The Roughness Of My Handskins

I thought of many blog-worthy things today, but I’m going to record this real-life incidence of metaphor before I forget. I’ll certainly get to the other things, since this has been a particularly parched blogging dry spell, so I have some self-imposed catching up to do.

I definitely channeled the “eccentric-and-unlucky-quirky-creative-type” vibe today. Biking into downtown Montréal from the friend’s apartment at which I’ve been unceremoniously and self-consciously crashing, my pant leg kept getting snagged in the pedal mechanism of my bike. A few brief catches here and there were fine but then it got caught and I had to slow down and backpedal to untangle it–twice. No big deal. Fine. I’ll roll up my pant legs. This also proved uncannily difficult.

The front fender on my bike has also been hanging a little too low and rubbing against the wheel when I hit bumps. It makes this sound. But I can ignore that. Mostly. I also noticed that my front and rear brake pads are rubbing. Some adjustments are required. Again, no big deal! I will just go into the bike co-op workshop later and do some tune-ups. Godness knows it’s been months since I serviced the ol’ beast.

So as I’m entering downtown I’m trying to decide which café I should choose for my sitting and sipping and finishing of Important Things. I pass by a few, ruling them out and weighing my other options. Barely into the few blocks in which I’d like to seek my java, my fender starts doing the squealy, grindy thing and I try to give it a kick to straighten it out or just–you know…tap it into a better position. I’ve done this with kickstands that rub on my wheel at a particular point in the rotation and it works just fine. 

Apparently a kick forward is a little trickier and requires more foot-dexterity than a backward kick. I go in way too hard and positively smash my right foot into the wheel which, of course, turns and my foot gets caught, of course, in the spokes and my bike jolts sort of sideways. I’ve crashed my bike before. Not this bike, but various bikes in various situations and varous locations. It happens. Pedestrians fail to look when they step into the street and there’s no time to ring my bell or even stop so I bail to avoid hitting them…those inattentive bastards. This happens frequently. Heck, I feel like that’s the only reason I’ve crashed my bike in recent memory. Until now.

Time always does the whole slowing down thing when I find myself in this situation. I think to myself, Okay, I’m going down. Let’s try to make it graceful and gentle. I squeeze the brakes to slow down as much as possible as the bike leans past the reach of balance and deposits me,  hands-and-right-knee onto the pavement, which is still sliding past under me. Palms scrape, front wheel twists out of alignment, onlookers gasp–the usual. After I’m mostly finished grating myself across the road, I leap up and out of the way with my maimed bicycle. Montréal has some busy bike lanes, and preventing a pile-up was my priority.

It’s heartening to have the cyclists behind me stop and ask if I’m okay–en français and english–but I insist I’m fine and that they should move along. I can feel that creeping hot sensation that manifests immediately after a skin laceration and makes it difficult to tell where exactly lies the abrasion and which parts of me are bleeding. I quickly get out of sight of the busy main road and pause behind a wide pillar to collect myself.

Wheel twisted. I’ll just adjust that–there we go. Hands are scraped. I thought they’d be bleeding! Left forearm to elbow is tingly but….also not bleeding. Fine. My knee is simmering. Hot, that is. I don’t wanna look I don’t wanna look I don’t–AAH, my only pair of jeans! I’ve gone and ripped the knee of my one and only pair of jeans, which I’ve only worn a handful of times. I can’t believe I’m more upset by the ruination of pants than my own well-being. I’m tough and I know this is just a wee tumble–nothing serious. I wrecked my jeans IwreckedmyjeansIwrecked MY JEANS THAT I’VE BARELY WORN AT ALL.

I’ve had an ongoing wicked case of the shakes the last few months but when I start trembling I know it’s that post-injury adrenaline release thingy. There are a few moments of incredulity at the apparent lack of fortune that’s been plaguing me but out of the haze of post-crash frustration I don’t actually consider myself inherently unlucky. Why do these things always happen to me? I thought-cry into the heavens. I try hard, I really do, but outside factors always screw me over! Why? The universe has it in for me! It’s putting me through the ringer! etc.

In a few moments all of that seemed terribly melodramatic, of course. I found a picnic table and perched on the edge that had been spared by the afternoon rain. I breathed, assessed the damaga to my bike and myself, wiped snot and tears off my face and calmed down. I think crying is sort of a programmed instinctive reaction to these things, even when it doesn’t hurt or isn’t a big deal, which is why small children can seem to get so upset over such trivial things.

I looked at the heels of my hands and marvelled at their unscathed-ness. They ought to have been scraped down to the bone. Rasped right off. But they weren’t. I’d always noticed that my hands were more leathery and callused than my friends’. This didn’t bother me, but it was definitely noticeable. I bore deep-creased, resilient skin on my palms in lieu of silky smoothness and faint lines. This never entirely made sense because I wasn’t one to plough the fields at dawn every day and develop thick, hard-earned calluses through regular, difficult labor.

But there they were, my stalwart palmskins, lesion-free and without a trace of chafing. I had certainly felt them rub across the pavement. My previous bike-falls and tree-climbs had hardened my precious appendages against damage. The metaphor was so obvious that it seemed laughable, set-up. A situation that revealed a moral. How silly.

Because of the perceived “trials” I’d already been put through in the mind of adrenaline-high me, I had become immune to the effects of the universe throwing shit at me. I get it. I got it. It was a reminder. Not a reminder from a supreme being or a spirit guide but my own conclusion that I was able to draw from observable circumstance. Cool.

  So, as the sword is tempered in the fire, as are we brought strength by our experience. As the hide becomes tanned by the sun (except mine), so, too are our resolves toughened to armour against misadventure. And as a lump of coal is reduced to its finest and strongest under the weight of all the earth, so too are our spirits fortified by tribulations great and small.

–Me, just now, in my state of Facetious Enlightenment

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