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Eight Beats Per Measure

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I’ve never had much tolerance for heat, and today was hot. The hottest it had been all summer. The sun, way up in the cloudless sky, indifferent to my suffering, slammed down and wrapped my body in a suffocating cloak. My bike groaned below me, reminding me that it had been needing a tune up for the last three years. My legs circled around and around, peddling home stroke by stroke. I had used up my last drops of water two hours ago. It was a struggle enough to keep up the pace on the flat, and yet, here I stood at the bottom of a bloody hill, not a speck of shade in sight until the top. Why, God? Why?

Not even a wisp of cloud in the sky. I had hoped to be home half an hour to go, and now I had to get up this hill, through four more miles of torture, and up another shade-bare hill. Well, I figured, I couldn’t put it off forever. I shifted down to the lowest possible gear and started up. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, counting the down strokes in measures of eight to distract myself from my screaming muscles and panting lungs. It felt like someone was pushing up on my pedals as I tried to push down, harder and harder with each cycle of the chain. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Six, seven, eight. Seven, eight. Eight. Eight beats per measure. Down stroke counts as one beat. The song in my head played along, matching the rhythm of my tired legs. Sweat dripped down my temples, drying in a salty film on my cheek. My aching lungs sucked in the thick air. The sun pounded down relentlessly. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I struggled on, amazed at how pathetically difficult it was for me to bike up a stupid hill. And then, all of the sudden, I felt the blessed cool of shade like a pool of clear, beautiful water. I had made it, without even realizing how far I’d come. I looked behind me. It was funny- the hill looked a lot smaller from the top. Alright! One hill down, four more miles and a slightly larger hill to go!



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