notes from a commuter

(bike edition)

I write a poem out loud and think it might be the best but forget it the moment I get off my bike and reach my destination.

Sounds of traffic below and around, lulls me like my lover’s voice when reading stories to me at night.

There are moments I beg my legs to remain strong enough to push through steepness; they always come back with a counter-offer.

Though her voice haunts the emotions out of me, Sinead O’Connor may not be the best choice for a bike riding mix tape.

Where does all the sweat go? Does it just eek out and dry on my skin?

I want to end this summer with legs like bleached tree trunks.

I want to be a graffiti artist.

When I think I can no longer ride, I turn a slight corner on the Williamsburg Bride and see Lindsay. Then, I realize it is only a stranger impersonating her blond. Alas, I take this as a sign to keep going.

Sometimes I fear that bridges are going to force me off of them, then realize they have no hands.

I have replaced coffee with coconut milk and carrot juice.

I have replaced booze with coffee.

Sometimes I fondle my upper thighs with my hands, while I wait for a traffic light to turn green. I like feeling their stick, their firm, their shake.

What shade of red is my face in this moment and how do the other bike riders make it to work in their work clothes without looking like drowning victims.

I have begun to scout places to quick change from torn jean shorts and tank top to “work attire”; Starbucks is far roomier than the stall at my school.

I worry about the suffocation of my back, pressed firmly to book bag.

I worry that I will never be strong enough to bike the entire way across the Williamsburg Bridge.

This is so exhausting and yet, there is nothing better than driving over the city you are so frequently riding under.

“helmet hair is very beautiful”

It is a Monday evening and the air feels far more chilled than it did a few hours earlier. I am biking from one part of Brooklyn to another toward home. Lately, my rides are filled with songs, not from stuffed-up ears playing pre-recorded tunes, but from my mouth. Sometimes I make up songs or start poems, as I glide down streets and turn corners.

Heleanore, my rusty bike, houses the weight of my body and due to its constantly stubborn lack of gear shifting, I often find myself moving slower. My speed– or lack there of– has been a cause of slight shyness when others want to ride along with me. Oftentimes, I am left behind, which is fine by me. Like dancing, I prefer to ride alone.

Here I am, with broken bike seat beneath my seat, with invisible moon haunting me lovingly behind clouds when suddenly:

“Hey, can I tell you something?” says bike rider rolling beside me in bike lane, with flashing lights in front and back, wearing spandex and helmet and sly smile.

Uh, yeah. Sure, I say with deep reluctance.

“Helmet hair is very beautiful.” Anonymous bike guy then proceeds to speed along past me, before I could respond.


Here is the thing: No, I was not wearing a helmet and although this is not required by law, I recognize that I am putting my safety at risk. Biking in New York City is a completely different experience from other places I’ve rolled over. There are bike lanes; however, cars often forget their manners in these parts.

I didn’t mind the reminder to be safe– even from a stranger. What I did mind was attributing my lack of helmet wearing to some sort of beauty regimen. I immediately thought: if I were male, would he have still approached me in this way with this particularly gendered language?

Twenty minutes later, I arrived home safely. Chained Heleanore to post near my apartment and walked up the stoop to my home. Thought about helmets and all the other ways in which I put my safety at risk. I thought about all the reasons one should protect themselves from falls and that time the concrete hit me in a way that loosened my teeth and forced nine stitches in my skin. I was not on a bike (therefore a helmet may have been awkward) but we are often reminded of the impermanence of our bodies in times such as these.

For the record, I am not worried about aforementioned helmet hair, nor am I particularly bothered about beauty or lack there of in me.

I am, however, interested in remaining in tact (now) for as long as I can.