image by bink_d via creative commons
Bikes have been on my mind all year. Riding. Shopping for a new model. Joining a biking club.
I let a casual acquaintance know and she said, coincidentally, that she was selling her bike.
We arrange a time and day for me to come to the Victorian-era duplex in Detroit where she shares space with a half-dozen folks. After a bit of small talk, she leads me out to a big wooden storage shed. She wrestles with the padlock, throws open the wooden doors, and stands there silently for an awkward amount of time. I stare at her as she stares inside at the array of rakes, brooms, and garden implements. She squints. She clicks her tongue a few times and continues to stare.
Then, as if waking from a trance, she shakes her head, sighs with a big huff, and pushes closed the wooden doors.
“What’s going on?” I ask, because what just happened here?
“Well, I guess I don’t have a bike to sell you.”
She laughs, latches the lock with a snap, and turns toward the steps.
I follow. I wait. I don’t say anything.
It isn’t easy. God’s truth is I’m wondering why she isn’t getting mad, or firing off rhetorical questions about the missing (stolen?) bike, or looking for her housemates to ask them questions.
Instead, she pour us cups of ginger tea and leans against the Formica countertop, scanning the recipe books on a nearby shelf.
While I stew in silence she contemplates stew for dinner.
I know her well enough to know there really was a bike in there at one point; she isn’t messing with me. But what I didn’t know about her until now is how well she handles life’s sucker punches.
Although it hasn’t happened yet, I know as sure as the sun will set in the west that I’ll go home and rant about this to my husband. For at least 10 minutes. I’ll vent and pitch a million unanswerable questions out of the ball park. Then I’ll remember (because it’s always just around a dark corner inside my head) the one that got away.
In 2001 my mountain bike was stolen from our garage in rather dramatic fashion. There was ruckus and a brief police chase. I was at work at the newspaper and heard it on the police scanner. My husband called excitedly to tell me about the drama in our neighborhood. He called back a few minutes later, his voice much quieter, to say it was my bike that starred in that show. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over the loss of that bike. I’ve had inexpensive replacements, but they were never the same. One thing I know: I had no idea what I had until it was gone. You’d think international spies had kidnapped my precious firstborn. It’s embarrassing, really.
It’s taken me a decade (that’s a lot of obsessive thinking, folks) to recall the make and model of that stolen bike, for when it happened I went blank. I had a mental image of letters in a pattern but I could not put them together to form words at the police station.
During an Internet search for high-quality used bikes, I found a picture of that bike. The color, the logo, the lettering, all unlocked a dusty box of memories. It had been an indulgent Mother’s Day gift from my first husband after the birth of our daughter. It was an expensive Band-aid to a hemmoraghing marriage. I thought about all the places I rode that bike. How I rode it hard to work off stress and heartbreak. How on that bike I dreamed of escape. That bike traveled with me away from that marriage, into single motherhood, and then into the garage from which it would disappear forever.
I wonder what I’m really holding onto in this unresolved anger over a hunk of metal and rubber? Is it the inability to replace what’s lost? Is it the shock of realizing how attached I am to material objects? Is it that I am unable to forgive?
I’m working on this one.
What keeps you stuck in a rut on the road to self-improvement?