The other night I stayed at the shop past close. Storefront lights were off, music was on, I sat at the bench watching night quickly take over the sky, loosening the spokes on my new wheel, one at a time. That morning I had been showing off my work–look at these shiny new wheels I built!–and Steve gently told me, it all looks great! Except, the drive-side rear wheel. It was simple enough: the drive-side spokes on the rear wheel lace opposite in order to balance the propelling force of the drivetrain. So, there I was after close, taking out each spoke and putting it back in the opposite direction.
But I quickly realized as I took apart the wheel I had just built: it was not so simple. The spoke that came out of the rim here attaches to the hub way over there and goes through three spokes in between. So I couldn’t just take out one spoke and put it back. I had to take out the three nearest spokes and then figure out how to put them back within this pattern that was collapsing in on itself.
You know, I didn’t hate it. It required a kind of tunnel vision. To step back and look at the whole wheel and try to understand made me feel dizzy. All I could do was look at the one freed spoke, right it, and then slowly loosen more spokes until another one was free again. I moved around the wheel like a wave, repeating this process, loosening little by little, correcting little by little. I could not see the big picture only the small choices that I made as I went: this spoke goes under that one, that is all I know for sure. One spoke, another spoke another spoke.
I smiled at how suddenly it hit me I was done! I was at the end! I was so lost in the process I had come full circle without realizing it. And that moment took me back to learning how to drive on the highway with my dad. We called it Bridge City when we were kids–the junction of 435, 470, 71, and 49. So many highways crossing over each other. I remembered Dad telling me: Don’t try too hard to make sense of it. Just follow the signs. Don’t try to understand how the hell this road that goes in a full circle is going to get you to St. Louis. If it says St. Louis, take the road.
I thought about that a lot while I put the tools away and hung up my new wheels and locked the doors at the shop. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. If it hurts to try and make it make sense, maybe just don’t.