Stage Five - Rouen to Saint-Quentin
It's the evening of my 33rd birthday and all of a sudden I'm in my living room surrounded by folks who were also present at my 18th birthday, my 21st, my 30th. In deference to the others present we try not to reminisce too much, but the presence of folks who I've known for so long puts me at ease. We sit in the living room drinking tea. After last night's lack of sleep I'm pretty wrecked, and am already sensing that this is where the evening is going to end. And that's ok.
After folks leave I have a quick look at the stage profile. It's flat, barely a bump, and will almost definitely come down to a sprint finish. And look, I do love sprint finishes - I love the chaos, the drama, the elbows out full contact racing. But I don't love the preceding three hours of knowing that it's going to come down to a sprint finish. That's some boring shit right there. There's no way in hell I'm going to sit up listening to Phil and Paul confuse chateaus and castles for three hours. I grab Franny and Zooey and head to bed.
I'm enjoying the book so much that when I realize that I only have a little bit left, when the pages in my right hand feel thinner and thinner, I'm a bit disappointed. Salinger's great gift is that he makes you feel special, as if you're the only one in the entire world who identifies with the protagonist, and everyone else is either an idiot or a total phoney. It's a good feeling, but it's also isolating, and sometimes I think Salinger knows this, and does what he can to counteract it. That's why when relief finally comes to Franny at the end of the book it only does so when she realizes that the prayer she's repeating is to everyone, that there is no one out there who isn't Christ. I ain't one for god or spirituality, but I too find a sense of relief in imagining that there's some kind of hope in all of us, that we're all, somehow, in this together. It's a nice thought to have at the end of pretty great day. Like Franny, for some minutes, before I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, I just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling.
And the next morning I reach for my computer and watch Sagan get tangled in a crash, Cavendish slip too far back, Gossy go too early, Greipel take another win.