14 June 2011

Sunset Bike Rides

Sometimes I really love it when there're only four colors here that are visible as far off into the distance as I can see and they're each clearly demarcated from the others, they each have their place, their thing they're made of, and they don't mix. Red dirt road, pile of red bricks; green grass, green bushes, green trees; blue sky, painfully blue; white clouds, puffy and scattered and then gathering. But then something else will come along and it won't care about the four colors and the demarcation and the not mixing. Sometimes it's yellow jerrycans balanced on someone's head, sometimes it's a couple kids in fluorescent pink school uniforms, and sometimes it's even better than that and it's a woman in a wrap skirt that's such a garish neon orange that it's refusing the onset of night and competing not with the four colors of the daytime but with the thousand shades of a fading sunset that seems to be sucking the color from everywhere else and combining or rearranging or remixing it all back together and then flinging it across the western sky so that there's no color anywhere except where the sun wants there to be, because it's egotistical and jealous and it wants you not just to look, but to stare, it's telling you, Look at me, I'm a sunset, and everything else is soaked in gathering darkness, a dull purple-gray, and there's only her in her wrap skirt, one woman who's refusing to be covered by darkness and refusing to let the sun have all the color.

I saw her a few nights ago when I was riding my bike while the sun went down. This has become one of my favorite things to do since I got a bike a few months ago. It's cool out and beautiful and sometimes it's fun to race the rain home and all the bugs I ingest when they fly into my mouth or get stuck under my eyelids -- I always try to remember to take out my contacts and wear my glasses instead but I always forget -- or burrow into my ears are really good sources of protein and picking them out of my hair keeps me occupied for a good thirty minutes after I get home.

Everything else had given its color to the sun, which spread orange and purple and pink and soft golden yellow across dark black rainclouds with absolutely no regard to the daytime splits between red, green, blue, and white. So the sunset was colorful to an obscene degree, the sun was angry, out to prove a point, and everything else was simply darkening, shaded over, dusk. And then she was there and it took me a few seconds to figure out what it was, this glowing bit of orange in the middle of a field, anything but shaded over, lighting the area around her rather than simply growing dark, she was bent over, hinged at the waist, digging -- gardening -- in the small field near her huts and that skirt, that neon orange, was her challenge to the setting sun because she still had work to do and as I pedaled past it seemed like she could have kept digging all night if she wanted to, lighting her fields with that bit of sunset wrapped around her waist.

So the sun eventually gave up, having proved its point for the day or having realized it would never get the color from that woman's skirt, and all that was left were broad swathes of gold and silver across black clouds, all off to my right as I rode south back towards town. But once the sun is down, here, it is dark almost immediately and when there's no moon I have to get off my bike and walk because I can't see the ruts and potholes and puddles in the road anymore and, with no shocks and a hard plastic seat, hitting any of those things at any speed is less than fun. Darkening, shaded over, turned to dark, pitch, and cloud cover blocked the unbelievable number of stars you can see here and the shimmering line of the Milky Way, and, as I walked, I was left with three sources of light.

The flat, solid layer of clouds overhead was pulled and bunched and piled up in the distance, south and west, and there was the lightning, you knew it was coming, just bursts of illumination inside the clouds. And then there were fireflies, more than I think I've ever seen, flickering on and off, no fewer than a hundred lit up in front of me at any one time and they'd strobe their way over the fields and they'd blink their way across the road and, once, and then two, three times, one flew right past the side of my face, leaving a comet trail of yellow light lingering in my peripheral vision. And then there was another light ahead of me, small and round and indistinguishable, at first, from the snowflakes-under-a-streetlamp-at-night of the fireflies, until I realized it was constant and growing, quickly, the headlight of an oncoming boda, and it got larger and brighter and closer until it swallowed everything else, the lightning and the fireflies and the darkness and me, until the whole world as I could see it was dusty yellow light, just for a second, and then the boda was past and everything was darker than before and shapeless until the light from the fireflies poked through and I could make out shapes again, or maybe not shapes but just variations of dark, and could be sure I was still on the road, not walking through a field, like the time I didn't realize I was in someone's cemetery until I tripped on a headstone, and when I got back home and the power was out, three or four fireflies came inside with me, the only time I've ever liked having bugs in the house, and so, for a little while, I left the candles unlit.

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