I don’t remember why or whose bike it was, but for some reason I was riding around the neighborhood on a 10 speed with rams horn handlebars wrapped in perforated leather that was once soft white turned grey and brittle. The gear selector levers were in the center of the handlebars, placed several inches and hundreds of miles away from where my hands gripped to steer. The pedals clanked and ticked as the chain heaved itself around the next gear. I was going fast enough that one pedal equaled several revolutions of the obscenely skinny tires. It was a bright day where most everyone was out on their porches drinking pop and being right neighborly with each other.
Then something happened. The thing that happened was this: I fell. I crashed on the transition between Krauter street and the sidewalk, involuntarily landing in Archie’s driveway. The cement was fresh because the city resurfaced all the streets in our neighborhood after the destructive flood of ’87. Had this happened a few years before, I would’ve crashed into a deep and muddy ditch. We had underground culverts and sewer grates now. Our crawlspaces were bone dry as I was bleeding a bright pink and red ooze. Nothing was broken but I was surprised the whole thing went down, the whole thing being me and the bike I was riding.
It was Archie who spoke up after those long few seconds of relaxation before your brain lets you in on the secret of your injury. “You okay, Adam?” Archie was drinking Pepsi mixed with something. He saw the whole thing. I wasn’t moving. But I was okay. I got up, looked at Archie, got back on the bike, looked again at my knee and rode on.
I would vividly remember this moment 25 years later as I was working on a completely unrelated project. I would wonder about Archie. I would remember the beige bike and be unable to recall why I was riding it or whose it was. But the blood, the seconds afterward, Archie’s voice, and the image of an old man on his porch seated in an upholstered bench seat from a ’71 F150 would be as lucid as the scar on my knee. And I would finally respond: “Yeah,” adding, “are you okay?”