My boss tells me it’s an antique, but I’m not really sure if he’s a bike virtuoso, or merely being facetious. Probably the latter. The bike well may be older than me, and it surely has a history, but I know none of that. I only know that it is a resilient bike. Its frame is heavy, and its gears are antiquated, yet it slips through the air effortlessly, and I have to remind myself that we are not flying. Resilient. The vinyl covering of its saddle is beginning to crack, and its frame is slowly succumbing to rust. Why do I leave it out in the weather? The chain needs oiling and the gears moan whenever I shift them upward. Why don’t I oil the chain? Despite these defects, it is majestic. The other day, I watched as a man nearly walked into a street lamp post as he admired its beauty. Resilient. For 5 years, I have dragged it up and down steep hills and over rugged, uneven roads. It complains, but never quits. Resilient.
Five years ago, I was the worst cyclist alive. One morning we ran over a boy named Todd. It was my fault. Todd got bloodied gums. The bike got a broken spoke. I came out unscathed. Then I barely rode it for 2 years. Barely even touched it. It was grateful to me when I came back to it, nursed it and rode it. It carried me effortlessly for one hundred miles. Then it remembered, and threw me into a ditch. I got a bloodied knee which took three weeks to heal. It came out unscathed. How did I come to own it? Did the last rider discard it for a younger bike? Did he die in a ditch? There is no way of knowing.
The last rider was probably wealthy, but I am poor. Thirty years ago, the bike was probably only used for leisurely, bourgeois excursions. Today I use it to do the shopping. In this phase of the bike’s history, I am a downgrade. I make us the object of scornful looks and haughty jokes. My long legs make us look awkward. My dark skin makes us look mean and tritely urban. But there is a harmony between us, you see, a mutual dependency. We are both defiantly and complacently backward; and we are alone.