Flanking my shoulders are the steel chariots of road warriors, the beasts of their engines growling in unfed hunger. The red light stays steadfast and I stare at it until my eyes glow with fire. Rain taps its impatient fingers on their hoods and steam floats up behind me. The moisture kisses my hands and the sounds of the streets whisper in my ear: Go. Faster.
Breath is only halfway into my lungs when everything changes. The green glow highlighting the side of my face blinks to a harsh yellow and I see the steady stream of traffic increase towards the intersection. Their wave crests and breaks right in front of me and I prepare to catch my own. My leg pulls up on the right pedal and pushes down. I hear the metal of the other toe cage scrape the concrete on its way up to meet my left foot.
I’m halfway across when I smell the rubber burning; they’ve released their waiting hounds. My chest drops along with my hands as they grip the lower portion of the bars. I pick up the pace and try to inhale, but gasoline smothers the scent of wet air as they continue their assault.
It’s less than a minute before the ocean clears and I’m alone, watching the cruise ships sailing away, carrying their sad passengers. Their voyages take them to the same ports year after year where they fall in to the same traps, mouths open, wallets emptied, stomachs overfull. I stand at my shoreline and smile, wishing them well; wishing I could tell them about my island where I am almost always alone. My bicycle island, where the tides are as clear as the moon and the sun is so beautiful when she sets without their haze covering her rays.
Sometimes I meet other sailors, always with faster sloops. Mine is made of hand-twisted steel; theirs, of factory-perfected aluminum and carbon fiber. I cast off when I fancy, they must consult charts and time tables and wear sleek spandex uniforms emblazoned with sponsorships. Together we race the machines towards the horizon, and I am glad for the company. Once we climbed towards the stars at night and upon reaching the peak, watched fireworks light up the sky. They make me feel less alone; that there are others who shun convenience in favor of something more real, that they also do not wish to die within a wheeled coffin. But we are not quite equals. I see them look at me like I am wrapped in paper: to them I am something to eat.
Never do I see enough creatures like me: beautiful and wild, honest in her struggle, clad in denim and soaked with sweat, red-faced and unromantic; a cyclist who never fulfilled the prerequisites.
A captain alone with her boat, setting off to the cadence of the winds and her whims. A woman free.