The Wheel of Life: Biking with the Ghosts of AIDS

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The Wheel of Life

It’s early morning on a cloudy Sunday in the Hill Country town of Dripping Springs, Texas.  Fifty cyclists trickle into the empty school parking lot slowly, as if arriving at a wake.  They spill out of Subarus and Priuses (Prii, my high school Latin teacher’s voice echoes from the past), weird clowns in brightly colored costumes, but tight and made of Spandex, shoes not floppy, clicking on the ground.  Aliens looking down would be perplexed by this bizarre parade.  Their faces still show signs of sleep, coffee tumblers clutched closely in hands that would soon be covered in fingerless gloves.  There was banter and hugging friends, and talk about the chance of rain, while mentally they were each preparing themselves for 22 or 44 miles of relentless pedaling up and down country roads.


The Hill Country Ride for AIDS “Joy Ride”, they call their training outings.  But underneath the frivolity and anticipation of just another weekend sporting event being replicated around the world, an air of solemnity hung over this group.  Despite my staunch atheism I can’t help but shake an eerie feeling.  It’s as if the ghosts of people lost to that damn fucking virus — so many lives lost, and still without a cure — are also gathered in that parking lot with us.  Brothers, sisters, lovers, husbands, wives, partners, mothers, sons and daughters.  They were there, watching and waiting, their energy drawn to the event, simply by virtue of being remembered.  I imagine a silently cheer emanates from the ghosts of HIV victims past, urging the living riders to go on in their names. Continue reading