Ride the Rocket, Pt 1.
Artwork by Amelia Giller
The superintendent met me in the lobby and led me to the elevator. I think he said his name was Earl. Or Ed?
You've got to get better at names.
He pressed “8”. I knew this building and the 8th floor well, but he didn’t know that.
“He died, you know.”
“The guy. Who’s bike it is? He died. Young guy too. Real shame. I had to let his parents in to clean out his stuff. They asked me to sell the bike for them. It’s a nice bike. Expensive brakes. You’re getting a hell of a steal. The death was sudden too. Real shame.”
“Wow. I, uh, hope it wasn’t a bike related death.”
Nice one, Hebb.
“Oh no sweetheart, it was some sort of rare undetectable blood disease. Heart stopped out of nowhere I guess”
He unlocked the door to the studio apartment and held it open for me.
“The girlfriend found him in his bed, he’d been dead about a day”
I stared blankly at the bare mattress in front of me.
“The bike comes with a basket too.”
I handed him the cash and stuffed myself and my new bike in the elevator and pressed “G”. One step closer to independence. As soon I got outside I hopped on and started pedaling. I was out of practice.
You haven’t been on a bike since that summer in Antigonish.
Don’t think about that.
I hadn’t even gone half a block but I already knew my thighs were going to be sore tomorrow.
Remember after that bike trip to the beach? You couldn’t walk right for days afterwards. He thought it was hilarious “Aren’t you a runner? Why are you so sore!” Remember the way he smiled? He had gotten some sun at the beach. He looked good. Handsome. You shouldn’t have left.
The faster I peddled the cooler the air felt. It was the first time in days I felt relief from the heat. I knew the summers would be hotter here than on the east coast but I didn’t expect it to be like this. Everything was sweaty. Everything was chafing. I was starting to miss the fog.
You don’t miss the fog, you miss your old life.
Shut up. Keep pedaling. Think about something else.
Probably the last thing the dead guy did before he died was bike home from work. Maybe he biked so hard he activated the blood disease with like, all the oxygen he was breathing and then the disease particles went into his heart and stopped it and killed him and then his girlfriend went to have Saturday brunch with him and found him dead. I bet she was a good girlfriend too. I bet she brought fresh blueberries with her for the pancakes and when she found him lying there all stiff she dropped them and they spilled out on the floor and she screamed because she loved dead guy so much.
Mmkay. That’s a little fucked up.
This basket is so cute.
You never really loved him.
That’s not true.
Maybe you have a blood disease.
Yikes. But… possible. Keep pedaling.
Are you still biking because you know if you go home and lie down you may never get up again?
Oh, absolutely. I’m for sure depressed right now. But it’ll pass.
Who fucking knows.
I biked until the air stopped feeling cool and I was too stiff to feel free anymore. My hair line was damp and I could tell my cheeks were red.
I locked my new symbol of independence up in front of the building.
I will get up and bike again tomorrow.
I will get up tomorrow.
The 28th floor was vibrating from the celebration of thousands of people down on the ground for pride. Thank God for the Queers. I needed their noise and their loving energy. I probably didn’t need their strobe lights until 4am, but I wasn’t mad. It added a layer of pizazz to my loneliness and was a good excuse for my insomnia.
“Hi Alice, were you good while I was gone?”
Don’t do that. It’s over. It’s not cute anymore, it’s sad.
I poured myself a drink.
You should have gone to the liquor store. There’s only half a bottle left.
This is more than enough. You won’t drink all of this tonight.
I opened the oven. The meatballs were still there and untouched from Wednesday.
What day is it?
I knew I should eat something. I knew this was textbook depression or self loathing or whatever. I could see it. But bleh, I really couldn’t.
I went out onto the balcony and watched the drag show happening on the street below.
He was coming back on Monday. There were 46 hours left until it really would be over. We broke up over email. Six years together brought crashing down by a handful of emails. Granted, they were articulate and surprisingly funny, but still…emails.
What a shit show. You really are a ruthless cunt.
Wow. Okay, this is escalating quickly. Cool down. It’s not ideal but it all just unravelled so fast.
Only because of your selfishness.
