Monday 22 October 2007

Riding into Black

I have one thing to say to all car drivers, when driving along unlit night-time country roads (not that you'd notice, because your headlights always light up the roads, so you never have to face the fact that the roads are actually BLACK at night) wherever they and you may be:

When you meet a cyclist coming against you, DIM YOUR LIGHTS DUDE. Don't wait for her to put her arm in front of her face to try to block out the glare in her eyes as she steers her bike around that bend, with the other hand.

Cycling home along black country roads is really a piece of work. When cars come by, as they do often on these roads that lead to and from Limerick city, there are these surreally intense flashes of strong white light and visibility, then back to black immediately afterward. As a car passes, you watch his headlights illuminate the immediate path ahead of you, so you can see if there's a rock in your way, ready to send you flying under the tyres of an oncoming car. It's no joke. Potholes, hairpin bends, high speed cars, that lunatic who passed me so close he could have kissed me while he was doing it - THREE TIMES last night (how did he do it?), riding the loudest motorbike I have ever heard, and driving faster than Evel Knievel in a determined moment - stones, uneven road surfaces (what, in Ireland of the four billion pound roads? surely not!) sudden gaps in the road, as in, here's the road, and then suddenly, here is no road, all these things are leaps of faith into the pure unknown, on the cycle home.

And I love it. The wind rustles in the trees, the air smells so good, your senses are WIDE awake, you can hear the nocturnal animals moving around, responding to you, doing their do. Everything looks unfamiliar at night, cycling home. You can forget what country you're in, who you are, what you're doing, where you're even going to. There's just the focus on the road, the task of getting through it alive, and being exhilarated by the journey.

I had a moment some day last week, when I realised that there was so much interesting about this city and just about anywhere I could possibly be, and that I need to write about it. That the streets are FULL of stories, and moments. And I slipped inside that insight, somehow, and space expanded within it. I dunno, I just started having fun here. It helps to have your eyes open, and a sense of humour handy. It really helps to have loving people about. That's a huge blessing.

It's amazing the kinds of moments you can have in your long-left hometown. I roared down O' Connell street (Limerick's Broadway) yesterday, on the bike, belting out Mystery Train at the top and bottom of my voice. God I love that song. I can smell that song. I can smell the wet heat of it. People actually jumped in the air. I'm having fun here. The most fun I've had in years here, probably. It's not so serious as it used to be, here. At least, what I mean by that is that clearly, I'M not so serious as I used to be, here. There's still a fair whack of seriousness around the Limerick streets. But your hometown can so easily bring out the seriousness in you in a what-a-pity-that's-happening sort of way.

And shortly after that, I was cycling over the Athlunkard bridge, and I saw a man walking toward me, on the footpath. We looked right into each other, and I realised that we had been in the same class in school when we were about six years old, and I realised that he realised the same thing. There may or may not have been crushes involved. They may or may not have been mutual. They were certainly unrequited (requiting it meant holding hands in an intensely meaningful way, at six). We each may or may not have lived out the legacy of that maybe/maybe not crush for a number of subsequent crushes/relationships. Either of us may or may not be still living in the shadow of that maybe/maybe not relationship scenario.

And we looked into each other, and we were kind of amazed, and we smiled. And I cycled, and he walked, past. Over the bridge. In opposite directions.

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