To round out this century saga, I thought I would post (eek) a short story I wrote over TWO years ago now. It has some biking BS in it (probably the worst part of the story). I remember the day I took this ride, and I thought about it from time-to-time when I was on my rides for TNT. I also thought about my dad a lot on my rides, when I wasn't thinking about how fun/hard the entire process was.
Father's Day was yesterday; a day I don't give much thought to. But maybe this story was about my dad. Maybe he was the friend of the friend. I don't really know. I know my dad was wise. I know he knew more than I do.
With that said, here's the story. Some of my closer friends have seen it before. I haven't changed anything, so you don't need to read it again. It's called Mountain Biking To Vegas.
Here it is:
I was having lunch with an amazingly insightful person this afternoon, and she presented me some of that passing knowledge that amazing people pass on. She did it in the fashion that amazing people bestow life lessons: briefly, with a smile, telling her story not as an “I told you so,” but more as an “I know and so should you.”
I have this friend she said whose grandmother called him one day. Don’t amazing people always happen to have these “friends?” They have friends that do these amazingly simple things, when all my friends do is drink beer. And this friend went out and didn’t mention to anyone he would be gone for the day. So the grandmother called, the first time at 10:00 AM., not knowing that her grandson was not home and having ZERO idea where he was: “William, it’s your grandmother. I must have missed you. Give me a call when you get in.” Well, some time passed, and grandmothers not having much to do, she called again about noon.
She called again? I asked. Being drawn into the story. Believing it to be true. I was waiting for my soup, what else was I to do but be drawn in?
Just listen. Smile broadening but stern.
Fuck. I thought. I get a little antsy when I’m hungry.
So the grandmother called again at noon. And left another message: “William, it’s your grandmother again…give me a call honey.” And throughout the day, she called again and again and again. Obsessing, almost, to get through. Not realizing…just acting.
Uh-huh was all I could manage. I knew there was a point, but I was missing it. I didn’t want to appear stupid, so I fumbled around with my napkin and pretended like I saw something important on it.
Eventually, William returned home.
Whew I thought. Maybe I hadn’t missed it, after all.
He listened to his messages, at first with amusement then with concern then with amusement again, until he got to the last message, the tenth message.
I see. Thinking now that maybe this was an analogy and not a real story. I could never tell with her. I guess it didn’t matter. I just nodded my head and furrowed my brow…the “I am with you” look.
The tenth message was the most interesting to him, and why he even bothered telling me this story. In the tenth message, the grandmother had obviously given up and “realized” why her grandson was not calling her back: “William honey, it’s your grandmother again. I guess you went to Vegas for the weekend. When you get home, can you give me a call?”
And then she stopped. And she looked more toward instead of at me. She gave me the “I’m done” look that she gives, leaving me alone with my thoughts, and I hated her when she did that. My soup had been sitting in front of me for a few minutes now. She smirked and said Why don’t you eat, your soup is getting cold. I loved her when she allowed me to retreat from flailing. It was one of her best qualities.
I dipped my spoon in my soup and stopped, looking up at her. I felt her staring at me now, more than toward. I quipped, Las Vegas. Shook my head, pretending like I got it.
I went biking today, and I had a thought. I’m sure this thought has been thought before. Often times, I am certain that every one of my thoughts has been handed down to me. I try to have unique thoughts. I do. But I am smarter than that. How in the Hell do I do that anyway?
But sometimes, I have a thought that is new to me, personally. And it is these kinds of thoughts that make me stick my chest out because I’m trying. I’m trying.
I was going up this one particularly large hill. I was pumping away at the wheels, standing up and racing to get to the top. I hit the top, and got to the best part of any bike ride, so I thought. The part where you glide down the down hill, wind in your face, feeling accomplished and free.
I came to another hill, even bigger than before and my heart sank as I am out of shape and didn’t want to go up another one….but I did, and at the top of this hill, was a flat piece of land that stretched on for miles. I am new to this area, and exploring it was simultaneously frightening and eye opening.
While on this flat stretch, I had my thought that I know has been had before. But I didn’t care. I was looking at some houses and smelling some flowers in the air, reminding myself of my last time in Hawaii. The sense of smell, they say, is the number one invoker of memory.
I thought to myself that life is a lot like mountain biking. I thought to myself that when riding up hill, all people do is concentrate on getting up that one hill. They don’t see the houses. They don’t see the trees. They may catch glimpses, but hell, when legs are burning, what do these glimpses matter? Don’t we just want the pain to stop? And for Pete’s sake, there are just going to be more hills, tougher hills. And no matter how many I conquer, those same hills are going to be there. Maybe I became better…maybe if I biked every day for a month. But there is always going to be someone who goes up the hill faster, better; someone that has mastered another hill, a more important hill to them…maybe even (shudder) a more important hill to me.
So the down hills. We must crave the down hills, right? So easy, wind blowing. But I realized today, and this was my thought, the important one, that the down hills are just like the up hills. The houses rushed by me. I couldn’t see the trees, nor could I really smell the flowers. The down hills are too easy and are accessible to everyone. No one works when going down hill.
It is the flat roads, you know, that are life, or at least, how people handle them is. We all struggle. We all have ease. During these times, limited, finite lessons are learned. Life shouldn’t be about constant ease or constant struggle, should it? Shouldn’t it be about how we handle the everyday? Shouldn’t life be about the flats?
So I was having my thought, sticking my chest out and looking at each house as I road by. I tried to smell every smell and see every see. To me, this day, life was about how people ride when there are no struggles, when there is no ease. But people certainly can ride a flat like it is a hill, can’t they? Don’t you know these people? Looking for the next challenge, staring straight ahead. Maybe they take the flats like a down hill. Sitting back, gliding, letting the road do the work. Of course the bike won’t go forever….but they just ride it out….doing as little work as possible.
I enjoyed my ride today, and I will never have this ride again. I may think these thoughts, or maybe someone else will, but I realized that the flats of my ride were up to me and me alone. No matter what the challenge, no matter what the goal, I had one desire. And I think this holds true for anyone, but I could be wrong. At the end of the ride, at the end of every hill, at the end of every glide, at the end of every single glance, smell, touch, and feel, I wanted one single solitary thing:
Home. I wanted to go home. I wanted to eventually be home.
I have been lying to people for weeks now. They ask me what I’m doing, and I tell them: Nothing. I am doing nothing. I tell them I went to the gym. Maybe I tell them I thought about writing. I tell them what I think they want to hear.
I, on the other hand, never try to assume what people really mean or what the connections are, even when they are staring me right in the eye. I never hear exactly what people say, nor do I see exactly what they want me to see. All I know is that today, this day, the one I lived today, I didn’t mountain bike to Vegas…and no one even knew.