mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

attic: office & bedroom 1970

Bicycle Liberation

It was 1970. Evanston, Illinois. Summer after college graduation. I was jobless and boarding in affectionate disgruntlement with the Assistant Professer, the Mother-Wife and their three little girls. My friend Trish, similarly enmeshed, lived with me in the attic-bedroom-office . A long hot summer. Trapped, with no money.

While I was unemployed, I lived on about $50 a month -- $25 from my grandmother and $25 from a middle-aged dork I taught Spanish to on Sunday mornings. Twenty bucks got forked over to the Mother-Wife for food. Finally, in late summer I got a job with Rotary International. It was a crappy job, doing clerical tasks in Portuguese for Brazilian Rotary Clubs, but for a while I was on top of the world. My first paycheck bought a bike – an English 3-speed, a racer just like the one I had as a kid.

Suddenly I was free. When my living circumstances got claustrophobic, I had a place to go: away. Never went very far. Maybe over to the beach to watch the sailboats and long for adventure. Once, as I threaded my way through Evanston traffic, I tipped over and fell in front of a car, which luckily stopped before it ran me down. The massive bruises on my hips and thighs were my testament to being “out there” and accepting the perils of the world.

In the fall, Trish and I moved to an apartment on the north side of Chicago. She was still in school and I still worked for Rotary. I rode the bike to work every day, through the most godawful traffic. For long stretches I simply had to concentrate on the road and hope that an inattentive driver wouldn’t run me down. I’d get to work pumped with adrenaline, hurry to change into my dress, and assume my dweebish position behind the Brazilian correspondent’s desk. At five, I’d change again, then rush out into the cold air and freedom. In the twilight of late fall I flew along my familiar path, taking the broad curve around Lake Shore Drive, oblivious to the lake that had enticed me all summer, aware only of the lights, the horns, the car tires too close to my wheels, legs pumping me toward the safety and warmth of our apartment. Danger, yes, but until the chunky ice of merciless winter took hold, it was my own brave adventure.

It stays with me now, that rush. Every time I get on my bike… I’m off! Got my balance, got my legs, got my freedom… go!

July 24, 2000

more on EXIT theme