by Colin Field.
On a brisk Sunday morning I said goodbye to my flatmates and left in search of solitude. The leaves were golden hues of the autumn variety, but my head was doing the early morning thump, thump, thump of a previous evening’s, “just one more pint.”
As my head a-pounded all through a Safeway supply run, I whinged and whined about my all-too-difficult lifestyle. Outside, loading drinks and goodies into my panniers I heard a drunken rendition of “Que Sera, Sera” kick off behind me. I turned to see the resident winos: their swollen, red noses and creased faces, hard but innocently jolly. Those on the bench watched their entertaining friend stagger peacefully through the song. He took his task seriously. He won applause from his friends and admiration from me.
Loading drinks and goodies into my panniers, I heard a drunken rendition of “Que Sera, Sera” kick off behind me.
With the day’s rations packed away, I mounted my trusty steed and began pedalling through the quiet streets of a Sunday-morning London. Heading east, I spun my way slowly through Notting Hill and the West End. With a sluggish pace, my mind focused on arrival.
For the last six months, I’d been living with fourteen people in a four bedroom flat and I didn’t like any of them. I was headed to my cousin’s for a week. She lived a day’s ride from London and worked full-time. Which meant solitude to me. Something I was craving.
But my head was killing me. Between the filthy air of London, the hangover and the reality of my current poverty, there wasn’t much to feel optimistic about. The grey English sky was threatening to test my composition and I had no rain gear. The last thing I could’ve coped with was a good old-fashioned day of British drizzle.
Pedalling on down Oxford Street and out through the East End I stopped to look at my map. Even after six months of working as a bicycle courier in this mess of a city, I couldn’t find my way out.
With a few more map checks I finally found the A20 out towards Maidstone in Kent County: the birthplace of my father. Passing the repetitive suburbs of London, the ride should have been easy and flat. But an easterly wind fought with my every pedal. “I hate this,” I thought to myself. “I can’t wait to get there.”
With each pedal stroke, the wind seemed to pick up and fight all the more. The grey clouds were darkening and threatening to break. “What the hell am I doing out here?” I thought to myself. “For ten pounds I could have caught a train. And it wouldn’t have taken a full day. I just want to get there.”
With that I felt the all-too-familiar bouncing of my rear wheel. My tire was going flat. My negative attitude just physically manifested itself.
After a miserable 20 minutes of taking off my panniers, finding tools and fixing the flat, I was back in the saddle. I began my slow, painful battle with the wind. I was having difficulty building up even the slightest momentum. Each pedal required my full weight, and I imagined myself climbing a mountain pass rather than riding a bicycle on a level road.
Looking ahead, I saw the brightness of a cloud break as it lit up the first house I’d seen since arriving in Kent County. It was a tiny morsel of positivity. And I grasped at it knowing that my frustrated anger was a vicious, downward spiral.
Seeing that small ray of light was the first positive thing that happened to me all day. But as my mind reeled backwards, I remembered this wasn’t my first smile of the day: that had come at the early-morning, drunken rendition of “Que Sera, Sera.” After a cold night of bench riding, the hobo had risen to sing. The words of the song lingered in my head and I started to forget about my struggling legs. The red-nosed hoboes had spent the night drinking and dozing in the cold air on the hardness of a public bench. Yet they still managed to rise with a song. I remembered the old man’s face, his filthy clothes and his swaggering stance.
Que sera, sera…
All of my whinging was self-induced. Even if the heavens opened I would be sleeping inside tonight. Things weren’t so bad.
Whatever will be, will be…
My legs kept spinning repetitively while the song looped over and over in my head. All the self-doubts that an early morning hangover can bring were whisked away. The tarnish of life’s little toils was removed and my head was beginning to clear.
Que sera, sera…
I forgot about the struggle and the desire to reach the destination. I remembered the importance of the journey.
Whatever will be, will be…