The Phoenix Cycles Again

The last time I rode a bicycle was in Battambang, Cambodia. In the early afternoon of January 25, 2009, the day before Chinese New Year, I fell through a bridge. I might have died, but broke many bones instead. That was that. Life 2.0 began. No more running, no more carrying heavy gear, no more sitting, no more bicycling.

Until a few days ago, when I dug into my courage, steeled myself, negotiated with my pain, stood with my legs on either side of a bike and realized that I could perch half my backside onto the leather seat. Whether or not I could also pedal without careening into the sidewalk was another matter. But, dammit, I would try.

Later that night, under cover of darkness, I quietly wheeled the bike, like a spy in stealth mode, out onto the empty street. The bike swayed and swerved. The chain clattered. The brakes squeaked. The pedals had seen better days – and more confident riders. But, under the soft glow of streetlights, as a breeze splayed against my shirt and tickled my cheeks, I felt the drip of tears.

Even if this reckoning happened just the other night, the urge to get back in the saddle wasn’t new: it had been bubbling inside, gnawing at me, for considerably longer. I knew it was only a matter of time. Then, I got the memo. Of all people, Selma Blair made me do it. Because, last week, in spite of the physical limitations of MS, Selma braved past her pain, lack of balance and sensation, and re-mounted her beloved horse. That’s it, my inner core screamed at me in a way that only I could hear its persistent rap: it’s time. Dare yourself. And so I did.

A renaissance. A blessing. It’s true that we don’t appreciate the quotidian and banal until it’s robbed from us. But if we’re fortunate to regain that which has been lost to us – say, for 11+ years – well that… THAT is indescribable.

And as if that wasn’t enough: While recounting details of my clandestine cycling sortie to my sister over the phone, with a fair amount of disbelief and glee, I noticed her wearing a t-shirt I probably hadn’t seen in a decade. I let out a gasp. Gecko Café (a.k.a The Gecko) is where, in Battambang, I’d rented the very bicycle that tumbled down with me that fateful day. I still carry the key to the lock that came with that bike.

And so, Life 3.0 begins.

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