The season is over
The world smells of leaves left rotting, smoke, silence, winter air. I check my brakes, a ritual. In the lamplight, my wrists look fragile, bare. I clatter ‘round litter bags and last night’s broken bottles. On the sidewalk, a woman heads home for the night. I pause, check my pockets, set off still half-sleeping, the crack of my cleats breaking the hush. The asphalt glistens under the street light. My clothing is tight. My tires hum. Last year’s jacket cuts into my belly, hot coffee and nothing too soon in my gut. Well-lit nighttime melts into predawn, murky fields and pink, pink light. My breath condenses. I am awkward, lethargic, following blindly a course I could not map. I struggle past a hillside restaurant, two switchbacks, up and into the trees. I am here for no reason, the only reason that matters, alone with the morning, frozen but free.
Broken bones, breakaways, lost skin, endless training, heatstroke, rainstorms, lost contracts, no money, loneliness, fear, victory, defeat, never quit kept me going, plus the friends and the racing and the days spent outdoors. But the promise of Sundays at markets drinking coffees in the sun, apartments from magazines, proud parents, proved too much. Comfort enticed me, life lived in place. But comfort is nothing except as relief.
So I climb, stiff-limbed and rhythmless, heavy, cold. The season is over. The sun’s coming up.