I was watching a sunburned woman with red hair in a thick braid. In the corner of my eye, a bike rider zoomed past and disappeared behind a bus. I stepped into the street for another look, but the rider was a block away by then and I couldn’t see much of the bike.
It occurred to me that I’m still edgy — Don’t touch me, I’m a real live wire — three weeks after my Iron Horse was snatched and I set out to replace it.
I wasn’t what you might call laid back before the theft, but at least I didn’t look at bikes as if they were obscure objects of desire, stirring up feelings that have little to do with practical needs.
Replacing a good bike is like trying to replace a so-called soul mate, except it usually becomes clear afterwards that the latter was merely a warped projection of one’s self-image, an illusion, while the former seems even more real and reliable once it’s gone. Soul mates often end up trying to kill you in one way or another, but the worst you need fear from a good bike is an occasional flat tire.
Which might be why I’ve been watching bikes more closely than I watch girls, pardon my politically incorrect usage. Sometimes a gaggle of bikes will be chained together at the same pole and I’ll stop to make sure my old used-to-be isn’t among them waiting to be rescued, and so what if I have to “retire” the thief, Rick Deckard-style?
The used bikes I see for sale at local stores are either battered and tired looking, or square and insubstantial, like certain suburban women in my distant past. Sometimes I’ll walk past one of the few public buildings in Philly where bike racks have been installed, and I’ll stare at a row of two-wheelers, amazed that bikes hardly ever resemble one another and never look remotely like my ex.
The guy who owns the shabby shop where I bought my Iron Horse has promised for weeks he’ll get used, affordable hybrids in stock, but I stopped by again yesterday and all his used bikes were clunkers. He had two brand-new hybrids, each priced at $400, not including taxes and a good $50-plus lock, and I thought of saying something rude but at that moment an ancient new wave song came on the radio and filled my head with ironic art school vibes:
A straight line exists between me and the good things.
I have found the line and its direction is known to me.
Absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction.
Any intrusion is met with a heart full of the good thing.
“The Good Thing” is right around the corner, I’m sure. Maybe it’s that elusive new bike.