I was never very good on a bike as a child. I learned how to ride one kind of late in my childhood--we lived on a really steep hill so there was never a good place to start. We would drive to a big open area or go a few streets over where it was flat, and my dad would set me up, giving me a little push, and I would fall down or just kind of lean to the side when I got overwhelmed with the movement and lack of control of it all.
I finally got it one day, suddenly, when the bike was on the ground in the driveway and a neighbor mentioned my inability out loud for what was maybe the first time. I picked it up, hopped on, and rode away with her.
I've always had this fantasy of living somewhere that allowed me to bike everywhere. Minneapolis was probably that place, but I didn't know the area too well and we lived really close to a highway and the winter is long and icy. When I lived in downtown Roanoke as a graduate student, I would hop on my bike, books in the basket, and ride to the coffee shop to work on a paper. Those nights always felt really magical.
When I was in college, I dated a boy who rode a bicycle but never really understood me. When I was anxious or sad, he'd ask me to be calmer or happier, thinking it was helpful, but it always felt so impatient to me. His mom served whole grain bread and overcooked pork chops and listened to church sermon podcasts in the kitchen. She was kind and I loved her so much but I just didn't fit with her son. Maybe she knew. It took him a while to figure it out. I think I always knew, but I kind of held my breath and hoped that no one would catch on. We shared just enough things in common to confuse ourselves into thinking that we were right for each other--among them a love of running, J.Crew sweaters, and political values that I later abandoned.
I really never think about him, but I am grateful for some of the things he shared with me--mainly his Regina Spektor collection, but also the things you learn when someone you really love breaks your heart. How to be on your own. How to love yourself despite feeling shitty. How to give cyclists enough room on the roads when you're in your car. How to move on; how to look back years later and smile.
This post is in response to the following prompt: "Tell me a memory associated with a bicycle." (From Old Friend from Far Away, page 67.) If you write a response of your own, please share a link below in the comments! For a list of some previous prompt, you can check out this post (or just search the Old Friend from Far Away category below).