I have a mystery itch and it's trying to kill me.

Everyday as part of my ride home, I descend the hill on Massachusetts Avenue. It isn't super steep, but it's still a good hill and I go upwards of, I don't know, does 30 miles an hour seem reasonable? Let's say I go that fast. There's a couple of gentle curves in the hill and there are a bunch of bumps and manhole covers and a few places where drivers coming from the opposite direction might make a left turn across my path. There are some stoplights and some driveways and some cross-streets and, thanks to this brutal winter, some new potholes. I've been riding down this hill for the past couple of years, so I'm familiar with the kinds of liabilities it might toss my way. I've done it in the dark and in the rain and once or twice in the snow and I tend not to mess around, riding right in the middle of the right lane. After all, at that speed (did we decide 30 mph? Maybe less, maybe more) I'm more or less keeping up with the car traffic, so why give a misguided driver the chance to make a bad decision and think that the lane is wide enough for both of us to share? It isn't. I'm fairly clear about that and I'd prefer to take no chances in ensuring that my motorist friends don't try anything funny.

Anyway, riding downhill for such a long stretch at such a relatively fast clip has always made me feel a bit queasy. If I had to stop, could I? If something unexpected happened, would I be able to not crash into that unexpected something? There's a high curb on the side of the road, so bailing to the sidewalk, even if I were capable of doing a bunny hop, isn't really an option. Basically, the long and short of it is that this long stretch of downhill is where I feel, rightly or wrongly, the most exposed and the most vulnerable. But, when you work on top of a hill, you have little choice but to ride down at the end of the day. It's just part of the deal. I mean, I guess I could sleep at work, but that's seems like an overreaction.

Everyday I ride down this hill, I get an itch. An overwhelming itch. An overwhelming, wandering itch. Sometimes its on the back of my leg. Or maybe on the back of my arm. My left cheek. Why do I want to scratch the third knuckle on my right hand? Is that it on my foot? Why is it on my foot? This itch, an itch that manifests itself on another unreachable part of my body every single day, is my nemesis. It wants me to take my hands off the bars. It wants me to just for one second, for one second on the most harrowing part of my relatively mundane trip, to move my hands from the brakes, move my hands away the narrow bar that keeps the bike steady, to reach, to reach for the phantom itch, the phantom itch that haunts me in a new place each day, to reach to provide the gentle soothing of a scratched itch.

Is this itch a manifestation about my anxiety riding down the hill? Maybe. But that's seriously unhelpful! I know that I'm at my most vulnerable riding down this hill- why does my body want me to be even more so? Why does the mystery itch want to add a degree of difficulty during the already most difficult part of my trip? What does that even mean? Certainly I'm aware of the dire consequences of falling. Why would me anxiety about that seem to want to hasten it? Maybe it's not anxiety. Maybe it's wool. Maybe I have fleas. No. It's not those.

Sometimes I scratch. Sometimes I take my hands away from the bar and touch my face or rub my arm or adjust my other glove in the hopes of making it go away. I haven't fallen. Most of the times of the sometimes I reach, I don't realize I'm doing it until I've done, until my hand reaches back for the bar as the front fender rattles from the temporary and minor lapse in stability (and judgment?). But most of the other times, the vast majority of times, I don't reach. I feel the itch and I feel the urge to scratch and I don't. I think that it's not too long to the next red light or the stop at the bottom of the hill or that stop after than next stop and then I'll scratch it, though by then it's normally long gone. Such is the way with mystery itches, mysterious itches that are out to get you, out to get you for unclear reasons, unclear, nonsensical, irrational, unreasonable reasons. Don't get a mystery itch. Don't get a mystery itch you can't scratch.

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