he was! Witness to all of it, just the way you wish they could be — your people. I tell him these stories about my experience as a woman going about the world and he can never BELIEVE it — this idea that people will just, as I put it, traverse the chasm of individual personhood and feel the need/perogative to COMMENT on you and how you are going about your life —and I was resigned to the fact that he would never really witness it. How could he be with me at the same time I was in the world alone with myself? How can someone you love, someone who is part of your subjectivity, ever really experience you as other people do? Oh, it’s so weird. But anyway there he was, just happened to leave work around the same time, which never happens. We have literally never ridden over that bridge together, though we each ride it twice a day most days out of the week. It was so strange to see him there, so out of context (even though it’s a context he inhabits daily!). We stood there, our bikes parallel, taking up the entire right lane. We kissed in our helmets then I felt self-conscious. I said, “You ready?” He said yes. We shook our heads about what had just happened. We couldn’t believe it. I rode ahead, his shadow close behind me on the way down the hill. My brakes squeaked around a turn and I cringed, thinking he would surely comment on this, tell me I needed a tune-up. But maybe not now. I grinned the whole way home, really enjoying myself, and being Known, and the weather, and our little team of two, riding along, laughing over something we hadn’t even talked about yet. Something to be aghast about over and over for the next few days. “HE DIDN’T EVEN SAYTHE NAME OF HIS BIKE SHOP!” “I. KNOW.”