Mums the Word

Every Beach Can't Be Normandy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I was carving gouges on Avenue A, separating pedestrian and vehicular traffic with grace and precision, pedaling hard and spraying gravel, when some podunk land-locked Iowa tourist prick bastard fuck stepped out of his cab, trandsforming the open space stretched in front of me into an impassable wall. It’s called “Getting Doored,” and it’s just about the worst fear a cyclist has, because it can happen at any time and there’s damn near nothing you can do to prevent it. Most human beings don’t exit vehicles into traffic, but mankind has an extraordinary threshold for stupidity.

Fortunately the crash couldn’t have gone better. I popped off the seat like toast, spinning off the door and into the street. My forearms took the worst of the impact, suffering a few bloody brush strokes. I didn’t even leave my feet, sticking the landing and jogging a few extra steps to exhale the gravity of what could have been. Even My Therapist 10 speed was fine: no breakage, no dents, no scratches. This wasn’t an accident; it was a cosmic favor. I was moving too fast, both on the street and in my life, and it was starting to degrade the fidelity of my progress and affect everything I do.

Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. That’s the key and the key and the key. Without it I'm cutting asinine corners, throwing elbows in front of umpires, weaving all over the highway and stepping on rakes all day. For disaster, just add water. All of my behavior grew strange. I even found a way to sleep at work. My technique is undetectable. In the room service office there is a POS system and two telephones with a printer under the desk. To sleep on the sly, I jam my feet on top of the printer, wedge my knees up against the bottom of the desk and press my forehead flush against the cabinet above the computer. It’s uncomfortable as shit and I don’t get any real rest, but I can close my eyes and shut down all the memory-hog applications that slow my brain’s operating capacity. Visually I appear to be awake, as I’m not slumped over the desk or sprawled out with my feet up. I even passed a field test, acting startled and disoriented but quite conscious when the overnight manager walked in. I’m sure he thought my behavior odd, but that’s a common conception at this point. When “Harmless Lunatic” is your modus operandi, people stop checking you for weapons.

I am well aware I should not be sleeping at work. I own a bed and need to use it. Chalk it up to plan-design failure. I never should have volunteered for the graveyard shift; it was a critical error. The corporate masters pay 89 cents more on the hour for employees who work dusk to dawn, a moderate compensation for sacrificing a normal lifestyle. I’d fallen victim to the classic Tortoise and the Hare parable: the goal was to get healthy and pay off debt, something that can’t be done by grasping for short-term gains. Now I sleep until 3 p.m., eat eggs mid-afternoon and bid “Good Morning!” to neighbors returning home from work. That’s not a tongue slip; I do it on purpose. Why should I alter my reality to make other people feel more comfortable?

And then I hit the door. Hard. There were no serious injuries, but the experience was painful and scary enough to imbue me with an otherwise foreign notion: wisdom. I would need -- and use -- it from there on out.

The worst thing about battling debt is coping with despair, the knowledge that it is not foe but merely fog. If only it were something I could fight. To quote Arnold in Predator, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Not this time. No blood and no pulse, just intangible numbers, ethereal in form, untouchable yet crushing. So I learn patience. I stop sleeping at work. I talk to HR and admit that the overnight is killing me. I stop charging what I can’t afford. I admit that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Every beach can’t be Normandy.

I’m back on mornings now: up at 4 a.m., skipping to the train at 5. Booze is out of my life except for special occasions in which I’m playing hockey on the Xbox. Carbs are benched, protein bats lead off and cleanup, and the rest of the lineup is filled with greens and beans. Rest is a priority, and wouldn't you know, sanity has started poking around the tent: a warming and welcome deja vu. I’m not looking so far ahead now, but keeping my eyes on the pavement directly in front of me. And yes, I’m still riding the bike, meeting with My Therapist whenever January lightens up enough for me to get in a few miles. But sometimes if I squint as I pedal, I can almost see the finish line up ahead, winking back in the sun.


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