Friday, March 8, 2013
there was a survey out among students that spring, the usual class survey in which the graduates get named, alongside fan favorite teachers, as winners of the 'craziest hair award' or 'most likely to become a millionaire'. i was making my way through some final drawings in art class, the room transient amid the bustling preparations of our upcoming show, and a paper blew across the table. there were snickers. there were hushed glances and lookaways. i looked down at the paper, and saw that it was a creased, yellow photocopy so ubiquitous that week at school. it was the class survey.
i glanced at it because something about it caught my eye. and then there it was, my name, neatly printed and (ironically) spelled mostly correctly, next to the 'least favorite athlete' designation.
i was elated.
it is highly unlikely that heather mcleod had ever meant to make my day with the inclusion of my name on the survey, but she probably didn't know that i had never been called an 'athlete' before she did it. i smiled. i left the piece of paper where it was. and i walked through the door into the blinding pollen-thick sunshine just a step in the springtime blackflies. it felt like my birthday.
as these days go on and the sun makes more promises and keeps some of them too, nostalgia comes rushing back, and i get a bit stuck in it, trying to figure out how i've ever gotten here from there, and whether i've been good for it.
i would not call myself an athlete. kids ask me if i do sports. i respond with a perfunctory, 'sometimes'. they ask which ones. i tell them running and riding bikes. i'm not really good at either one, but i love them. i'm not a runner. runners consider themselves runners, pride themselves in it, look like it. i am also not much of a rider. for all of my time in the saddle and on the pedals over the last two decades, i have not gone very far. i know enough to know i don't know enough, and i love the way spokes ping after a wheel is fully tensioned or the way a top tube feels in my hand as i hoist a bike by its frame, but i don't go fast, i don't have any watts to speak of, and i think about bikes for more hours than i ride them.
anyway, it's about connotation more than denotation these days, and that's all about context. i just want to be physical. maybe that's what athletes want. maybe they just need to be in one moment and the next, as fully and quickly as possible, maximizing their presence in context, breathing through their skin, seeing through their movements. let's move.