Portland, Oregon. 2009.
One summer, I live in the attic of a woman who plays the guitar and the mandolin. She can kick a smooth rhythm on a drum kit too. She is recovering from a bone marrow transplant, and spends her time in bed. In her garage is a Peugeot racing bike covered in eight seasons of dust. I can use it, she says, but it’ll need new tubes and maybe I should do something about the broken toe clip on the right pedal. I name the bike Janet, ride her everywhere. I ride her across the bridges at night, screaming out the names of my fears. Talking to strangers on the phone! Unwanted pregnancy! Death of family! Wasting my life!
On my way home from work one afternoon, I ride Janet’s front wheel into the cleft between the muni rail track and the pavement. I fly over her handlebars, lacing my knees and forearms with bloody gravel. Later, at home in the attic, I dress my wounds and get high. I go outside with the wrong kind of wrench to fix Janet, to bend her gears back into place. In the slowness of my mind, which blooms heaviness, the task is engrossing and beautiful. Afterwards, coming in from the yard, I overhear the woman yelling and crying on the phone to her therapist. It’s not better, she says, and everyone keeps telling me how happy I must be, to be alive, but fuck that. I hurt and I can’t do anything. I feel how I feel.