Yesterday I checked into a hotel in Minnesota, looked out my ninth floor window, and saw the bridge that brought back memories, many involving pain and exhaustion in below-freezing conditions. The bridge to West St. Paul AKA the Wabasha Street Bridge.
My second year in Minnesota, the year my inner strength crumbled and I really got tired of having frostbite, I rented an apartment in Minneapolis.
I worked at a halfway house in downtown St. Paul, ten miles away. I often stayed overnight in West St. Paul at my boyfriend's mom's house, just across the Mississippi River, in order to avoid the midnight bicycle ride home. After an eight-hour shift of doing rounds, switching out rolls of toilet paper, shooting pool, and listening to the stories of a hundred psychotic residents, I rode my mountain bike across this bridge.
The 1,200 feet of this bridge has one of those not so steep but everlasting grades that repeatedly kicked my ass. I would invent stories and strike deals with myself midway across this bridge in order to convince myself to keep pedaling and not topple to the side. I imagined myself weeping and pounding my fist into the pavement, just out of traffic's way. My stories were morbid and terrifying enough to shock more strength into me.
"Mom has cancer," I'd tell myself.
"If I keep going, she recovers. If I stop, it metastasizes."
Or, "Neill is drowning. If I get off this bike and walk, the boat leaves him in the middle of the lake and he has a seizure. If I ride faster, someone pulls him out and performs CPR."
Looking back, Jesus Christ, how sick. But my adrenaline kicked in at the thought of my family, my speed picked up as I "saved" them, and in the end, I not only made it back to the house in good time, but I got to be a hero.