This was going to be the hardest part. Seeing him. We had been broken up for a month already but we hadn’t seen each other yet- he had been away on a work contract so there was no closure. It didn’t feel real. I was living up in the sky, keeping myself secluded and not having to deal with the consequences of my actions.
The cold hearted queen in the sky.
I could feel the walls of the 28th floor starting to cave in. This wasn’t my home anymore.
But at least you have that dead guy’s bike!
The bike was the first thing I had felt excited about in a long time. The first time I felt control over my life maybe ever. It was my first act of independence. Hear me roar! Watch me cycle! I didn’t know what was coming for me but I knew I’d be able to get where I needed to go a little quicker. It felt so good to ride the bike. It felt as if no one could catch me. No one could hold me still. A woman on the go!
My phone vibrated. It was a number I didn’t recognize.
“Hi! I hope it’s okay I’m texting, I got your number from Sal the super”
Huh...Sal… I was way off.
“I just wanted to make sure everything was okay with the bike. I'm the former owner's mother 🙋”
Do you think she started putting that emoji at the end of her texts to try and make everything she says less tragic now that she’s the mom of a dead guy or has she always done that?
I’ll respond later.
I didn’t get up the next day. My body was sore, my mind was cluttered, I was hungry and nauseous. I couldn’t tell if it was a hangover or crippling guilt. I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling.
You ruined everything.
You’re getting a fresh start.
You’re going to fail.
Not if you fight.
You crushed him. He’s never going to forgive you.
He’s stronger than that. One day he’ll understand.
You’re all alone.
Suddenly it was dark and the party was amping up outside. The last night of pride was lining up with my last night on the 28th floor. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
Is that irony?
Please shut up.
I had to be up in 5 hours to go to my barista job. I was pleased as I lay there thinking about the extra ten minutes I’d have in bed because I could bike to work. I was paralyzed as I lay there thinking about where I’d be sleeping the next night.
I’ll miss this bed.
I knew that after work I’d have a few hours to kill before his flight got in. I was mapping in my mind where I would bike. There was so much of the city I hadn’t explored yet- I decided that it was time I saw the waterfront. It wasn’t the ocean but it would have to do. I grabbed my phone to google map my route.
You should sleep.
I opened my phone. There was another message from the dead guy’s mother
“Sorry to bother you again, I just wanted to make sure everything is okay with the bike. I know it might seem crazy but my son who owned it just really loved that bike I want to make sure you are happy with it 🙋”
What is the deal with that emoji?
I’ll respond later.
The sun began to peak its head up over the towers. I took a picture. The sun rises were so beautiful from up there. I went to the kitchen and did the few dishes I had in the sink. Mostly empty glasses. I threw out the now 5 day old meatballs. I put everything that was left in the fridge in a giant garbage bag and tossed it all down the garbage shoot.
I avoided looking at my reflection in the mirror while I brushed my teeth. I couldn’t bare to look into my own eyes. I was broken out all over my chin and forehead, my eyelids were puffy, my cheeks were sunken.
I grabbed my bag, helmut and keys. I looked back as I walked out the door. It was quiet and peaceful. I knew in a few short hours it would be a war zone. I put on my helmet as I waited for the elevator. I checked my phone as I rode back down to earth in an attempt to avoid my reflection in the elevator mirrors.
I should text dead guys mom back and tell her how much I love the bike.
Would it be inappropriate to tell her it was a real lifesaver?
Do you really have to ask that?
But I really do mean it.
Just send her a bunch of random emojis
Don't be a dick. .
I walked out into the fresh air. It wasn't even 6:30am yet and it was already hot. The street and sidewalk were covered in rainbow confetti. There was a pink beehive wig in the shrub out front.
Then my face dropped.
The usually full bike rack out front was empty. The only things that remained were bits of cut up bike locks. I blinked. My stomach dropped.
Maybe I put it at another bike rack…
There is no other bike rack, idiot.
No buts, kid. It’s gone.
That’s impossible. I just got it on Saturday. I spent all the extra money I had on it. It can't be gone. It belonged to a dead guy. WHO WOULD STEAL A DEAD GUY'S BIKE? What am I going to tell his mother?
That you’re a morally deplorable bitch who’s as irresponsible with her dead son’s bike as you were with your boyfriend’s heart.
You better start walking, Those lattes won’t make themselves.
Take the streetcar.