Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours”
“• Charles Bukowski
It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight. Outside my window, the sky is lit not only by the usual flickering streetlights and myriad houses dotting the hill opposite, but with spiralling, falling colours accompanied by whistles, cracks and bangs. I feel only a slight compulsion to do more than look out the window every now and then, to pay more than idle attention to the kaleidoscopic pageant, to garner the same joy I felt as a child when that one night of the year came around, when we’d build a giant bonfire behind the back fence and let off a big bag of fireworks. Somewhere along the way, ‘crackers’ were banned, and they haven’t really been missed since. In this country though, it’s still possible to walk into the corner store and purchase your own personal pyrotechnics display. I’m not sure how I feel about that, maybe if I was 15, or 25, I’d be exploding things with the youthful enthusiasm of the best of them, but now it just doesn’t register on the scale of cool shit to do for fun.
Riding a bike still registers, mostly. It comes and goes, but because it’s been a constant for a lifetime, it will always be welcome. And because of its constance, I’ve retained at least some sense of what it’s like to feel 13 again. Even though I ache like a 50 year old, and get frustrated and agitated by the sheer fuckedness of the world presented to me, riding a bike seems to extinguish any negativity. Today, as I lay on some sort of padded rack contraption, contrast dye coursing through my veins, while I was inserted lengthwise into a giant tube that took photos of my insides, thoughts of death, or more so the mechanics of trying to prevent it, were running through my mind at breakneck speed. I don’t know if it’s increased since I’ve knocked up my half ton of years or not, but I’m noticing that I think about mortality a lot (more) these days.
Strangely though, there’s little concern that the thing that makes me happiest also has the most potential to take my life. Or, more accurately, the potential for my life to be taken whilst I’m doing the thing I love most. It never really clouds a ride with thoughts that at any given moment I am mere centimetres or seconds from death, yet my instincts are no doubt doing their best to subconsciously keep me one step ahead of peril. The bike and the act of riding it has kept me alive while simultaneously putting me in grave danger. Bandaging up my wounds, giving me CPR then pushing me back out onto the frontline.
There is a kind of melancholy, muted relief now I have been given a warrant of fitness; the warm liquid that made me feel like I’d had lukewarm coffee pumped directly into my blood showing that, despite years of extraneous abuse, things are still in good working fettle. Thoughts of an impending expiry failed to foment any real fear, just a realisation that we’re not able to live forever after all, and that’s not a bad thing in any sense.
That one constant, the bike and the act of riding it, has probably staved off a fate far worse than death; being alive but not living. And death, to me, is not being able to ride a bike.
Ride to live, live to ride.