I Cycle

Folks, I cycle.

When I was doing my IGCSEs at sixteen, as a homeschooled student, my mother told me if I got all As and A*s I would get a laptop. That was my motivation. I wanted a laptop. Who didn’t?

I did really well, thanks to the tuition my mother paid for. I got four A*s and four As. Wasn’t I proud of myself.

“Right,” said my mother, “what laptop would you like?”

“I don’t want a laptop,” I told her, “I want a bike”

My first bike was orange. A gleaming, metallic orange. I loved it. For a year and a half I went everywhere on my bike. Maybe I got a little careless with locking it up. I used to use a flimsy lock that was a wire covered in plastic; very easy to cut through.

One day I tied my bike to a small beech tree outside my sixth form college. I had a long day that day, so when I came out at 4pm and I saw the tree all bare and forlorn in the December twilight, I didn’t believe it at first.

I walked all around the college thinking maybe I parked it somewhere else.

I didn’t.

It was stolen.

I was miserable. And angry. And resentful. I thought of writing a stern and rude notice to whoever stole my precious bike but then I realised that wouldn’t help, because why would they care? Arseholes, basically.

The kind part of me reckoned that they might have needed it to feed their babies.

The evil part of me snorted and said, “Feed their drug habit, more like.”

Both possibilities are plausible.

However my mother took pity on my, and she, bless her soul, got me a new one. It was originally £400 but the woman who owned it sold it to us for £12o, which wasn’t bad considering it was brand new and she’d only been out on it once or twice.

This was back in 2012.

I still have that bike. I used to use it daily. I kid you not, every single day to school and back, to town, to the shops, to my friends’ houses, to aerobics, to the swimming pool, to the gym. I could cycle with no hands, my abs were tight, my thighs were powerful.

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Even when I started university and had to travel three hours daily, I still managed to cycle on the days when I had one lecture, and definitely every weekend.

When I married my husband and moved away, I couldn’t take my bike with me, so for a whole year she went almost untouched.

Until very recently, when I have begun to go out daily, through the villages outside the city. Every day for two weeks, now.

I cycle to get rid of my angst and anger. I cycle my fears away. I cycle my feelings of loss and irritability and insecurity away. I cycle up hills to feel the wind rushing through my entire being on the way down.

As each day goes by, I can feel my muscles waking up and remembering what they used to do, getting stronger and more supple by the minute. Hills I used to struggle up have become easy to me, and soaring down is still as pleasurable.

I am a cyclist. I wear a helmet, I annoy drivers behind me who think I am too slow, I stick my arm out to signal turnings. Sometimes I wear a fluorescent jacket, the lights on my bike flashing in the twilight to warn people not to run over me.

I clutch my handlebars and sing loudly as I pedal along, all the songs I can think of and some made up ones. Sometimes people smile, but mostly they glare.

Sometimes I almost get run over by careless drivers. There are a lot of them in Leicester. In some areas, people are very rude and don’t know much about cyclists on the roads. They beep at me as though I am not supposed to be there, when in reality I am, and it’s illegal to cycle on the pavement, as an irate policeman once told me.

I don’t care, though, that drivers beep. They can beep away, silly rogues.

I will pedal along, signal away, swoosh and sail everywhere.

I love it.

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Doesn’t this make you want to get on your bike and soar away?

Hey Jude

By the Beatles.

Is one of my favourite songs. It’s soft, and subtle, and sweet. It reminds me of cycling along stretches of country road, as the summer wastes away into autumn, as the breeze is not so cold yet, nor warm enough for bare arms. It reminds me of tight black jeans, a blazer thrown on top, hair long and tightly knotted at the back, pristine for an interview. It reminds me of the tunnel to escape. Not long now. A week or two, I’m out of his clutches. It gives me a heartache, but not an unpleasant heartache.

Oh yes, it’s called nostalgia.

It reminds me of people I used to know, friends I used to have, could have beens.

It reminds me of my old self.

Maybe I was more happy, bubbly, bright. Maybe I was more interesting. Maybe I didn’t make it so bad, I took a sad song and made it better.

I did, though. I took all the sad songs and smiled through them as I sang along, cycling up hills and down hills and through fields of cotton and thistle. It was my cycling song. Through the sun and rain, panting, red, hot and happy.

Hey, Juude

Don’t make it bad

Take a sad song, and make it better

Remember

To let her into your heart

Then you can staa-art

To make it better

That was my happy song. Now I don’t have a happy song anymore. My bike gets left for months, whereas before we were together everyday, exploring the suburbs, going further and further. My painting is cold. My journeys are less. My social interaction has stopped. I am like an old and battered train slowing to a halt.

I shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t be feeling heavy because my husband doesn’t appreciate me. I shouldn’t be trudging daily in the same old boring routine. I shouldn’t be settled.

I am not settled. I am married, yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to be settled. I realise now that everybody reckons I need to be settled. They don’t understand my need to escape and be free. With or without my moody husband. He can come along if he promises not to be such an adult about things. And not expect me to be the adult. If his mother doesn’t expect me to mother him, and make sure he’s eaten and rested. He can do that for himself. And not to think bad of me if I don’t do that. Because I don’t need to. He relies on it now. He expects it. What started as a kindness on my part has turned into a drudgery.

And sometimes I am reproved for not doing it. For not putting his clothes away. I know, he works hard. I KNOW. I didn’t agree to living in a tiny room where I must keep all my possessions that were once in a big house in order. It’s hard to do that when you have one chest of drawers between you. I know, there is always a solution. I KNOW THIS. BUT MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO FIND THE SOLUTION. I DON’T WANT TO ALWAYS TIDY UP AFTER YOU, AND LISTEN TO YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT ALL THE TINY DETAILS.

OH, THE WIRE IS STICKING OUT.

OH, THERE’S DUST ON MY MODEL CAR.

OH, THE BEDSHEET ISN’T CHANGED.

OH.

YOU SMELL LIKE YOU COOKED A CURRY. DID YOU COOK A CURRY? I HATE THAT SMELL.

WELL, NO I DIDN’T. YOUR MOTHER DID. I WAS PRESENT. AND SO WHAT IF I SMELL LIKE THAT. IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. DEAL WITH IT.

OH, I WON’T SMILE AT YOU BECAUSE YOU ANNOY ME. OH, STOP TALKING, I WANT TO WATCH FAMILY GUY. OH, WHERE’S MY SPOON SO I CAN EAT THIS DINNER YOU BROUGHT FOR ME. OH. YOUR FEET ARE TOO COLD. OH. YOUR HAIR IS FLAT. OH. YOU HAVE SIDE FAT. OH. WHY DIDN’T YOU GO TO THE GYM, LENORA. OH. I AM A MOODY SOD AND I DON’T FEEL LIKE BEING HAPPY.

Well neither did I, Damian. But I am. I am putting up with it because I love you. Sometimes it’s hard to show it. It’s hard to love a man who only sees what he wants to see and calls his wife clumsy. IT’S HARD. BUT I DO IT. SO STOP TELLING ME YOU LOVE ME AND START SACRIFICING AND ACTING LIKE IT.

Maybe I married a child. Sometimes it feels like that.

I didn’t agree to this. I demanded we get our own place. I didn’t agree to move willy nilly depending on his job. Yes he is the main breadwinner, and I.. don’t… know.. why.. I agreed to that.

I guess I just want to experience my age. And I am not doing that right now. I feel like I am somebody’s mother. I feel like I am being controlled by another mother. Do this, go here. Oh, you’re back at 9pm, isn’t that late? Did your mother tell you off? No she didn’t, but you sure want to.

I want to be out till late. I love being out till late. Is it unsafe? Maybe, but I can’t live my life in constant fear and protection. I will not be cotton woolled.

I don’t want to live here anymore. I don’t want to feel guilty because I woke up at eleven in the morning on a Sunday. I don’t want to feel bad because I didn’t get to clean the bathroom in time before my MIL cleaned it. Every scrape of the brush on the floor sounds accusing to me. I don’t want to have to think about my every move, every word I say. I don’t want to live under somebody else’s roof and I DON’T want to order my shopping on your online shop!!! I know this sounds plaintive and petty, but my goodness, I just wanted to cycle to ASDA and get my own things. I know you meant well, but insisting that I do it online with your shop just makes me feel controlled and not free.

My chest is tight, my thoughts are cold, I feel annoyed and closed in. So closed in.

I know they care. I know they want the best for me. I know I am part of their family now.

I

Just

Feel

So

Suffocated.

My husband is being a cold fish to me.

He wasn’t always like this, folks. I know what he is truly like. But hard times are pressing on both of us, and he always comes out worse for the wear. I smile through it. Sometimes I have a cry, and then I get on with it. I try to make jokes. Make a funny. Smile, give kisses, cheer myself up by doing impressions. But not he. He withdraws into himself, and becomes moody and selfish.

