That is hardly the sensation I am trying to describe.
It is one of those days in Lebanon, one of those days when you think your day is best served by time-efficiency and smart planning – plotting your errands or meetings as per relative geographic location and traffic trends, filtering and prioritizing those that are restricted by bank opening hours, meal times, or other similar considerations; similarly working out the day’s wardrobe to suit the spectrum of meetings and occasions, and so on. As I started saying, it is one of those days where you think that is how your day can best be served… until you are startled by a stick in your spokes that brings your bike to a frightening halt and hurls you over the handlebars to a dusty, heavy thud on to the ground. You are not hurt, you stand up and assess the damage to your clothes (dusty and you find a tear somewhere), to your body (that’s going to bruise, but span of motion is normal), and to your bike, that looks so graceless in its distorted form on the ground. There is no major damage to speak of, but the incident has completely shaken you up, disoriented you. You try to pull yourself back together, but you continue to feel unsettled, and that sticks with you for the rest of the day. You ride your bike with an eerie focus on not falling off again, so much so that you can’t think of anything else, or allow yourself to slip into a playful ‘swoop’ as you slightly avert your eyes to look at shop windows. You reach one destination and you second, third and fourth guess the next one, trying to convince yourself that it truly is necessary, and failing that in the face of the hundred opposing excuses you have come up with, you decide instead to return home to relative safety… and do nothing.
You have so much to do, so much that you could be doing, and yet you are too restless to be able to focus on any of it. Your entire day has been derailed, like a stick in your spokes.
A friend or a loved one who hears the news is similarly rattled and as they cannot assess the extent of the damage or how you are continuing your day, are also stuck in that state of worry.
Ironically, both of you are now restless, and busying yourselves with mundane tasks and pedantic motions in your attempt to stop thinking of the event, the accident, and what this could mean for the next day and the day after that.
As you have gathered, the proverbial stick in our spokes can represent a number of things: a shooting, a bombing, an assassination, a protest that blocks streets and sets tires to fire… A sudden unexpected event that derails your day, rattles you, leaves you unsettled. Sadly, we seem to be practiced in such experiences, so much so that we each fall into our usual motions for coping, self-preservation, moving on. We dust ourselves off and try to get on with it, some form of muscle memory lifting us back into a precarious balance as we pedal forward.
Ironically, like riding a bike.