have at most half a second head start on the rush-hour traffic of Second Avenue. I hit the turn fast and low, begging my tires not to skid-out, delivering me scraped and prone to the oncoming stampede. After the turn a hard right to the supposed bike lane, whose real purpose is a handy double parking area for everyone from fish deliveries, to lounging NYPD cruisers, to greasy haired men in greasy black cars always plugged in and murmuring into worn prepaid cell phones. The cheapest way to keep one’s mind five thousand miles away.
Behind me, Second Avenue seems to curve with the earth over and around, as far back as the eye can manage. The cogs never seem to stop or wear out as this city always spins, constantly replacing as it goes. King Kong of the coast, roaring out its bellow across the eastern seaboard.
It’s all yellow cabs all the time at the intersection of Houston and Second. I slide between two and wait for the green to let us loose. I see a giant backhoe scoop of a pothole directly in front of me. If I hit it my entire front wheel might just disappear. The cabbie to my right, his eyes closed, is singing along to the Tom Jones theme from Thunderball. It’s beautiful in that glimpse of other’s personal space that NYC offers every millisecond.
Green light! Tom Jones cabbie is fucking crowding me right towards that asteroid divot of a pothole. I jump my bike pedals forward hard and just miss falling off the left edge into it, marveling again at its size. Cabs all around me, I pedal hard. Faster than traffic now, I skirt a yellow light at Hester and bank the hard left towards the bridge.
Chinatown threatens to envelop me as I turn across Canal. Bodies everywhere, all with plastic bags and downturned eyes. Meandering through the crush on my steel steed, marveling at my own anonymity. Not one person looks at me, New York City style. Up the bank of the bridge ramp I go, the wind tasting different as it comes off the water. The light settles in the corners of the sky, decadent hues of color tucked into the elongating shadows of the evening.
I’m walled in by the suicide prevention chain link of the Manhattan Bridge. The projects on my left loom impressively. A mass of window AC units and brown brick, now reddish in the falling sun. The wind is loud, blasting my face as I sit back. Hands off once again, I look at Long Island City and the docks of Greenpoint. The lights of the Williamsburg Bridge seem to float in the hazy twilight.
A roar is building behind me: I go faster but so does it. It’s bearing down on me now, I feel the hair rise on the back of my neck. Faster still yet, I feel the bridge shaking under its closing approach. Tremors are rippling out and under my tires, up through my wrist bones, handshakes of industry. I’m hitting the bumps of the bridge joints so hard they threaten to toss me into the fence. It’s gaining faster, screeching, pulsing, roaring under the same downhill momentum. The Q train on, around, and over me as it tears past. My pores absorb the hot blast with a shiver. Ears shell shocked by the sound of grinding metal, I taste it in the back of my throat.
I catch faces framed in the yellow light of the train windows. Despite the speed and wind I see each face in stark focus. A thousand faces hurtling over a bridge in New York Fucking City, we ride downhill into the night together.