The night is the best time to ride a bicycle, really. There's something about the night that renders everything in a different way, so that even the most familiar places seem new and amazing. Perhaps it's not like that at all, perhaps it's just because I'm afraid of the dark that it's something of a daring adventure for me. Whatever you think of the more intangible aspects of it, cycling at night definitely has its advantages: There are no flies, no heat, no cars, no sunburn. With a light sprinkling of rain you couldn't ask for more. Also, if you're going downhill (even by a little bit) at more than 20 kilometres per hour, you can stretch out your arms and feel like you're flying through empty space.
When I said, "I'm going for a ride, I'll be back later", Mum seemed to interpret this as something ominous, asking me if I was "really OK." That's the other good thing about night-time cycling, it's something that people won't expect, something out of the ordinary. I was absolutely OK. I went out of town, in the direction of Guyra, a smaller town nearby. I had no intention of actually making it all the way there. Not long after the speed limit changes to 100, a road diverges from the highway, and this road is the trunk of a strange tree of cul-de-sacs. This place appeared from nowhere last year, and most of the plots of land are still empty. It's funny, really, because it's not more than two kilometres from town, but the billboards at the entrance advertise it as a "gateway to the rural lifestyle", "a quiet life", and the like. It's the kind of place that is designed for Sydney people who come here in search of the "rural lifestyle", but dare go no further than living somewhere that is without a Starbucks (so far). I found it very funny to see the kinds of houses that they built there: rendered brick houses with "Roman" pillars at the door, green lawns but no trees whatsoever; exactly the kind of houses they would have lived in in Sydney.
So I kept following the side-roads that appeared along my little stretch of highway, and the last one led me down a long, empty road that I'd travelled before. This little road appears to go nowhere, but after a distance it folds back on itself and heads towards the university. At the corner, where the road whips around on the side of a small hill, there is a wonderful little house. It's nested in foliage, so there's not much to be seen from the road, but I imagine it belonging to a well-travelled, chubby man who retired aeons ago and now spends his days tending to his garden, his private sanctuary. I imagine him being a former expert on some terribly esoteric subject in the dusty corners of human knowledge. I imagine him one day looking upon his garden and seeing that it is exactly the way he has wanted it to be, and then quietly dying in his chair after drinking a glass of water.
But I digress.
All that aside, from this hill the town can be seen twinkling in the distance, and there is no light above but the moon. I stood straddling my bike for some time, soaking up the breeze and its grassy smell.
I've always had a sense of foreboding about the future, knowing or believing that some great unhappiness is forever creeping towards us. I think that I'm justified in believing that, with all that's wrong with the world. On that small hill, beside that little house and its imagined owner, the man I'd like to become, I decided that all of that fear inside me would be bearable as long as I could have moments like the one I was a part of right then. I decided that I should endeavour to remember those words, so that I could repeat them later, when someone was around to hear them. Aloud, I said, "Not everything will be OK, but that's OK, really."
Setting off back in the direction from which I came, I was pointed towards the murky orange glow of the town's lights, scattered in the clouds. I thought of The Old Man and the Sea, how he held onto the thought that as long as Havana's lights was there, just visible beyond the horizon, he could find his way back home. I think I like The Old Man and the Sea.
There's a huge roundabout that connects the highway to the edge of town, and inside it is a little group of shady trees, with a tall metal lamp in the centre. I think that is a really wonderful thing, to have a simple little grove in the middle of a highway. I went and sat there, under those trees, where during the day the squeal of compression brakes and whooshing of the speeding cars couldn't be ignored. I wished I had my camera and a sandwich.