For Beginners

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For Beginners

Miguel de la Fuente-Lau

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, bearded man, too big for his bike and his 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 seat, and so uncomfortable, it was as though my crotch were being choked to death by the bike seat, like I had taken something that belonged to it - when really, it had taken something from me, which was half a testicle.

The plan was simple: don’t move the handlebars much, 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. Meanwhile, the rest of the men would promise to keep their laughter at an inaudible level.

The final pep talk I’d receive came from my friend’s 6-year old son, who had asked why I still hadn’t known how to do this. He didn’t seem all too interested in riding bikes together with me, apparently, realizing the utter shame I’d bring upon him, for not knowing how to pedal properly.

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 - it could’ve been for an entire minute. It may have been several seconds. I wasn’t counting. I just heard their footsteps racing after me, stomping with regret. I hit the brakes just before I was about to ram into a parked car.

They said they let go. And, they were proud.

It was like I had won both consolation and first prize, which means, I swept all the awards.
There I was, wobbly on the bike, but pedaling uphill with a ferocious urgency, as if I was being chased by a rabid dog, and then skidding to a screeching halt, as though I had ridden my bike right up to the edge of a sharp cliff. It didn’t matter what the possible consequences were. I went for it, each and every time.
It was like a blockbuster movie that went straight to video, and I, its reluctant star. But for one night, and for those that managed to see it, it was magic.

For a moment, anyway,and it didn’t matter how long it lasted.

And, my God, was it enough.


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