Of bikes and rainbows

It’s dark when I wake up to the shrill tones of an old electric alarm clock, stumble to the kitchen, pull my robe tight against the chill of pre-dawn September mornings coming through cracked-open windows. Hardly seeing, I punch the coffeemaker’s “on” button, shuffle back on cold floors to the harsh light of fluorescent bulbs we haven’t yet replaced.

When I leave home 45 minutes later on the bike I bought for $35 off Craigslist, heels slipping on the pedals, helmet crunching flat the hair I took the time to style, the darkness has lifted. I ride west, but the clouds above me are still pink as the sun’s first rays are lifting over the hill that shelters this little town.

I’ve never been a fan of biking. Helmets ruin any attempt at style. I feel wobbly and precarious, perched on a hard seat that leaves me sore and balancing on tires that look so narrow. My thighs burn when I’m just three blocks into my seven-block route, and by the time I reach my desk I’m panting and windblown, with wind-chapped cheeks and cold hands but sweating all the same.

But I buy myself 10 minutes of sleep in the morning when I bike instead of walk, and parking is minimal and there’s no way I’m feeding a meter all day, and I figure it makes up for shopping at Walmart. So every morning I struggle with the bike out of the garage door, catch the hem of my dress pants on the gears, freeze down that first hill and sweat up the second, nod to early morning joggers and old men walking their dogs, then fight with a bike lock designed to make me look stupid at the bike rack on the side of the building.

Yesterday, I was glad I did. There was a pink glow on the western horizon, leaving us in this pink between-light that felt otherworldly. Clouds from Sunday’s rain were moving away but still hung heavy over the ridge. And arching high above us, almost disappearing in the pink mist, was a rainbow.

I didn’t know you could have rainbows at dawn, or without rain. But I watched it fade into the pink for a moment before turning back to the windowless newsroom, where a pile of police reports on drunken weekend fights were waiting for me.

And I was glad for the bike on the rack on the west side of the building, the side where that 7 a.m. rainbow glowed over the pink haze of dawn.


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