So I am getting in my car, and driving three hours to the beach, and spending the day there. I will walk for miles, I will feel the wind on my face, I will shiver with cold, I will breathe. Then I will decide what I want to do with my life, and I will do it.

 

 

Lamenting my Toes

Today

As I wheeled by bike

Out into the wonderful outdoors

Fresh, cold wind on my face

Up my ankles

Fanning my cheeks

I heard the trees swishing their bare branches

The birds tweeting

The hills rolled away in the distance

I climbed aboard

I squeezed the handlebars

And I thought to myself

Goodness gracious me

I am twenty two in 26 days

TWENTY TWO YEARS OLD.

Only eight years or so,

Until I am thirty.

When you reach thirty, folks,

You have hit the point of no return.

You’re a true adult,

At thirty.

The truth is, folks

I still feel twelve.

In fact,

I still feel six

Looking down at my feet

To see how far off the ground is

And wonder if I’ve grown a little

I still feel small.

Nowadays,

When I look at my feet,

It is only to have adult thoughts

And lament about my long toes,

 

The coursework that I have to submit,

Or the bills I need to sort out,

Or the..

Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

February

Imagine an hourglass, filled with jade crystals the size of sand grains, glittering in yellow candle light. Ten crystals or so fall through at haphazard intervals, tinkling against the glass as they tumble over each other, creating a small, gleaming emerald mound.

Those are my seconds, so small and so precious, falling away from me, just as this month fell away from me. It slipped off my shoulders like a delicate, silk wrap, and I only noticed it was gone because my shoulders started to shiver. We are promised some Arctic winds for March, folks.

This month I worked my butt off on an assignment about Wuthering Heights. The essay question asked me to discuss how Emily Bronte’s work overlaps gothic and domestic themes, and I discovered a few satirical themes on femininity and Victorian ideals hidden away in Wuthering Heights. Wasn’t I pleased with myself.

I got my paints out on the 29th of February. Time to get those rusty, cricky fingers working again.

February was alright. I gained some weight this month. I know, right? Took one selfie, in which I wore some makeup and a red and black scarf. I fancied I looked quite alright. Looking at the selfie now, I’m not too sure. Chub chub on my cheeks, hair that doesn’t look quite 21 years old.

I met up with friends several times this month. Went to Birmingham for a day out, too. Goals to be more social? Tick that box please!

I felt like I connected more with my siblings this month. It’s a goal I have been struggling to achieve. We aren’t so touchy feely in this family. It’s nice to open up and hear each other out.

I didn’t call my father this month. I texted him a lot though. I should have called him. I feel horrendously guilty. He’s all alone, working hard abroad and I can’t grace him with a single phone call? Horrible child that I am. I cried myself to sleep because of it last weekend.

My husband and I didn’t do anything together this month. Last year in February we went to Venice. The year before in Feb we went to the Lake District. I dunno, I thought we might do something this year.

It was a combination of being broke and overworked, I think, that stopped us. Also since we barely talk anymore, I feel like we are disconnected. We really need to sort our life out, get our own place. But it’s not possible if he is constantly travelling and working, where is the time to talk?

Hopefully we are going somewhere nice in March. D is going to rummage in the attic to see if he can sell his old playstation or perhaps the old stereo. See, he is resourceful.

We both wanted to go to March in March because we are both born in March. March is a small town in Cambridgeshire, around forty minutes drive from the beautiful city of Cambridge. March doesn’t sound so great in theory, though, so I planned that we pass through March and explore a little before settling for a night in the almost-seaside town of King’s Lynn, which is known to be quite stunning and full of fun things to do.

I said, “We can’t go to March, our funds won’t allow it”

But he said, “We’ll find the money, and we will go.” He had so much conviction, and I believed him because he has never let me down before. He knows how to squeeze the pennies out of dry rags, does my husband.

You see the difference between us? I see obstacles, he sees problems that can be solved. When will I learn, huh?

How was your February?

How to Treat Yourself

You: Hello, how are you doing?

You: I’m fine, thank you.

You: Have you eaten today?

You: Why, yes, thank you. I had a nice peanut butter banana and a mug of coffee.

You: Oh, jolly good. How is everything else?

You: Well my husband is being very cruel lately.

You: Oh, no. How so?

You: Well he isn’t giving me any hugs, and is being generally off with me. He comes home very late and goes straight on to his laptop and gets irritated when I try to talk to him. I think that’s rude and hurtful and unappreciative, and he can go do one.

You: Oh..

