When we are healthy, we take our bodies for granted; we fail to consider just how much each part of our anatomy is integral to our lives as a whole. We don´t appreciate all our parts when we are well and when we aren´t, we curse this segment of ourselves for failing us; even then, no love.
When my knee started hurting, I didn´t listen or stop. Not touching my bike even for a day was torture: resting my knee meant losing my transportation, my exercise, my stress-relief, my friend circle, my access to adventure and my sense of strength. Bogotá is chaos and traffic jams and theft and concrete and none of that mattered because I had metal and wheels and speed. On my bike I could escape and feel grounded all at the same time. So I didn´t listen. I didn´t say ¨uncle¨ until I started walking with a limp and even then I just decided to bike less, some days feeling fine and others wincing with every pedal rotation. Still, going to the doctor and following instructions to cease physical activity entirely has been pain far worse than the inflamed, pinched nerve.
Most ex-pats know the feeling of loneliness that comes from living in another country, particularly a big city: from feeling betrayed and disappointed by a tongue for not being strong enough to truly speak for its owner; from being asked so often where you´re from that you dissolve into nothing more than your accent; from being asked so often where you´re from that sometimes you prefer to not speak at all; from being swallowed by a city that was never yours, rattling in its cage so fervently that even if you—deep in its belly—were to scream, you couldn´t possibly be heard.
I learned to lean in to the snarling of the city. I learned to stay calm when 14-wheelers would roar past my two. Biking meant that it was OK to not speak or scream because I could kick: each time the universe would push me down, my legs would push down harder on the pedals and it still somehow felt like a fair fight.
Since my knee has gotten bad, the universe has been fighting dirty. First, the fridge broke; the stench of rotting, raw meat filling the apartment. Then the water heater broke, so ice cold showers followed. The nails holding the bed frame together gave way (only in the corner of the bed where my head goes). The owner of our apartment asked for the place back so we only have a few weeks to secure an apartment and paint the walls and pack. I´ve gotten various types of colds in the past two months, I´ve had restrictive and incredibly painful digestive problems—which, along with my knee, has guzzled my income– and my mental stability has become a thin strip of gauze.
The doctor tells me that in a few more months I will heal, that I need to be patient. Family and friends tell me that two months isn´t so bad and that I need to be patient. Co-workers, students—hell, taxi drivers– ask about my knee brace and tell me that I just need to be patient. Some even tell me it´s my own fault for not respecting the limitations of my own body… So when they later ask how my day is going I usually say ¨fine,¨ because someone who thinks two more months isn´t so bad after almost three months of waiting couldn´t possibly understand how simply taking a bus means losing another piece of myself; how every time I look out the Transmilenio or SITP window and see a cyclist whizz by, its trajectory crosses out the reflection of my face in the glass over and over again.
I have spent the past several years learning how to expertly zig-zag through traffic, to compensate for tardiness by pedaling faster. I don´t know how to stop. I once scotch-taped shut a deep, open wound because the bleeding was inconvenient. Patience means resisting the urge to tear open scabs; to see sorry excuses for progress, curl my hands into a claw and do