My companions dropped me, slowly but resolutely, with hardly a look back in either anger or pity. And then I was alone on a sun-baked, country road with only the chirping of my Garmin to keep from lying down dead. I’d bonked, and even after bonking I’d tried to hold on. The group had gotten pretty strung out, really just a loose collection of soloists, all of us chasing a wheel we had no hope of latching onto. Pretty quickly, I stopped even wondering how they were doing up ahead of me. Out of sight….
After the fall of Eden it has all been downhill for humanity, poisoned as we are by the shameful realization of our own imperfection.
I floated along in pain, the pedals barely turning over, water bottles long since dry. Abject as I felt, I’d even stopped marveling at the series of mistakes that had brought me to this point. None of that mattered anymore. Just roll. Just keep rolling.
After the fall of Rome, we dissected their errors, wrote them in a thousand books, never to forget, but always to repeat.
The Garmin told me to go right, so I went right. The Garmin said not to turn, so I didn’t. Following basic instruction is all I could do. And then I came to a Stop sign and put a foot down, and my companions rolled up from behind. I had really hoped not to see them again. I really preferred to be alone in my misery.
They didn’t have a Garmin, and didn’t know the way, and they’d just finished a five mile detour. Two of them had cracked, and the others looked un-amused by riding aimlessly in the high summer heat. 45 minutes earlier, I’d been excess baggage. Now I was a crucial teammate.
A mile or two later a convenience store appeared by the side of the road. “Convenient” hardly seems to convey what this little outpost represented to us at the time. I drank a Coke and a seltzer and ate a bag of chips. We climbed back on our bikes and left again, me on the front or calling out directions from behind.
That’s when the miracle happened, as sometimes it will. My legs returned from whatever hiatus they’d been on. My head cleared. My heart rate came down from the stratosphere. Suddenly I was pulling, coaxing and prodding my companions to the finish, saying encouraging things I couldn’t even have thought an hour before.
We found the farmhouse where the drinks and the shower and the cookout promised us salvation, where the van waited to shuttle us quietly home. My friends thanked me for helping them.
“After the Fall” is one of Arthur Miller’s more experimental works. Most of it unfolds in the mind of his protagonist, witness to multiple tragedies, wracked by self-doubt, prone to tangential and disconnected thinking. Many think it’s an indulgent work, but what I can tell you, from my own humble experience, is that sometimes the rider rides for an audience, and sometimes he rides for himself.