Training the Hedges. March 2008
The first time I went for it without training wheels I was living in small house in the south of Oshawa and I was terrified. I wasn’t ready. I knew I wasn’t ready. I was terrified and happy with where I was at up to that point. Besides, two extra wheels wasn’t such a bad deal. I don’t have much balance and it seemed like a hell of a lot more work to make it with just two. They told me I’d be able to go faster. That it’d make me a big girl. As though that were the goal of being, to be a big girl. I wasn’t buying it. The bigger you got, the bigger your problems grew in proportion, and the farther you strayed from the innocence of youth. I was content with the wonder so far and to me, Peter Pan had it made.
Seems to me like we humans have a raw deal; understanding our own mortality and all. Suffering with both the living fears and the ones that linger inside our heads like pimples in our adolescence. Those visible mountains on our chins and the moguls on our foreheads. Those fears are there, blemishes that can’t be hidden, no matter how much cover up you slather on there. They just get crustier, thicker, more prevalent the more we try to pretend they don’t exist. The fears are real. They are playing cache cache in the dark with the lights off, they are under the bubbles in the bathtub with us and they are under our underclothes. We are stuck with them. The clock strikes midnight and pumpkins remain pumpkins and no matter how many times I tap my shoes, I can’t make it home without walking there. This is the reality of adulthood and the lessons that come with growing up.
I am terrified. Of what’s to come and moreso of what’s already been. What has already passed me by, done. I feel as though I have finished the exam and time’s up. Gotta turn it in and hope for the best. But wait. I really should have given it a once over. Maybe I could have done better. Maybe that wasn’t the right answer. Maybe the T.A. won’t like it, maybe the prof would have preferred I worded things differently. Maybe I missed my chance for love. Maybe I held it in the palm of my hands and squashed it like a bug because I was torn between the live and let live and my unease with the creepy-crawlies. Maybe.
It’s too late to go back. It’s always too late to go back. The seconds tick and the bells toll and the grandfather clock in the hallway will stop working one day. It will forget that the hour has struck. It will be thrown out and buried with yesterday’s Smith Corona – obsolete – replaced with something made of glass or acrylic or stainless steel. Life will be easier, we tell ourselves as we waste more and more time trying to find convenient ways of avoiding its challenges. Rather than dwelling on the fears and reflecting on the passing of time or trying to reverse the hands as we should, we’ll continue making our clocks bigger. We’ll allow digital numbers to invade our bedrooms and light up our streets. We’ll find time everywhere, peeking into our cell phones and strapped around our wrists like handcuffs. Without the numbers, we’ll be lost. Without the timers and the alarms, we’ll say we’re wasting our time. I am sick of knowing the hour. I wish the sun would make up it’s damn mind. Are you staying or are you going, Sun? Are you on your way up or on your way down? I am not ready for bed yet! Can I keep my light on just a little longer? Just one more hour, just one more, please.
There is a perpetual emptiness in my belly. I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty but I am longing. I find myself chasing each high and feeling more and more like a wild rabbit trapped in a yard, searching for his prey and repeatedly finding his surroundings to small. When you live in a cage, there are only so many things you can kill dead before you find you’re frustrated and quite literally running into walls. I have tried banging my head against them. Tried climbing them without success, tried to dream my way to the other side to no avail. What I’m waiting for is a hedge. Hedges are breakable you see. Tiny beams of light, beams of promise, of change shine through and remind you there is more out there than I am aware of. Unlike stone and cement and shingles, branches bend, they give way. They are nature’s way of keeping us enclosed in a false sense of security. Keeping the unknown on one side and familiarity close. I want to test my own mighty strength and rip the branches apart and squeeze my way through to the other side. I want to feel the drawing of blood that comes with such an adventure. I want to witness the busting open of impossibility.
I wait with anticipation for that feeling I have not yet felt, real love. The kind that burns up your insides. The kind that takes you to that dreaded vulnerable place where you don’t know what’s coming next and you’re afraid but excited at the same time. With it comes nausea and the loss of senses, the incapability of tracking the time. I want to feel morphed. I want water to become jelly, air to become thick as smoke. I want to forget to breathe and oxygen to enter my pores naturally, like a fish. I want to rid myself of my free will and feel the deterministic pressure telling me that there is a reason for it all. I want to have no choice, lose the reasoning that has guided me up until now. I want to know that I am part of a story that is far beyond my comprehension.
A mile to go. One more mile, and I’ll get there. I’m always certain of this but this certainty is feeling more and more like my certainty that next Thursday morning, I will wake up with my ticket in hand and realize that I am the newest winner of the lotto. This reminds me of treadmills and their obnoxious tracking devices. A simulated race revealing to you just how far you’ve come and how far you have left to go, only to realize that you’ve been furiously depleting your energy without leaving the point from whence you came. They offer a bizarre pleasure and misconception. Motionless motion. I feel as if I will have to run forever to get anywhere knowing all the while that soon, the feeling will pass and I’ll know that familiar burning in my thighs and the pounding headache of adrenaline and I’ll find myself unscathed once again. They say this type of exercise will make me feel good but I know that heartbeat all too well. I want more than that. I don’t want to run on the spot any longer. I want my heart to explode with exhaustion. I want to feel satiated. I worry it is the one thing I never feel and that this may be the point of it all.
