Car Heat

Bicyclist Experiencing Car Heat

Relegated to the postage stamp sized alley on the far right-hand side of the road, I balance between whizzing vehicles and swinging car doors. Movement intensifies the breeze blowing in my face. Each breath exhales excess wind swallowed while breathing deeply to maintain speed. A balancing body rights my mind – and motion exerts a calming effect on my soul.

Through my lightness, I sense the weight of the metal masses around me. In my microcosmic bicycling universe I am ruler and subject, master of my own direction and destiny.

Awareness comes from sight and sound. Eyes and ears allow me to anticipate and plan my moves, gracefully weaving, lithely gliding through urban constriction.

The roads are so full of objects I can barely conceive of open space. Each shift, each reaction, spells life or death.

Cars seem like the enemy. They taunt and jeer, their sheer enormity dwarfing the tiny steel triangles beneath me. Perched on tubes of hand-wrought geometry, allowing me to propel myself through space, I pause to think about boxy motor vehicles.

At a traffic light, I stand, right foot clipped into the pedal, left foot firmly rooted on solid ground. A car drifts up beside me. I heard it approaching in the distance. And I listened for its speed, wondering whether it intended to stop or whether it would whack my rear wheel.

Side-by-side, we sit baking in the summer sun, with heat so intense, I can barely breathe. Clothes and cycling gloves stick to my skin, an impediment to mobility. A vesture of road grime encases my shins – like a deep black, gauzy chiffon over untanned skin.

Up from the hood arises a thick, invisible cloud of steamy torridity. It oozes out of every pore of the vehicle. Nauseated, I feel faint. The heat’s ferocity swarms in my head. Dizziness overtakes me. A half-empty bottle, filled with stale summer water, makes no dent in quenching thirst.

Gradually reddening, my cheeks grow rosier as they broil from the car parching my skin, sending shocks of hotness through my hip and leg. Such emanations are one’s worst foe when trapped in a solar oven.

There are occasions, though, when a running engine can be a friend. On brisk winter rides, fingers numb with cold, tight muscles with no elasticity knotting up beneath layers of hefty garb, one wishes for a car – or two – to produce outdoor heat to break the circular wall of gelidity. At rest, one’s left side defrosts, while bitter air penetrates from the right. What a pleasure to delay at a light with cars lined up, forming flameless fire.

Fumes of combustion rise through the atmosphere, filling nostrils with the scent of modernity. An adjacent car purrs like a content cat snoozing for a momentary nap, one eye randomly peeking at the world to make sure nothing’s amiss.

At times like that, I almost wish I could reach out and place my frigid hands on the hot hood. Too soon, the light turns green and I push the higher pedal with the force of my body’s weight, hoping to keep up with the car for a while. Just a moment more of borrowed warmth before I watch exhaust billow into winter air, leaving me behind in the bitter blast – longing for car heat.

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