You Get Out While You Can

Sundays there’s nowhere to be, thank goodness, and when it’s not too mean outside I roll around this small town on one or another of my bicycles.

This town, they say, is a town you gotta leave. I left, was good as gone, and then I came back. Now I’m trying to get gone all over again, am waiting to hear back from powers higher than I’m used to depending on.

The snow packed itself into corners and fields and drifted up against anything it could find these past five months. We were inmates in bars and buildings, driven in by a relentless succession of cold snaps and confined to dark spaces.

Rolling out with the wind at my back and clouds gathering, I head out for nowhere in particular. My right knee aches from its hibernation, or from its late-season shinny session with the guys earlier today, or both. But the small revolutions turning out from my hips to my thighs to the right foot, the left foot, the right foot again tell the knee to keep quiet because this is important.

Spring up here doesn’t come around just because the calendar says so; we’re all still tucked away and planning on staying that way for a while longer when daylight savings hits, and you learn to keep your head down until the sun makes you squint and the wind stops hurting. Things like hope and dread are too impractical when it comes to the weather around here; you learn to wait.

Today the wind doesn’t quite hurt. There are the smells of wet clouds and burning wood, and grills burning off the residue of last summer. The bike below me is new, bright and shiny and wanting to go like hell, but I hold back and breathe on purpose, and keep my cadence deliberate.

In town there are people out gingerly walking around—they’re stunned at the return of warmth and not wanting to scare it off. To a couple of them I wave, almost stop to talk just to talk, just to be nice, just to be a smalltowner, but my knee wants to keep going now and so I roll on, not wanting to discourage it. The wind picks up just in time for me to turn back into it, but it doesn’t hurt and so I’m patient with it. The bike wants to play—I go looking for alleys.

Going south, west, south again, the wind making my knee work a little harder, but my cadence stays even. Something is on my mind, a lot of things; they always have been. My legs churn something more particular, more pressing, up to my throat, something wanting to be said to someone, anyone. But I can’t parse it out from the other threads running, fluttering behind me. My knee releases another crack. I leave it unparsed.

All I want to think is that it’s spring, and that the wind doesn’t hurt.