Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gathering Stones

I ride my bike every day. On this day it was extremely cold and I was warmly dressed, right up to my black neoprene face mask, which as it turns out is very handy for muffling apoplectic screaming. I was almost home, whipping downhill on a wide avenue, when a black SUV coming the opposite way made a sudden, sweeping, unsignalled u-turn, which would have flattened me if I had not a) been paying very close attention, b) taken decisive action. I came to a sudden, awkward stop, half up on the sidewalk, pressed against a parking meter, staring into the blank, yellowed, unresponsive eyes of the driver. I screamed he could have killed me. I shook my fists in rage. I felt my heartbeat pounding in my temple. I got an unwelcome metallic taste in my mouth. The driver seemed only partially aware of me, possibly because my main organs of expression were masked. I brought my hand down on his hood with a hollow thunk. He remained locked in his vehicle. 

I rode on, counseling myself against overreacting, focussing on breathing, on methodic pedaling and peaceful thoughts. What if the driver had gotten out of the car? My throbbing temple felt distinctively pre-aneurysmic. On a calmer street, much closer to my house, a beaten white delivery truck swung into the road from a parked position (in reverse), forcing me to drop the bike and stumble a few feet toward the vehicle in disbelief. I met the drivers eyes and he shrugged as if to say "what can I do?" I screamed hoarsely into my mask. I shook my fists in rage. I actually saw red. The driver continued backing into his lot, the gate of which rumbled into place to cover him.

I gathered stones. Stones in Brooklyn are no longer naturally occurring, so my pockets were soon bulging with jagged chunks of asphalt, miniature black asteroids rich with dazzling specs and reflective flecks. I fingered one with a gloved hand, testing the heft. I resolved to wait there until the employee came back out, presumably in his own vehicle, and smash his windshield with a stone. I resolved always to ride with rocks in my pockets so I could defend myself against the blithely murderous legions of absentminded motorists, hurling as I rode, a rogue cavalryman, a mobile, low-emissions David. I wondered if the cop I bought pot from years ago in the Red Hook Houses would sell me a gun. I pictured the surprise on the face of the next driver who nearly took me out when I forced him from his car, made him perform humiliating acts, pistol-whipped his face.

I began to feel very cold and there was no sign of the offending driver, or anyone for that matter. The sun had set and the wind off the water was brutal. I emptied the chunks of asphalt from my pockets. I gathered my bicycle and rode home.

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