I had to hold back tears of frustration.
Mark and I have been training for months for our cycling trip which we leave for two weeks. It's getting close to crunch time, and I’ve started experiencing problems with my bike. Last week, we decided I probably had a cracked front wheel and that it should be replaced. Which also means replacing the back one. Which isn’t cheap.
In the meantime, we borrowed a couple of wheels from one of Mark's colleagues. I put one on Saturday evening and had a devil of a time getting it centered between the front brakes. I don’t know all that much about bicycles, however, and I assumed the problem would sort itself out.
As we got ready to leave yesterday morning for a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon, then up Big Cottonwood, I noticed the front wheel was rubbing up – hard – against the right front brake pad. I tried again to center it, then took off.
It wasn’t until we stopped at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon - ten miles later - that I noticed that the wheel was once again rubbing the brake. That explained why the two large hills on the route to the mouth of the canyon had seemed more difficult than usual. Once again, I loosened the front wheel and tried to center it. At Mark's suggestion, I also opened the brake calipers, thinking that would help.
As we started up the canyon, I kept watching the front wheel. After a while, I stopped. Rubbing again. Adjust. Start again. Go for a while, then stop and check. Again rubbing.
By now, I was so frustrated I felt like kicking my bike. Here we are, a few weeks before our big trip, I need to be getting in some good miles, and my frigging bike is not cooperating.
Mark commented that the wheel we had borrowed must be out of true. We ultimately decided that he should continue on up the canyon alone while I road home, took the front wheel off, take the tire and tube off it, then put them on the other wheel we had borrowed. I obviously couldn’t continue up the canyon with the wheel rubbing like that. Then, with any luck, I could then meet him later at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
As I rode down Little Cottonwood, I actually did shed a few tears of frustration, of stress, of anxiety. Then, it occurred to me what a perfect metaphor my wheel experience was of my life, when I tried to be a perfect heterosexual Mormon husband, father and priesthood holder.
I was like that wheel, constantly rubbing up against the brake while trying to climb the canyon of straight Mormon life. I wanted to do the right thing, I kept trying to do the right thing; I wanted to run “true.”
I periodically tried to adjust myself and keep going up that canyon, but the constant rubbing against the brakes wore me down. And no matter how many times I adjusted, it wasn’t long before I was rubbing again, making that ascent up the canyon many times more difficult.
And why? Because I was “out of true.” I was a gay man trying desperately to live a straight life, and no amount of adjustment or peddling harder up that canyon could change that or compensate for that. Eventually, I exhausted myself; the constant rubbing, heating up the rim and stressing the inner tube, finally wore me down. I reached a point where I couldn’t go on. And so I quit trying to be something I wasn’t and am not. I took off the out-of-true wheel and put one on that ran like a dream.
Furthermore, I realized that - just as I was ignorant of how a wheel on a bike had to be "true" and couldn't figure out what was wrong until someone else (in this case, my partner) told me - many Mormon men (whether as young gay men trying to find their way, or older men who entered into marriages, hoping for the best) really had/have no conscious notion of what is causing the strain. We just feel the resistance.
These realizations provided some degree of solace as I road home in the valley’s heat, took off the bum wheel and put on the other one. It seemed to work just fine. I threw the bike in the back of the truck, drove up to the mouth of Big Cottonwood, met Mark and proceeded up Big Cottonwood. This time, there was no rubbing. It was a hard slog in spots, but my wheel was true, and I made it.