Relegated by a return to my fast light commute bike to shopping hauling status, I have given in to practicality and gone on a trawl round the bike shops in Fremantle to buy a kickstand for the Big Dummy. I’m amused to see that kickstand quality isn’t much higher here than it was in Central America. There I went through a succession of them before admitting defeat and learning to pack the bike balanced against whatever stability I could find.
The second shop has one that will probably do – shopping and errands won’t stress it as much as the abuse I meted out on tour so it may last a while at least. I ask to borrow a spanner, and am directed towards their workshop out back. As I enter, one of the shop assistants is half-heartedly trying tricks on his skateboard – there’s not much going on today. He doesn’t look inclined to fuss about tool use so I get on with it.
“Do you just use that round town, or are you going to do a tour on it?” He has sidled over to inspect. My bike doesn’t fit in amongst the stock-in-trade carbon and aluminium bling. The skateboard is now discarded.
I am still unsure as to how to answer this innocuous question, even after a few weeks practice in this place so removed from our recent life. The time when my uncontested identity was that of a cycle tourist is already fading enough that I find myself fighting the urge to come out with all of it – the months, the countries, the distance – trying to communicate the absolute reality that we’ve lived. Touching the vividness of these memories jolts them to the fore.
Returning to the hospital where I used to work has produced an odd time-shifting effect. It is as if I have stepped side-ways and backwards into a life that is both alien and comfortingly familiar. The people I work with have a remembered ‘me’ in their minds that I almost was, but now am not. Time and an enormous experience have moved me further from their conception. To avoid fleeing in the face of such discomfort, I am letting myself settle into a reconciliation between the different versions of ‘me’. I hope that I won’t lose the now-me in the process.
Daily cycling continues with the commute into Perth and back each day. Much like work, I am growing used to the degree that I have remembered the minutiae. I anticipate known bumps and cracks; and the seconds-saving short-cuts make me smile at the challenge I make of iterating improvement in such an oft-repeated journey. It is a very different take on movement and progression to that that was just a short time ago.