I have a rather embarrassing confession to make, one that I hope you will not hold against me. I enjoy riding my bike into piles of leaves. I often ride my bike around town so that I can digest some fresh air into my lungs. On my twenty year old ten speed- I ride to the store, the park, the post office, the library, wherever I need to go. It’s a kind of two-wheeled meditation for me. When I am on my bike I return to a child like state of awe and wonder. I become a man on a magic carpet escaping from the quagmires of my marriage, the heavy expectations of my aging parents and the constant negative jabs of my self-destructive mind.
In the town where I live it is common practice to leave piles of leaves in the street. Every Monday there is a free city service that comes and picks up these leaves but all week they sit there, loitering in the streets. I often see children playing in the piles or squirrels picking through them searching for a few delectable treats. At times the dried leaves will blow back into the streets or back onto peoples lawns, which is a source of frustration for many who live in my town.
My life is not going as according to planned. I am almost forty years of age and unemployed. My marriage is in total disarray, my cat and I are no longer getting along and I have enough money in my bank account to keep food in my stomach and a roof over my head until the end of the month. It would be fair to assume that the head space I occupy has a tendency to get dark and distressed. While I was riding my bike around town last week after yet another fight with my wife- I had the sudden impulse to drive my bike directly into one of these piles of leaves. I don’t know why I did it, but I don’t think it was a botched suicide attempt. I managed not to crash and my bike sliced through the pile of leaves like a large cutting knife. From that day on I became fascinated with what could happen if I rode my bike into piles of leaves.
I started running my bike into piles of leaves every day. There is no better feeling than riding a bike fast through a pile of leaves especially when you are dealing with the weight of stress. Some of the piles were higher than two feet and they were hard, molded together by water and dirt. When I rode my bike into these it was like going over a small hill. Suddenly I found myself in the air, a man with a ten speed bike for wings, and I would land hard on the unforgiving ground. I often found myself with a scratch or two or a patch of blood someplace on my flesh- but the feeling of flying high gave me a rush that reminded me of how lucky I was to be alive.
If the pile of leaves looked really large (four feet or higher) I would pedal with as much speed as I could and go directly into it- hoping that I would be able to glide right through rather than go over it. It is the element of uncertainty or risk that I enjoy. It’s a healthy way for me to express my rage and it helps me to forgive the people that I am angry at- even though it is taking a physical toll on my bike, nerves, hands and knees.
Yesterday I had a terrible fight with my wife. Our fifth fight this week. Even though I was expressing myself openly and honestly, in the politest way I could- she still felt like I was not supporting her and once again got mad. I left the house feeling unfairly treated and got on my ten speed that was rusted from the previous nights hard rain. The brakes squeaked but all the piles of leaves where still out there on the street. I decided to find the largest pile in town and ride my bike directly into it.
It all happened so fast. It was as if some self destruct lever was pulled inside of me that suddenly set me off. I no longer cared. There was a family hard at work shoveling all the fallen fall leaves from their front yard. When I saw the pile I could not believe my eyes. It must have been over seven feet high- towering on the side of the street like a monolith pointing towards heaven. I peddled as hard as I could and felt the wind telling me to stop. Upon impact I must have been going twenty miles an hour but I had no idea what the outcome would be. For once in my life I had completely let go.
The pile of leaves was so condensed, so tightly packed that I heard a loud “shzippppp” sound as if I had just entered inside a zip locked bag. Less than half a second after impact my bike and I came to a complete unintended halt. As far as I could tell I was still seated on my bike but now I was shrouded in a separate reality constructed out of a foreign material. It took me a few seconds to realize that not only was I still alive, but like a skier trapped in snow- I was stuck in a pile of leaves.
Leaves marched into my nostrils and mouth like a million tiny soldiers running for shelter. I was having difficulty breathing and seeing. I was disoriented- unable to decipher which way was up or down, left or right. I thought to myself that I was not ready to die. I wanted a chance to fix things with my wife, to start a family and show the world that I could get a job and work my way out of my financial mess. I saw the headlines in the morning paper “Middle Aged Man Suffocates After Running His Bike Into A Pile Of Leaves.” This is not how I wanted to go- not the kind of legacy I wanted to leave behind. I would become a tragic clown/martyr to family and friends. a man who was never quite able to escape his demons and figure out how to successfully live his life. No, this was not the way. I wanted to change, to grow, to love, to forgive and to figure things out and find my way into that promised land that I often heard referred to as “living a happy life.” I was not going to die. Not yet at least.
I started to frantically move my arms around like a man trying to swim. I did my best to scream out for help but this caused me to ingest a pile of leaves. I coughed, which reminded me that I still had air. Then I heard it. Distant sounds of frantic digging and muffled shouts. I got more and more excited as the sounds got closer, and closer. I did all I could to let the rescue team know exactly where I was. “Here!! Here!! Here!!” I yelled which probably sounded more like, “Hrr!! Hrr!! Hrr!!.” Then, suddenly my fate shifted. I was met with the bright blue eyes of a ten-year old angel (eyes I will never forget) who was yelling “dad, dad!! he is over!! here I found him!!!” And then, once I realized that I had survived, that I was going to have another chance to rebuild my life on planet earth I was reminded that first I was going to have to explain to many people why I drove my bike into a large pile of leaves.