Below you'll read the prologue for the book I am writing now about how a horse forced me to grow up, be better, and heal broken things. It doesn't have a publisher and no one my agent has spoken to is interested in it. I am writing it anyway. I want to share this story for all the other women who apologize too much and expect too little, especially from themselves.
Trolleys were supposed to drive down the streets of my hometown. Actual, god damned, trolleys. Palmerton was a company town for New Jersey Zinc and a crackerjack team of civil engineers had high hopes for it back in the early part of the 20th century. Blueprints for public bath houses, lavish parks, and gravity fed water (just like New York City!) were sketched and stamped. And the crown jewel of this little mountain town; public transportation in the form of trolleys parading down the streets on wires just like San Francisco. So the streets were planned twice as wide as any reasonable city planner would dare. Trees were planted along the sidewalks and an upgrade to "Avenue" was printed on the street signs. The avenues were named after universities the engineers respected, adding a level of chin-raised pride to the whole shebang. That was the spender I grew up on. The 300th block of Columbia Avenue in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. A tiny city of a couple thousand people that mostly mined zinc and whose forefather’s dreamed of trolleys. A suitable place for reckless idealists.
The trolleys never did arrive, nor did the public bath house but the gravity fed water is still going strong and the central park is nothing to sneeze at. Not as flashy as the other goals but appreciated during power outages and summer picnics. The avenues were built extra wide, and three cars could drive abreast down them with vehicles parked on each side, trolley-prepped. As a girl I would ride down those tree-lined streets on the back of my bike as fast as possible. I felt invincible. Traffic was rare and in the fall the Beeches would turn a brilliant gold and seemed large as the red woods on television. The street turned saffron from their fading leaves after a rain storm and that visual post card sticks with me fresh.
God, I loved that pink and purple bike, whose brand and origin I can’t remember but I do remember it fitting me perfectly. Mounting up on it felt like putting on a favorite jacket. It had streamers and a basket and I felt like with a little planning I could load it up for the entire day and take it anywhere. I could pack up a bologna sandwich and a Ssips juice box and just hit the wind.
It was the early nineties and I had the kind of free-range childhood that allowed a ten-year-old to jet-set. I road to the end of town and back. I rode in parks and abandoned, wooded lots. I rode past barking dogs and dodged fat gray squirrels eating beech nuts in the street. I rode past the bully at the second-to-last house that once ran out of his yard and shoved a stick in my spokes and I hurled over the handlebars and onto the pavement. That bike knew sweat and blood and made beech-fattened squirrels tremble in our wake. I felt strong before I knew what to do with strength.
I still remember parking it on my parents’ wrap-around porch and telling it, no, promising it, that I would write about it someday. There on the slate-blue paint leaning against a white railing I promised a bike from Kmart that I would write a book about her. So that’s what I’m going to do. Kind of.
Let’s hit the wind.