It was supposed to be my moment of glory – my crowning achievement as a novice biking enthusiast. I’d trained for it – spent many, many hours biking all over the city and into the country. I’d bought a new bike for it – a beautiful Miele Italian racing bike. I was ready for it. More than ready. I was pumped.
It was called the Tin Man Triathlon (I suppose the name is a take-off of the Iron Man). In 1988, I had signed up with a couple of friends to enter the relay – one of them would do the swimming leg, the other would run, and I would ride my bike for 40 grueling kilometres. I was rather pleased to be the only woman on the team. I was in better shape than I’d ever been before, and this was supposed to be the moment I’d redeem myself – I could be an athlete after all! I could hardly wait to put my beautiful bike, and my finely tuned biking legs to the test.
The race was slated for Saturday. On Thursday night, my world turned upside down.
It was nearing morning when the man entered my apartment. Probably around 4:30 a.m. The apartment was hot, as it always was that summer. I’d slept with the windows open – it was the only way I COULD sleep. When I woke up, there he was, standing over my bed with a pair of scissors clenched in his raised hand. In the split second it took me to focus my eyes and register what was going on, I knew that this man had climbed through my open window and was here to hurt me.
He was there for nearly 2 hours. Part of that time is a blur. Most of it, I try not to conjure up in my mind. I don’t want to remember the way his fingers felt on my naked body. I don’t want to relive the terror of approaching death when he tried to choke the breath out of me, angry that I wasn’t more willing to satisfy his sexual deviance. I don’t want to see flashbacks of the naked woman tattooed on his dirty arm. I don’t want to bring back the smell of him – old alcohol, body odour, and solvent. I don’t want to see his ugly naked lust.
Somehow, I convinced him to leave, after he’d taken all he could from me, and left a shell of who I was before. Somehow, I found the strength to get dressed and run the half-block to my friend’s house. Somehow, I survived the hospital visit, the doctor’s examination, the clipping of my pubic hair for evidence, the police investigation, the months of anger and hatred.
Somehow I survived all that, but I didn’t survive the bike race. I tried. I drove out to the town where it was being held, with full intention of triumphing over what had happened, and racing anyway. But as I drove, I knew I couldn’t do it. My neck muscles stung with the memory of his hands. Every time I closed my eyes, my mind raced back to jagged dark memories of him. My hands shook on the steering wheel of the car. I knew I couldn’t hold a bike upright for 40 kilometres.
Why do I write about this now, 17 years later? This week, as I shopped for a new bike, I remembered the anticipation I felt the last time I bought a shiny new bike. I remember the excitement I felt preparing for the race. I remember the feel of the leather biking gloves on my hands.
That man took a lot from me in those two hours. Though it took me a long time to recover, I’ve gotten to a point where I hardly ever think about it anymore. But this week, as I look forward to my first new bike in 17 years, I find myself angry that, along with everything else, he took my chance to race in the triathlon.
Perhaps, when I get my new bike, I’ll sign up for another one.