Packed up to go home, the weight of work still pressing on me. My jaw clenched, I avoid making eye contact with coworkers as I head toward the door. Nothing left for polite talk.
Still, my bike clothes stand out, a curiosity among all the business dress. I am different and difference invites remark. In the elevator, a man from another floor takes the invitation as an opportunity to relate his own cycling experience. He gushes about either his 10-speed from high school, or the annual charity ride, probably. I don’t know, wasn’t listening.
I grab my bike in the basement. It’s the only bike there this late at night. I roll it towards the dock.
“Nice bike” says the janitor. I pull my mouth into a tight smile, nod in his direction. He means well, but fuck, he says the same thing every time he sees me.
I open the steel door. Like an airlock and cold air sucks in. I’m out the door.
The night receives me like a fish to the sea. My legs, heavy and sore, remember what to do. Obediently, they turn the pedals. My thighs protest, but slowly loosen and warm to the task.
Senses sharpen as the lights of town recede. Eyes and ears, freed from the wash of electric light and sound, attune instead to the hum of the road and the whistle of the wind. Recent rain has washed the way, the air purified. The buzzing in my head retreats, replaced by nothing. Or rather, by nothingness.
My heartrate elevates, my breathing is deep and steady.
The swell of the night envelopes me, fills me, and bottled-up emotions and stresses are displaced like an overfilled glass. My eyes stream. Soon, I am whole again, I am right again.
Full of the night now, my mind drifts to gentler thoughts of wife and kids already home. And the smell of dinner on the stove. A light sweat forms under my pack and hat, stinging in the cold air.
But I’m not ready for the hearth of home yet. I need a few more miles of darkness.