Ride the Rocket, Pt 2.
Artwork by Emma Darvick
The sun beamed through the windows of the 28th floor. I squinted.
I unstuck my face from the white leather couch and sat up slowly. Everything hurt. My neck was stiff, my head throbbed, my jaw was cemented shut, the knot in my throat was still there.
I stared at the closed bedroom door. It was silent, but I knew he was awake. I couldn’t move. There was a ringing in my ears.
I broke my staring contest with the bedroom door and turned my head to look at my new dumb bike sitting in the middle of the room.
It was not as nice as my first bike. It was too small, and it didn’t have a basket, but it only cost fifty dollars which was all I had left after spending another fifty on a new lock. It was also bubblegum pink. A girl I knew who lived next door had found a poster in the lobby of her building and called to tell me. That was nice.
The man who sold me the bike looked like he was auditioning for the role of ‘predatory pedophile’ in a PSA about not talking to strangers. He had the look down pat- right down to the sport sandals and hawaiian shirt. It was almost too on the nose if you ask me.
I looked down at my lap. My hands were sitting there limp and shaking.
Don’t throw up. At least wait until you get outside. He’ll come out to help and you won’t leave.
I brought the bike up with me in the elevator last night even though it was against building policy. Everyone in the elevator was annoyed with me but I didn’t care- I wasn’t about to lose another bike to the streets, especially not today.
Go ahead, say something lady. Just try me. I dare you.
When he finally came through the door I was standing on the balcony having a drink, craning my neck over the edge of the 28th floor to look west at the setting sun. Everything was bright orange and glowing; it was a perfect June night and I resented that. I could feel the bile climbing up my throat.
I couldn’t tell if I just went numb or if every nerve ending was lit on fire.
I stood in the doorway of the balcony unsure what to do. He stood in the doorway of the apartment unsure what to do. The bike stood there like a barricade between us.
He stared at me and shrugged.
It was so small but that action left me shattered.
Remember those ugly New Balance sneakers he used to wear? And his goofy hair? God, how many times did he ask you out before you accepted? Remember that time he accidentally asked you what you were dressing up as for Christmas instead of Halloween and it was so funny you thought you were never going to be able to stop laughing? Remember the trip to New York? Remember the nights at the wine bar? Remember the road trips? And the four o’clock coffees in the park? Remember the long chats in bed? Remember that perfect spot in his shoulder where you fit so nicely?
It was gone now. I had thrown it away. My chest tightened and heat rose into my face. Neither of us knew what to do. We approached each other slowly like we were strangers.
Take a breath.
I adjusted my shirt collar. It felt tight.
“This bike is way too small for you, you know that right?”
I nodded and tried to smile.
You haven’t taken a breath.
I’m not sure why but without hesitating he wrapped his arms around me the way he had for six years, I eased into that spot in his shoulder. It wasn’t all gone yet. My eyes welled, the knot in my throat tightened more than ever. I couldn’t breathe.
What have you done?
I actually couldn’t breathe.
Inhale. Don’t be dramatic.
I was suffocating. I broke the embrace and looked at him with what must have been a wild look of fear in my eyes, judging from his reaction.
“Hey, are you okay? Breathe. Hey, c’mon, you can do it. Calm down…. I’m not mad at you”
He squeezed my hand and I cracked.
My alarm went off. I was still sitting on the couch. The apartment was perfectly still.
Get the hell up. You have to go to work.
There was no time to think. Duty called. I quickly got dressed and brushed my teeth. I had a few leftover toiletries I still needed to squeeze into my already very full bags. I had no idea how I was going to ride my bike with all this stuff. I had two backpacks, a giant purse, and two groceries bags full of stuff- I didn’t even know what any of it was.
I put my helmet on. I put one backpack on my front and the other on my back. I put my purse across my body and a grocery bag on either handle of the bike.
Shit. The door opens inwards.
I was trying so hard to be quiet. I was desperate not to have to say an actual goodbye, but it was a small apartment and the entryway was narrow. Being an upright turtle weighed down by toiletries wasn’t helping my case either. It was a snug fit; I tried to squeeze between the bike and the wall to grab the handle of the door. My backpack got stuck on the key hook/mail holder thing I nagged him to install for us when we moved in. I knocked it off the wall and all the keys, and mail, and various leftover mystery IKEA screws fell all over the floor.
Are you fucking kidding me?
The door was one of those fireproof, 400-pound doors on hydraulics that slammed shut no matter who tried to stop it. I was certainly no match for it in my condition. My pink bike scraped loudly across the door and I was repeatedly checked into the wall. I was sure he knew exactly what was happening out here- it was by no means a rarity for me to be a chaotic, clumsy mess. He was always so put together and would roll his eyes and smile. He thought our opposite personalities complimented each other- I suppose sometimes they did.
