(Disclaimer: I had worked on this one for a few weeks, on and off. A slight attempt at something a little less serious, albeit true. It’s all true.)
Everything had been going according to plan, until someone suggested that, to cap the evening’s affairs, I should learn to ride a bike.
Of course, everyone thought this was a terrific idea. I, on the other hand, felt like I had been doused in gasoline and set on fire. I didn’t realize I was the evening’s sacrificial offering to appease the masses.
They dusted off the rusty bike from my friend’s the garage and found his youth-sized helmet, which fit on me like a crown of thorns. Then they formed a human wall lining up the street on both sides in case I were to lose my balance, a few limbs, and my dignity.
There I was, a 27 year old, soon-to-be-married man, too big for this bike and this helmet, shaking off the nerves that had crept out of the closet to haunt me as I slowly perched myself onto the seat. I felt my bottom being impaled by a mound of leather. It was so foreign, sitting on a bike, and so uncomfortable, it was as though my crotch were being choked to death by the bike seat.
The plan was simple: don’t move the handlebars, and pedal as hard as I could, while the guys surrounding me would literally run alongside the bike, holding it steady until I appeared as though I were riding by myself, while the rest of the men would promise to keep their laughter at a minimum.
On my first attempt, I was 45 degrees to the ground in two seconds. By the third try, I was teetering like a needle on a weighing scale, undecided on which way to fall. On my last attempt, I felt my friends let go of the bike for what could’ve been an entire minute. It may have really been several seconds. I wasn’t counting. I just heard their footsteps racing after me, stomping desperately with regret. I hit the brakes just before ramming into a parked car.
They said they let go. And, they were proud.
I felt like I had won both consolation and first prize..
There I was, wobbly on the bike, pedaling uphill with a ferocious urgency and then skidding to a screeching halt, as though I had ridden my bike right up to the edge of a sharp cliff. I was the daredevil that put on the show they were all waiting for.
It the end, it was like a major motion picture that went straight to video, and I, its shamed star.
But for one night, and for those who managed to see it unfold, it was magic.
For a moment, anyway. It didn’t matter how long it lasted.
And, my God, was it enough.