You Can’t Go Back From Here
Weight Watchers has begun to change my life.
It starts with the little things – choosing carrots instead of chips, peppers and cucumber on my salad in place of croutons.
Then, the effect starts to spread. I begin to weigh the balance between a sandwich or a cup of vegetable soup. Carbs and fats are more important than sweet with salty, but both are important. Before I realize it, the change has integrated itself into every moment of my eating experience. I start to savor the flavors of my food from the first bite to the last, eating slower to enjoy my meal, watching the pounds I’ve been dreading start to slowly slim off.
Instead of just pulling food from the fridge and eating, I sit and read while I enjoy some fruit salad and a cup of coffee as the summer sun starts to break through the leafy veil over my window. I begin to really believe that everything I eat has an effect on my health and my attitude. I feel lighter, fresher, free.
I pulled my bike out of the garage this evening to enjoy a ride in the cool evening and work off the few extra points from my pad thai. It hasn’t been this cool since April. The entire day was delicate, soft and pale. The sky was unbroken by clouds and a calm, temperate wind pervaded the stuffy house. There was a rest from the rain and the beating sun. In a way, it was a reprieve that came without us realizing how much we really needed it.
I’ve been riding my bike around this area since I was old enough to go out on my own. When I was younger, I stayed in the drive, riding up to the mailbox and back down around the storm drain. If I felt brave, I’d let my bike tire bump down over the curb to the street when there was no traffic – no sidewalks in our part of Solon back then.
As a teenager, I was permitted to leave the safety of the drive and the view of the porch windows and bike to the church on the corner. I would swoop and spin around the parking lot full speed until the sky began to fade to purple light, and then I’d bike home. On dry days, I would wheeze and heave my bike to the top of Cannon hill and come flying down through Hidden Lakes, scattering geese and pressing the grass between our house and our backyard neighbors. Splattered with mud from the ditch in the property line, I’d roll the bike back in the garage just as Mom rang the bell for dinner.
High school gave me a whole new set of liberties. On early mornings I’d kick my tennis shoes out from under the bed, fill a fresh water bottle and bike the four miles to the high school, racing the sun down SOM Center Road, past the rock wall and apartments and frenzied parents in their Sedans. The smell of exhaust and coffee and hot asphalt was the joy of morning, and at school I’d roll my bike into Mr. Kramer’s back room. At the end of the day, we’d part ways and I’d start the long trek through town and walk part of the huge hill that had aided my descent to get to class on time. Of course, there was no rush home, just small lungs and afternoon heat.
College weighed me down a bit, even with my bike on campus. So I’ve started riding again. Today began as a simple start up the hill to Lewis Elementary. Then I caught a second wind and kept pushing on to Clarendon Drive. Even though I’ve known this area my whole life, I never knew these roads looped around each other. I discovered new paths and new faces and a whole new jungle of deep green, overhanging oaks and maples. The smell of cool, damp grass, wood burning in a bonfire pit, the quiet murmurs of suburbanites out in the unseasonably chilly June night… I have missed these things. New York has many beauties and many joys, but my heart is here. I love the curve of development sidewalks, the occasional bark of a dog or pattering of feet on an after-dinner stroll. The traffic on the main roads begins to slow after seven o’clock and there is a whole new world to the north of the city. The air is fresher and the evening sky clearer, despite the light pollution that chokes out the stars.
I let my legs pedal me to my old childhood haunts – the elementary school, now tiny and flat against calf-deep field grass. The broken parking lot, the yellow slides, woodchips and the chalky United States on the black top. I weave in and out of the tether ball poles and give wide berth to the little girl and her mother on the swings. Somewhere in the aging building is a lone custodian, pushing a dry mop and moving the rack of lost-and-found coats to the cafeteria. He’s been in this place so much longer than I have, and how small the building must seem to him after so many nights of sweeping…
My ears and fingers have started to get cold, a wonderful fact for Ohio in June. It’s time to move on as I’m losing my light, and I cut through to the church next door. My tires run the length of the parking lot where we used to play tennis, now cut off and replanted with grass. The spot where he and I sat in the thunderstorm and wept, he angry at me not trusting him and me furious that I was right all along.
I stop at the arbor benches and enter the woods, walking slowly along the Stations of the Cross. I’m walking to “Exile Vilify” by the Nationals and missing you ever so much, each step a reminder of the ones we’d be taking hand in hand if you were here. Each step gives me a reason to think of why I love you.
The song ends and I’m back out of the shade of the canopy into a golden sky. A single jet trail cuts the whisper of paling blue and catches the fiery remains of daylight, gilding it gold. I find the beat of the tune by Joe Taylor and I weave my way towards the hill and home. There’s almost no need for any movement from my legs, the hill knows what I want. I’ve earned the free ride down 1,200 feet to my house. The elevation was worth crushing my lungs on the way up, and the more I take this route the easier it always gets.
Back in the house, I pour a glass of ice water with sweet lime and miss my brother in Pennsylvania, remembering his attempts to teach me to dance and sharing what’s he learned about true manhood.
I walk past the stairs where the one I love came up for breakfast less than a week ago. I miss you there, and a few steps further where you made a heart with your hands and sent me to bed.
I make the final trek up to my room, take off my shoes and enjoy the lush of new carpet underfoot and the crisp twist of night air pushing through the window screens. The walls are now green instead of pink, the bed now between the open windows and the closet empty and organized. All is almost in its proper place.
Except for you, as you are so far away. Soon, we’ll fix that.
I left the house for Weight Watchers, and came back for you.
There really is no going back from here. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
It only starts with food – and ends with one soul parting the air of a June evening in a corner of Ohio.
I work for myself, I work for my future and I work for all of this. All of this that I love.
That alone can shed the weight off a heavy heart.
(c) HEYanega 2011