The air was heavy, suffocating, the humidity enveloping her body with a thick dampness that took her breath away. She considered retreating into the comfort of her air-conditioned home. But stomping and banging noises that came from the second floor stopped her. The heat was a better option.
In haste, she’d run out of the house without her purse, which meant without her car keys. Her only thought had been to get as far away from the house as possible and walking wouldn’t take her quickly enough. In the yard, her daughter’s bike caught her eye. At first she was annoyed - she'd told her daughter time and time again not to leave it out in the driveway like this - but annoyance quickly subsided as she determined the bike was better than nothing.
She hopped on the banana seat and pedalled down the driveway. Sweat soaked through her tank top, but something about being on the bike was invigorating. It had been years since her last bike ride, perhaps even since she was her daughter’s age. It surprised her how easily riding the bike came back, a feeling of freedom began to outshine the discomfort of the heat, and she threw her arms out into the air. Tossing her head back, embracing the breeze that it created.
The stench of the argument that pushed her out the door shed her body allowing a release from the stress that awaited her back in the house. The bills she didn’t know how to pay didn’t matter, the angry stares from her husband couldn’t reach her, and her children tattling on each other didn’t exist. This moment was just for her.
Hot, humid summer nights like this had always been a secret delight. She’d loved sitting on a patio with a cold drink, the scalding sun long ago set but the heat of the day still hanging in the air. It had been a hot summer just like this one when she had first met her husband. They were both working long hours and most of their dates began after the sun went down. For years after she’d associated every hot summer with falling in love - late night drinks, sneaking onto the beach after dark, swimming under the light of the moon. Their first summer had felt like magic.
Now that seemed as far away as her last bike ride. Somehow time had worn down the magic between them, and a routine of resentment took precedence. Her newest game had been to pinpoint where things had gone wrong between them. Their ten years together played over and over like a recording stuck in a loop, but the answer never revealed itself
Riding along the pavement prompted her to play the tape back further then she usually did, thinking as far back as the little girl she once was riding around her neighbourhood all day. She was adventurous and did things specifically because she had been told not to. Her father calling her his little firecracker. The spark within her faded so slowly, from a passionate young girl to a run-of-the-mill wife and mother, it was as hard to spot the exact moment she lost her passion for life as it was the moment her marriage ceased to fulfil her.
Even her marital problems were mundane. There had been no affair, no moment of discovery that shattered the illusion of a happy life. Routines of everyday life had worn down their desires and left them with soccer practices, play dates and date nights that felt more like a weekly check-in about “to-do” lists than a chance for romance.
If she had thought to grab her purse, she would have hopped in her car and never returned. Running away from it all. But she had forgotten her purse and pedalling along her cul de sac was a reminder of that first summer together. A reminder of the feelings they had once had for each other. It gave her a sense of hope that perhaps they could find their way back to those feelings.
The pink streamers hanging from the handlebars slapped against her hands as she slammed her foot down on the breaks. Deciding there was still something worth fighting for and deciding that she was still that little girl ready to put up a fight, she turned the bike around and headed towards home.
See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.