obey giant
by Yael Ziman

NICE NIGHT for a walk, but...

On with the gloves, ski-cap and Shimano shoes, tonight I was looking forward to my five-and-a-half mile bike-ride home. I began the journey by breathing deeply, never considering the possibility that I might not reach my destination.

I love my bike. A red, black and white Giant Iguana, she's been with me only but for a month. And in that short time, I have come to understand her, how to move her and woo her, trusting her without reservation. Sneaking through alleyways on midnight rides, I maneuver around this city's secrecy like the guerilla artists whose stickers cloak my bike's frame. Obey Giant, they read. My Giant: my only means of transportation. She helps me fly.

Racing down the streets like all the other steel-sheathed auto slaves, the bicyclist has a very distinct psychology. Different from the calm, safe and slow introspection of a pedestrian, a biker's senses must match the speed of an environment in motion. A biker knows not the patience nor camaraderie of bus takers, but rather, she embodies a sense of isolated urgency to go against the grain. There is no such notion as 'rush hour' to a bicyclist. She is only in a rush, always, as she asks herself: "What is the most efficient way for me to use my body right now to transcend friction, remain in steady motion through thought and breath, with the least amount of energy expenditure, in a declaration of self to the tank-like warriors next to me competing for lane time?"

I will not die today.

Biking in L.A., I get to see a very different side of this blessed city: landscapes and potholes, concrete street seams, birds, wind, rain and breath; family dinners through bay windows and frantic drivers with Sasha's Xpander bumping through their speakers -- a meditation anchored in the need to survive and keep going and fly by. I get to say hello to the homeless guy sitting at the bus stop, do you? And assess the streets only by their degree of gradient rather than their number of open lanes. Will you help me ascend if I descend with grace and surrender to your grip, oh avenue?

So, I was jamming my way down Melrose Ave., and in order to make it through the light at the La Cienega intersection, I put my feet to the pedals and pumped away with everything in me. Slight downhill grade. I took off easily. Two lanes of cars to the left of me, which then merged into one, all to my zero attention because I was too busy hugging the line of car doors to my right. Until . . .

There was no time allotted for reaction. The moment was meant to be.

photo by Sherrie Gulmahamad

A car door swings open right into the space in front of me -- which was supposed to be my space, solidified in an unwritten ownership and sort of memorandum of understanding between me and that space -- that space I was supposed to soar through in one more hundredth of a second, but with that door there breaking our contract, my bike hits with full force, throwing me over the door, my thighs slamming into the top edge of it's red steel frame, and my bike wrecking it’s BMW loveliness just enough so it'll never close properly again, I fly through the air, holding my helmet-less head with my right arm, landing face-first, then shoulder, then knees, I choose to ruin the padding on my left hand with the cement street called Melrose and paint my mouth with its gravel -- those little gray rocks found in the middle of the car lane that was supposed to be to the left of me, not under me, not stuck against my body, but flying by me -- and with the perfect amount of adrenaline pumping through me, so that within another hundredth of a second of space that, yes, I also owned, I was able to throw up my arm to bring attention to this hurt body of mine, which was laying in the street in shock, screaming "This is me!", my declaration of self at 11:11 p.m. in the year 2K + 3. The auto-slave in the 12-miles-per-gallon, 4-wheel drive, titanium-colored SUV, while belting out his frightening version of Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana, about to run over my legs, jams on his breaks, swerves, skids and stops within inches of my Shimano shoes…

Nice night for a walk.

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