Think, Don't Speak

I could hear them chattering and laughing downstairs. I sensed their excitement gurgling up, popping like bubbles with every giggle and joyful squeal. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and, for my kids, a perfect day to go bike riding.

It was only a matter of moments before they’d come running into the dark cocoon of my bedroom. I lay under the covers purposefully exhaling slowly through my mouth, trying hard to quell the gorge in my throat and dam the tears welling up in my eyes. I knew it was a matter of moments before I’d need to muster the strength and say “please go, I’m napping”. My voice mustn’t quaver or they’d worry, but I wanted to remain in the dark and quiet. Please go. Inhale. Swallow hard. Exhale. Repeat.

“Mom! Mom! Let’s go bike riding!”
“Please go, I’m napping”.
“It’s so warm out, Mom! Can I wear shorts today? I don’t want to wear a jacket, Mom. Can we go biking?”
“Not right now. Please go.”

They left. They returned. Now more energized and impatient, fearful of letting the day go to waste.
“Mom, pleeease! We want to go bike riding. Don’t you want to ride your brand new bike? Please, mom!”
“Maybe later.” Inhale. Swallow hard. Exhale.
“Maria. You should take the kids out. It’s nice out.” My husband used a tone that told me he’s on the edge; he will not take no. He’s stern, not angry. He’s understanding, yet unyielding in his “request”.
I know he’s right. Though I’m buried in the depths of an emotional valley, I know he’s right.
Inhale. Swallow hard. Exhale. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“Mom! Let’s go!”
“Maria. I’ll get your bike out.”

The kids patter behind their dad; joy uncontainable. I will myself from under the covers and kinesthetically manage my leaden body up and out, downstairs, and outside. My rumpled clothes hint at my state of mind. Careless when I should be carefree—the impending bike ride a drudgery instead of a delightful distraction. I felt of two minds: resentful but knowing I needed this like I needed to keep breathing. Annoyed by every sight and sound, but also knowing I should reach out and grab them as if reaching for a life line.

We took off riding as my husband watched; my grateful, helmeted children riding unsteadily at first, and then smoothly gliding along the quiet neighborhood street.
Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. The gorge felt more manageable, decreasing slightly. I was still in the valley, but with every turn of the pedals, I felt reasonably sure I could make it around the short trail and back. Maybe then I could return to the darkness of my cocoon. I only committed to once around the trail and back. It’s short. I could do this. Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. Pedal.

The sun was working. Its warmth on my cheeks reminded me of childhood summers riding for hours with friends. Its rays penetrating and seeping through my gloom. The breeze felt good blowing through my hair. Inhale. Exhale. Pedal.

I could see the entrance to the trail on the right. My new bike was a Christmas gift from Santa and I’d been eager to see how it rode. It lived up to its hype; this new design truly was more comfortable. Maybe we’d go twice around the trail. I saw myself riding more often.

Behind me, I could hear the whir of another cyclist. I knew it had to be a hobby cyclist, a spandex clad cyclist. These riders were everywhere in our neighborhood; serious bikers, who rode rain or shine for miles. I considered joining the local club, but I needed to get in shape first. I prepared to give the customary nod as he neared on my left; my kids in front.

“WHERE’S YOUR HELMET!”

The voice came directly at me, critical and angry. Why? Who was he to judge me? My anger fired up through me making my scalp singe. I wanted to ram him! I wanted to see him smash into the gravel shoulder! Who was he to judge me! I readied a gusher of insults then remembered my kids, riding unfazed, ahead of me. My face burned. The gorge was back. The tears welled up again.

Inhale. Swallow hard. Exhale.

The cyclist continued merrily. Having done his good deed, his heart probably warmed by the thought of having saved me from a head injury.

Inhale. Swallow hard. Exhale.

We pedaled once around the trail and headed back home. Bikes stored, I returned to my dark quiet, still fuming, still in the valley.

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