The garage door opens and I get on my freshly tuned bicycle (thanks Contraption Captain) and pedal off to work and I am not entirely happy but I know that in the next few minutes I will start to feel better. Because bicycling always makes me feel better, true story. If you've ever wondered why bicyclists cling so deperately to their riding the answer might be contained in how it makes us feel: Happy. Peaceful. Contented.
What I thought about as I rode along was our pet rat, Midnight. Rats are surprisingly personable (ha). Rats like children and learn their names and can do a few tricks. Rats do not live very long lives. Sparkle Pony's rat is named Midnight. He's past two years which means he is on the home stretch with respect to lifespan. Still, a person hopes for three years. Midnight enjoys sitting on Sparkle's shoulder, watching movies, making kissy-faces with Sparkle Pony, eating snacks of all varieties, and spending time with Rapunzel's two much younger rats. Last week Midnight developed a lump on his head, very suddenly. Hoping it was an abscess we got him to the vet. The lump was not an abscess, it was a tumor. The vet offered to operate and said that the tumor might be removable but might also have extended beneath his cranium in which case it would ultimately kill him. We went with the surgery. The tumor, unfortunately, had indeed gotten into his skull. The vet told us, "It will be back. And soon. It's very aggressive." We collect Midnight and take him home. I consider the results of the $300 surgery that I okayed. That morning Midnight had been a rat with a lump on his head that was killing him. Now it's evening and he's a rat with a giant wound on his head that has been closed with big metal staples and he's...still dying. Midnight gives me a look which I interpret as "Y U Do This 2 M3?" I don't know, Midnight. It seemed like a good idea. I meant well.
So this was going through my head as I bicycled along and it always ended up as "I meant well. I wanted to do right." I thought about other things I was doing that I might be screwing up. Am I too hard on Sparkle Pony when she forgets to turn in homework assignments? Is Rapunzel low energy during gymnastics practice because I don't feed her well enough? Do my kids fear my disapproval? It just makes sense that there are tons of other decisions I am screwing up on that have less visible end results. Consider that every single damn time I bring my pets to the vet, whatever the state, whatever the animal, the outcome is never very good. My last cat died of cancer. My pigeons died of old age but only after the vet tortured them a little. YET I KEEP BRINGING THEM TO DIFFERENT VETERINARIANS. Does hope spring eternal? What exactly is my problem here??
All these years of bicycling though....that's never been the wrong choice. Every time I ride I feel better physically and emotionally. It always works. Always! Nothing always works exactly like bicycling always works. Life is full of these decisions where you assemble the data and then do the wrong thing anyways, perhaps paying out $300 for the privilege of being wrong and leaving someone with metal staples in their head---but bicycling is always right.
I'm still on my way to work when I see a friend of mine at the side of the road in Palo Alto. He's having trouble with his free wheel. Together we get his bicycle wheel back on and then continue on towards our respective jobs, together. B and I met because we both like to race on Bryant Street and we're evenly matched and our work hours are similar. Sometimes B rides along with me and the Contraption Captain as we all pedal towards our homes. I know about B's kid and his wife and how his wife bandaged up a bicyclist who fell outside their house. B and I work in the same industry so sometimes we talk a little shop. Today we talk about Midnight the rat and the surgery and he expresses sympathy and then we talk about his cat, who has gone blind and falls. The sky is low and pearl colored and the air is warm and nothing has changed but I feel better.