The road to freedom

Flo likes white pants, rainy days, clean sheets, and the streets. And her cat Grindelwald. And staring into the abyss until the abyss stares back. She says Mondays aren’t stressful as long as you have the right outfit. But then she hates Sundays because they let her remind of Mondays. We don’t try to understand, we just believe her. Yes, she’s that kind of lady.

When Flo goes for a summer bicycle ride through her hometown, she often thinks about sticking her hands in a bowl of ice cold water.

I learned to cycle when I was around ten years old, I don’t quite remember the time, it’s vague and mostly vanished. Instead, I fill the memory with my own creations that probably never happened, or, are a misunderstanding of my own conception:

My cousin would come to our house in the village during summer breaks, and he always had his bike with him. I begged him to let me give it a go, but, in my family, I was the smallest of five sisters and I wasn’t preferred by most. So he always said no and played with my sisters instead. (Except once, when he gave me the bike and I fell, because of course I didn’t know how to ride it. After a good laugh he said: “that was the reason I didn’t want to give you the bike”. ) Then they would go upstairs where my mom had prepared lunch for everyone. Since I was small and mostly dwelled in my books I was rarely seen at family gatherings, so my mum would always reserve a plate for me. My soul longed for freedom, and that freedom could only be provided by that bike. So I had to learn. When I could hear their laughs from upstairs, I snuck out, took the bike, and tried with all my heart to ride it.

I don’t remember how many times I fell that day. I was covered in bruises, but I didn’t stop. It was my only chance, because “who knows when he will come again?” I would say continuously to myself. My family couldn't afford to buy a bike just because I wanted one. I tried and tried, and failed, over and over again for what felt like an eternity, feeling on the edge all of the time. I remember as they came down I was so scared they would find out and say something to me, that I tried one last time as if my whole life depended on it.

I finally did it!

Two or three pedals were enough for me to never forget how to ride that big bike, and my muscle memory grasped so hard to remember those movements that I could never forget them. I did it and it felt like I had accomplished the greatest thing of my life. My heart was beating so hard, I felt it in my throat. My hands were sweaty and my knees were trembling, so, after three pedals, I fell. I hurt myself so badly I drew blood from my foot, but I didn’t make a sound. I picked up the bike, put it back in its place, and ran full speed to hide. I don’t know if he noticed or not, but I remember that my heart was flying. From that moment on I knew that nothing could make me feel like riding a bike. It gives me a sense of freedom running through my veins. The heavy breathing that comes from my lungs, humming my favourite music, feeling the air caressing my hair, and being in total control of my own life.

When I look at this painting by the Spanish artist Rosana Sitcha, I see the same feeling of freedom combined with determination: the conviction that if I want something in life, even when the circumstances are not in my favour, I will find a way, no matter what. That’s why for me cycling is the cure to everything, like - at least in my mind - swimming is for the girl in the painting.

(Painting: Rosana Sitcha, Anónimas Sumergidas (Anonymous Submerged) XIII, 2018 -

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