Once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, you always know how. It sticks with you. Sure, you may become out of shape. It may become difficult. But you can still ride it. Once you know, you know.
People often refer to other things, saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle!” Simple, right?
When I was 11 years old I was riding my bike in Ottawa, where I lived for one brief year. Oh I rode it all the time, and it was great fun and made it so easy to hang out with friends.
As I rode along one day, safely with my helmet, having known how to ride a bike for years already, something happened.
It hit my eye.
It hit my god damn eye.
I knew right away. I did what one would normally do – I closed my eyelid and rolled my eye around; I poked my eye a bit.
It didn’t work. Every time I blinked I felt it.
There was a bug in my eye.
I returned home, and, in my typical childhood self sort of way, started freaking out.
“There’s a bug in my eye, Mom! There’s a bug in my eye!”
She looked. And looked. And looked some more.
Still I insisted. “There is a BUG in my EYE.”
Well, she’d thoroughly searched and seen nothing. Still, being the good mother that she is, she listened to me and brought me to the doctor.
The closest one was closed, naturally.
She still didn’t believe there even was a bug in my eye. Afterall, she would have seen it after examining the eye! But she knew it was necessary to me for her to play along, and help me get the wretched “bug” out of my eye. So she didn’t dare let on that she didn’t believe me.
We arrived at an open clinic. We sat in the waiting room. I complained, and kept saying there was a bug in my eye.
Every time I blinked I felt pain. The pain of a BUG rubbing against my EYE. The annoyance of blinking for an hour, every single time in pain. A BUG stuck in my EYE.
Finally we were brought in to the doctor’s room, where we waited ten minutes or so for the doctor, who would deal with this imaginary bug.
My mom and I were chatting, when suddenly she gave me a strange look.
“Hold still,” she said, and I had no idea what she was talking about.
She grabbed a tissue and approached my eye. She wiped the side of it.
I’m not quite sure what she said. My best guess is, “huh.”
“What?” I replied.
“There really was a bug in your eye.”
As we had been sitting in the doctor’s office waiting, my mom had noticed a black spot at the corner of my eye, and had removed it. The bug.
As it turned out she had never believed there was a bug in my eye, simply because she had thoroughly examined my eye. But, being the good mom that she is, and being the spazz that I am, she humored me and brought me to the doctor – in her mind to placate me and have the doctor tell me there was no bug in my eye. But there was a bug in my eye. It had just been attached to my inner eyelid, making it painful to me and invisible to my mom. She bought me a popsicle after.
I use to ride my bicycle a lot. I was never in great shape or anything – it’s not like I rode great distances. But I did enjoy cruising around the neighborhood.
I’ve ridden a bike since then. It took quite a long time to get back on one, and it was certainly with sunglasses on. I was paranoid. Absolutely paranoid. But I rode again. With my eyes shielded and with elapsed time I was no longer concerned that a bug would stick in my eye, and, even if it did, I knew it would be a solvable problem.
But, to this day, I do not enjoy riding a bicycle. I no longer take pleasure in it. Sure, I can ride it; one never forgets how to ride a bike once one has learned. But the joy of riding a bicycle never returned.
Life is like riding a bicycle. Once you know how, you never forget. But that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.