48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Posts Tagged ‘wheels’

Essay #39: rolling through fear

In Love on December 5, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Before Thanksgiving I stopped at Bike ‘n’ Bike to see if I could find some wheels for the winter. Volunteer run, housed behind a thrift store, here you can avail yourself of donated tools and used parts to build a bike or fix one. Volunteer Elise found me a bike with a good frame, and a comfortable seat to swap out. I worked on the brakes, put my name on it, and left it propped against a ladder to the loft.

After the holiday, I swung by three different times but the shop was always closed. Finally, yesterday, it was open. Full of bikes and men. No Elise. I looked around the crowded room. Couldn’t find my bike among the many parts and people. Finally, hanging on a hook against the wall behind a slew of other bikes — I saw it.

Dirty white Cro-Moly frame with a bike rack. Rear brakes still stuck, though I’d cut myself trying to loosen them. Elise had even put the good seat on for me. But another name was taped on the frame. No sign of my name or the sheet of paper I’d threaded through the spokes. Perhaps it fell off when someone lifted it on the hook. What to do?

I walked over to the counter and tore off a piece of old greasy flyer. Wrote Elizabeth on it. Went back to the bike. Looked at it. Decided to take it instead. Gently pushed the other bikes out of the way, but handlebars impeded my progress. An older man started yelling that it wasn’t my bike. “Yes,” I said, evenly, “this is my bike.”

“That’s bullshit!” screamed Angry Man. “I’m not going to stand for it!”

“It’s true,” I said in a higher than normal voice. “Elise gave it to me.”

“I don’t give a fuck who Elise is! Who’s Elise?” he yelled, storming around the shop, which was hard to do given the limited floor space.

“She’s here on Fridays,” I said, starting to shake.

Angry Man continued cursing and screaming. I raised neither voice nor fist, but continued extricating the bike while asserting my right to it as calmly as I could.

Finally it was free and on the ground, but I was deep in the dingy room. Angry Man and the others were between me and the door.

Then a miracle occurred. As soon as I started to move, a pathway opened up. Without making eye contact, I rolled the bike past everyone and out the door. No one laid a hand on me or barred my way. Angry Man stopped screaming. Even though I was scared, I pushed the bike through the thrift store, outside into daylight and fresh air.

No one stopped me.