They say Marx was wrong because he forgot the importance of motivation. I say if motivation’s all that’s making me tick, I’m ready to dismount from the treadmill for good. I’m not interested in running for an hour and getting nowhere. I’d rather believe there is a method to the madness. I want to walk down a river until I’m off the map and plain lost. Lost is okay because it implies there is a ‘found’ to be found.
Then there’s the longing again. I am tempted to climb the wall because in a sea of stone walls, I can’t find a hedge anywhere. I am finding some vines growing on my side of these tactile dividers lately, though. They are lining the top and teasing me upwards and over. I think if I can manage to hold old tightly enough, if I can just think of a way to get up there, work up the courage to jump a little higher or get a better grip, it’d be easy to make it to the other side. I could use a boost but it wouldn’t be the same as doing it on my own. Still, I am scared of finding these walls are surrounded by more walls, bigger walls, insurmountable ones. But I know me, and if I don’t try the unknown will pick at me and this longing doesn’t seem to fade with the passing of time. It gets stronger and takes over the rhythm of my heartbeat and drives me mad. I’ve got to try. I don’t have a choice.
I’m going to get that thorny rope between my palms, wrap my fingers around it with confidence and pull myself up. It might tear. I might fall and be irreparably injured. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men might not be able to get me together again. One wrong move and I might lose my nerve forever. One toke too many and I might stop feeling the high for good. That’s just the fear talking, and my desire is stronger than the fear. It’s stronger than I think. I am stronger than I know, so bring it on. Here I go.
I got onto that bike eventually. Off came the training wheels. Took me a good hour of coaching and back and forth before I consented to the inevitable release and push towards the end of Roxborough St. My course was small and everyone seemed confident I was capable. All it would take was a couple turns of my wheels. I wasn’t ready but sometimes ready isn’t worth waiting for or you might wait forever. Sometimes you just have to go for it because you can’t not.
I didn’t have a far distance to go but for me where the hedge began at the end of my small street, it wasn’t only the sidewalk that was ending. This small block was all I knew. I wasn’t allowed on the other side of the hedge. It was too dangerous: traffic, strangers, the unknown. There, on the other side laid the big bad world and to cross over would be an adventure greater than one could ever imagine. I could hold a worm in my hand. I could do cartwheels on the cement or toboggan down my front stoop. I could even eat dog food if you dared me to but this, this was huge.
First came the push, then the glide. The thrill was almost too much. I had done it. Two wheels, one handlebar and me, twenty cracks short of the end of the line was all that separated me from that big bad hedge. But, shit. I can’t brake, I don’t know how to stop on only two wheels. How could I have forgotten to ask this integral question? Important information. Too late to ask. Oh my God. Hedge approaching, cheering now vibrating in my skull like the sound of a group of adults who have just realized their grave error in forcing the under-prepared. I wasn’t sturdy enough after all. This was going to end badly. So be it.
I turn my head back to face my family feeling nothing short of robbed. My sense of security was gone. The unwaivering support of mom and dad couldn’t help me now. It was time to get brave. This first run was going to end badly, there was no doubt. And BANG! I smash through the hedge at full force. One small girl and her proud two-wheeler bursting through into the abyss. A few stiches and a scar and yes, even a little blood and I was acquainted with the worst case scenario. But it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was kind of great.
I haven’t spent much time on bicycles since then but lately, I’ve been thinking about getting back on. The temptation of adventure isn’t leaving me much choice and I am unfamiliar with this heartbeat which excites me to no end. I know I’ll be okay even if I can’t put the brakes on and I should just go for it anyhow. Stopping before the dangerous part seems like the easy way out and I’m bored of knowing what happens next. The world has gotten bigger again and there are branches that haven’t yet known the sweet pleasure of slicing open my ivory skin and unleashing the red blood; living proof that I am not a moving corpse, that I can still hurt, still feel, proof that there are highs I have yet to unleash. I feel prepared for the rush. Besides, I think the training is over. If I can accept that I don’t need two extra feet to hold me up, and that my own two feet will serve the purpose well, fear doesn’t stand a chance and so I say “off with the training wheels, already! Ready or not, here I come”. Who knows, I may find myself with a partner in crime in the end, someone who I can depend on to give me a boost over even the highest walls and someone with whom I could share the most bizarre adventures. There in Alice’s Wonderland we will live together. The clocks will stop and we will swim through oceans of jelly and breathe without inhaling and we’ll ride bicycles with no wheels at all. Anything is possible.
And so, with the foolish faith of my youth, the bravery and determination of a wild rabbit and the insatiable longing to get what it’s about, I will run into every wall until I find a hedge or a branch or a vine or that goddamned key I’ve been looking for. I believe it’s out there. I am learning day by day that there is always a way to get over to the other side. It takes patience and determination but I am capable. Fear stands no chance of ruining me. If I fall, I fall. If I break, if I bleed, if I hurt, all is not lost. Love is the greatest adventure there is and it is calling for me. Let’s just hope, it’s just like riding a bicycle…
Posted by Julie Jolicoeur at 6:29 PM