I got the bike out and the door slammed behind me, which would have been a fitting sentiment but I knew I had to go back in and clean up the mail.
I laughed silently. I really felt like I deserved a bit of romance at this moment, didn’t I? When did I become such a narcissist? Why was I expecting the world to stop turning just because I was going through a crisis?
Buck up, Hebb-- this isn’t poetry. It’s Thursday and you’re going to be late for work.
I picked up the mail and I left. There was no grand moment. It was just me in a helmet with five bags and a bike.
And just like that, it was over. I rode the elevator back down to earth.
I attempted to mount the bike but I couldn’t reach the handlebars with the backpack strapped to my front so I just started walking.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how he had held my hand until I caught my breath.
He comforted me.
Real rich, Robin. Make the man whose heart you trampled comfort you. This must be so difficult for you.
I couldn’t really remember what we talked about, but the conversation had ebbed and flowed from sadness and anger to confusion and doubt, to laughter and reminiscence. It was all of it at once. I guess it was closure.
I locked my bike up outside my work and dragged my ass and my bags inside. My life was ending but people still needed their coffee.
The ringing continued in my ears all day, but I sort of liked it, it made it easier to block everyone else out. I was happy to have something to keep my hands and mind busy. Every so often I’d tune back into reality.
It’s over. It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.
Eight hours must have passed because suddenly I was being told to go home.
And where is that, exactly?
I gathered my bags and became a human mule again. I was struggling to find my keys to my bike lock. As I was walking I dropped one of the grocery bags, I bent over to pick it up and my front pack opened up and my shampoo and hair brush fell onto the sidewalk.
Cute, cute. This is very cute. Love it. Killing it.
I gathered my belongings up and checked my phone. Seven missed calls. People were worried. I appreciated that but I really couldn’t talk about it with a knot this big in my throat.
There was a text from Sarah- my savior of a friend who was letting me stay in her guest room.
"Hey girlie- The key is the mailbox for you! We won’t be there when you arrive. My parents are still staying with us until tomorrow so I hope it’s okay if you spend the night in the office. Hope last night was okay! Can’t wait to see you! Xoxo”
As long as I don’t need to sleep in Trinity Bellwoods tonight.
I made my way around the building while punching Sarah’s address into Google Maps.
Fifteen minutes away by bike-- perfect.
I looked up from the phone.
Where did I put the damn bike?
It was a huge long bike rack. It was there somewhere.
I paced back and forth scanning for my pink bike.
LOL. Where did you put it, dummy!
That’s literally impossible. My other bike was stolen YESTERDAY.
Oh, it’s possible.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?”
The words came flying out of my mouth. People were staring blankly at the girl in the purple helmet wearing two backpacks and a giant purse while carrying two grocery bags.
I closed my eyes. The ringing in my ears became deafening.
It’s fine. This is karma. You broke his heart and this is the universe’s way of getting payback. Start walking.
It was 28 degrees at 5pm. My front and back were already sweating from carrying the bags but I was determined to walk the whole way. It would probably take me 45 minutes. I had never gone to Sarah’s from this direction.
I walked. My mind raced with poisonous, self deprecating thoughts. I had tried to suppress them as much as possible but I was too tired so I let them fly.
You’re in over your head.
You’re going to fail hard and fast.
You’ve got no career, no partner, no home.
You have nothing.
You had a beautiful life and you lit it in fire, and why? You can’t even tell me.
You are a selfish, ungrateful bitch who uses everyone for your own personal gain.
Have I mentioned you’re getting fat? No? Well look at your reflection in this window.
My god, you’re looking old.
It’s cute how you thought you could do this. Why don’t you just call Mom and get her to fly you home? Go live in New Brunswick. You don’t belong here. This city isn’t for people like you.
I looked up and I didn’t know where I was.
Fuck. Dufferin! You went to far west. You’ve added 20 minutes onto your walk. You’re useless.
I stopped. My knees were shaking. My shoulders were sore from my heavy load.
Just call him. You could just go back up to the 28th floor and in a few days it will all just feel like a bad dream. He wants you up there. It would be easy. It’s not over.
It’s not over.
It’s not over.
I turned around and started power walking. I mustered all the strength I had leftover. Sweat dripped from my nose onto my lips. I was now in a full blown run.
It’s not over.
I got to the front door and ran as fast as I could upstairs. I dropped my stuff on the floor and looked around- panting, gasping for air.
I had 5 boxes, two backpacks, a giant purse and two grocery bags. It all fit perfectly in the corner of Sarah’s small office.
It’s not over.
I laid down on the floor of the office in front of all my worldly belongings. I closed my eyes. This ringing in my ears began to fade.
I didn’t need a reason. I had made a decision and it was the right one.
It’s not over, but it is day one.
Tomorrow I’ll get a metro pass.