I made some commitments this weekend that didn’t go well at first. I got connected with a girl in Amsterdam who is distantly related to one of my aunts by marriage. She invited me out for drinks and dinner on Saturday night, so I told her I’d meet her at 6:00 in the Jordaan. The first 30 minutes of our meeting didn’t go well because I was still trying to make it there.
That afternoon I’d decided that it was time for straight bangs. I also decided I would cut them myself. My friend warned me about this, saying every time she’d tried they came out uneven. But I often lack the patience and the funds to go to a salon, so I went for it. It’s a good thing Eva had enough patience to wait for me at the bar for half an hour, though, because I had to re-trim my bangs at least 4 or 5 times before they were acceptable; and even then they were longer on the left side and hanging over my eyelashes. I cut, cut again, cut again, blew dry, cut again, blew dry, cut, blew dry…then finally threw my coat on and ran out the door.
I hurried down the street on my bike, hoping to shave some time off the 15-minute ride. Struggling up a little canal bridge, I looked down the street ahead of me and saw some construction blocking the way. I hesitated, kept going straight, then decided to take a left instead and go up the other canal to avoid tricky and time-wasting maneuvers. The bike was already coasting briskly down the other side of the bridge, and the turn I’d committed to was sharp.
Last week I had the bike at a repair shop for a new tire valve and to have my brakes checked. I stood there in the old shop piled high with injured, rusty bicycles as a group of experts sat nearby staring at me through a cloud of smoke. The repair man took a quick look and told me, cigarette dangling out the side of his mouth, that my shoddy brakes would stay as they were. That it was an old brake system and couldn’t be improved. That I’d just have to brake early as I’d been doing. That I’d have to be careful.
Brake, brake, brake, brake! – I pushed down on the back pedal hard and willed the tires to grip the cobblestones and slow me down. It was too late; the front tire rammed straight into the corner curb, causing the bike to fall hard on its side, and me on mine, sliding onto the sidewalk. I fell on my bike. I couldn’t believe it. My greatest fear realized. As I stood up and examined the hole in my black tights, the dirty scrape on my knee showing through, a man stopped and said something in Dutch. “Bad brakes,” I told him.
Embarrassed, I quickly got the bike back onto the street and hoisted myself on again. Almost immediately I wobbled and headed straight, again, for the curb. I hopped off, exhasperated, sure that the bike suffered damage in the crash and I’d never make it to meet Eva. In fact, the handlebars were twisted at a 45-degree- angle. I’d steered in the direction the handlebars pointed me, and so went right back to the curb. I pushed and pulled and could not get them back where they belonged, so I rode down Prinsengracht the whole way with the handlebars aimed at the buildings to my right, peering through my curtain of bangs and just making sure the front wheel was straight.
I finally made it and walked into the bar, sweating, bangs askew. Eva was completely forgiving, sympathetic, and we spent the rest of the evening talking, laughing and becoming fast friends. When we left the restaurant – each of us walking slightly off-balance after sharing a bottle of wine – Eva (Dutch through and through), set my handlebars straight and showed me how to do it for the next fall I have.
And yesterday I took out my scissors again. I can proudly say my bangs now fall evenly across my face, and hang just low enough over my eyes to allow me to see things clear and level, to allow me to see balance.