You: And I didn’t say goodbye to him this morning, but I did pack a lunch for him, and he didn’t say thank you, so I didn’t kiss him goodbye like a usually do, I didn’t tell him to drive safe, I didn’t ask him if he had his phone, keys, wallet. He didn’t care, though. He just walked out that door. I feel bad for not saying goodbye, in case he dies on the motorway, but he knows I love him, so I don’t feel that bad.

You: …

You: So I am done. He can come apologise when he is ready, but until then, I am not talking to him.

You: Yesterday he walked in at 10PM, (he left the house at 6AM) and went straight on his laptop didn’t even ask how I was. Didn’t even look at me, in fact. I came in to the living room and his mother asked me, “Is he ready to eat yet?”

IS HE READY TO EAT YET!??!?!? SOD THAT. His Lordship can get his own dinner.

Yes, I know he drove for three hours straight. BUT I AM HIS WIFE, LIVING IN HIS MOTHER’S HOUSE, WHERE I DO NOT EVEN FEEL COMFY ENOUGH TO POOP, YOU CAN HAVE THE DECENCY TO TREAT ME WITH THE LOVE AND RESPECT I DESERVE.

You: Oh, lovey. Have a nice cup of coffee, get your cycling gear on, and cycle off to the country. Maybe visit Allie on your way back, have a chat, and then go to the uni to do your work. Don’t think too much about it. You did your bit, okay?

You: *sniff* Yeah, okay, that sounds really nice actually.

You: You deserve it, my dear. Now, off you pop.

You: Thank you.

You: You sturdy thing, you!

Treat yourselves good, folks, don’t wait for others to do it for you.

Bernard Gilbert

Was a fine young man with a full head of dark hair that sprung up in waves. His eyes were large and dark and soulful, and had tempted many a doting young girl into a heartbreaking fate.

“I woke up like this,” he would mutter, mussing his hair in front of the mirror. His lips were slim red lines, the top lip protruded a little, giving him the look of a small overbite. So small. Unnoticeable, even. To Bernard Gilbert, however, it was like a giant, mutant cliff under his nose. He hated it.

Bernard Gilbert had long fingers.

“All the better to play the piano with,” his mother said kindly.

Bernard Gilbert did not play the piano. He didn’t play the flute, either. In fact, he didn’t play anything. He had never ridden a bike, nor read a decent book. He didn’t like maths, he thought historians were boring old farts, and he had a special place in his heart to hate on linguists. He thought science was interesting but had never read anything scientific in his life, save once when he was languidly flicking through a Biology book in the hopes of capturing one keen and pretty medical student in his sticky web of lies and deceit.

“I love you and your medicinal brain,” he crooned into her small ear.
“You’re sick,” the pretty medical student whispered back, hating herself for succumbing to his transparent charm. He wasn’t very clever either, she noticed. He had all these big words but they were empty when she tried to take them apart. He spoke nonsense, and quite often misinformed nonsense.

But oh, those eyes. He had a way of saying just the right thing at the right time and making her weak at the knees.

“So cure me,” he murmured, “I’m sick for you.”

She wanted to cure him. She wanted to be the one who changed him. So she tried, and when he left she slumped in a bony heap at the bottom of her bed and cradled her bony knees and didn’t brush her hair or teeth for three days straight. Then she got up and wilfully avoided romance for the next ten years until she met a nice back haired doctor who looked a little like Superman and fell head over heels for him and thankfully Superman loved her back and they got married and had three children and she never looked back once.

Bernard’s mother was doting and motherly and she loved her terrible son dearly. She thought the world of him, because he was so good to her. He visited her every weekend, bringing her flowers. He fixed all her house fixtures and offered to pay her bills.

Mrs Gilbert had no idea that her son was awful to women, and turned his nose up at things.

When Bernard was with his mum, he was the polished little big eyed boy she had always known.

She would sit back happily with her sewing and sometimes her crossword and smile to herself, “Yes,” she would think, “My boy is a fine young man with a full head of hair. He shall get a great job and meet a nice spouse and have some delicious little children. My work is done.”

Bernard Gilbert was a boring, pretentious sod who only watched selective films and wore massive glasses to create the impression that he was creative and intelligent when really all he was was lazy, an arsehole, selfish, self absorbed and judgemental.

But he was good to his mother. So maybe he could be redeemed in some way. We’ll just have to find out. I think it should be through a hobby, that he redeems himself. Maybe he just needs to pick up a book, or a plough, or the hand of an old stranger. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he never redeems himself. Maybe he is doomed to live alone forever, shunned by society for his selfish ways.

What do you think?

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