Day 22: The Bicycle

The day started out warm and muggy. When I got out of my car this morning, it wasn't raining, but I looked for my umbrella just in case. I couldn't find it. Later, a visitor in the hospital elevator mentioned it had started raining lightly, and I turned to my coworker with a grin.

"I knew it was going to rain because I couldn't find my umbrella this morning!"

We had a good laugh. I went home since I thankfully wasn't working on the floor today; I just had to attend a class. A few hours later, the weather changed from humid and hot to windy and cold. Reverting to my Cambodian side, I grabbed a blanket and tried not to think about going out for a run.

Eventually, though, the afternoon waned and I knew I should get in a jog before evening obligations. Hesitant to run in sixty degree weather, I walked to the apartment complex's front office, where I needed to initial a change on the lease. Behind the office was a small workout room, and I decided to bear the boredom of a treadmill over the wind chill outside.

Two miles later, I was over it. (I'm also convinced the speed and distance settings on the machine aren't accurate, but that's beside the point.)

Positioned in front of the treadmill was a stationary bike, and since I'd skimped on the jog, I decided to hop on the bike.

My legs started pumping, and my mind...

wandered to Cambodia.

I hadn't felt this motion of my legs, my body, since Cambodia. I hadn't ridden a bike since Cambodia.

In Cambodia, my bike was my main mode of transportation. I biked to the church, to town, to eat, to exercise. When I closed my eyes, I could see the brown dirt roads and the houses on stilts flying past me, the dust in the air and my landlord smiling at me as I passed my home. I could feel the heat of the sun and the wind in my face. I could feel the thrill of happiness in my soul and a sense of safety, security.

My eyes opened back up, and here I was. Sitting on a metal and black plastic biking machine in a small, air conditioned room with a tv mounted in one corner and the door leading back out to Waco, TX, in the other.

Grief, my counselor says, is like a pinball machine. The little silver ball gets flung up into the workings, and everything feels crazy for a while, and then it slowly comes back down - until the levers fly upward again, and the little ball is flung right back up into chaos. Over time, she says, the ball gets flung up there less and less frequently; grief gets triggered less and less frequently.

It's funny, though, the things that trigger memories. Today, the motion of riding a bicycle. Tomorrow, who knows what? All kinds of experiences are packed away in this body and mind and heart and soul, and slowly, though now less and less frequently, things will reawaken long dormant memories. With joy and grief both, yes. But mostly, just remembering. Feeling all over again the sweat drip down my face as I biked toward home. Seeing the wide, murky Mekong and the people sitting by the riverside. Greeting once again the happy, beloved students of mine as I coasted through the blue gate into the yard of the church.

I'll remember it, and I'll relive it, and I'll cry. I'll cry because I'm thankful. For the memories and the stationary bike that brought them back up to the surface and the people and country I miss so dearly. I'll cry and I'll pray that feeling will never go away when I get onto a bicycle, the feeling of being back in Kratie, Cambodia.