“I used to love my bike more than life when I was a kid,” I said.
“Then why don’t you have one now?” she asked.
Good question. I thought of that feeling I used to get as a child, zooming down the street on my blue banana seat bicycle with the extended handlebars. No doubt I was on a mission.
I’d be going as fast as I could, feeling the wind in my hair. I’d let out a triumphant whoop. It was freedom. It was speed. It was distance from my stepfather and my family dysfunction. It was the closest thing I had to control over my life. I was calling all the shots. It was pure joy.
I would do figure eights in the street. I’d ride around the speed bumps as fast as I could. I’d wave at people as I passed, but I wouldn’t stop.
One time I was riding barefoot (stupid) and I somehow got my pinky toe caught in the bike chain. I nearly ripped it off. I came home bleeding and crying, and my stepfather decided to take the bike away. (Wouldn’t “wear shoes” have been sufficient?)
My solution was to steal my own bike and hide it and still use it. It’s not like anyone knew or cared where I went or what I did anyway. And that’s what I did for a good month until everybody forgot I wasn’t supposed to have a bike in the first place. I lived in a world without consequences. I’m amazed I didn’t misbehave even more than I did.
One time my bike actually was stolen by a kid from down the street. (That family would steal bikes, repaint them, and then sell them at flea markets, so it was hard to keep a bike in my neighborhood.) But as quiet as the experienced little thief tried to be, I still happened to see him. I ran screaming after him as he tried to cut across a field with my beloved bike. I wouldn’t give up. I just kept running and screaming for my freedom, and shouting, “I know who you ARE!” He finally dumped the bike and ran away.
It’s never a good idea to underestimate me. Especially when I know I’m in the right. And to think that I rode the school bus with that little sh** every day.
My childhood was strictly about survival, and in that, my bike was my best friend. It gave me superpowers. It allowed me to be alone and yet active. My bike was everything.
When I got older and got a used car, I dropped my bike like a hot rock. I don’t even recall what became of it. Maybe I gave it away. Maybe I just let it rot. Children rarely pay the proper homage to the people or things that were once important to them.
I didn’t have another bike until I was in my 40’s and living in Vero Beach, Florida. It was a nice way to cruise my neighborhood in the evenings. I brought that bike with me to Seattle, but I was shocked to find out that the place had hills. The bike went quickly to the Goodwill.
Bicycles no longer represent freedom to me. If I want to get away, I just drive now. Besides, my house is on a highway, so it’s not suited to doing figure eights. And I’d look a little silly doing those at my age. That, and I don’t really enjoy sweating anymore. All my exercise these days is in the swimming pool of the YWCA.
But every once in a while, I close my eyes and picture myself zooming down the street, the wind in my hair, triumphantly whooping. And it’s good.
Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5