This is not a story about learning to ride a bike. That story is lost in the hazy age where memory becomes scraps. Every seven years, they say, the body completely replaces itself, cells and all; for me memory is like that. The moment is all there is, framed and supported by a series of lesser moments that trail off into mist and fog in the distance.
This is a story about forgetting about the bike. Not about forgetting how to ride it, because, as everyone will tell you, that never happens. This is a story about forgetting about the bike itself and then trying to patch the memory together.
It starts, or more accurately resumes, like this: The shadowy form leaned against a damp and moldy box in the basement.
I started to roll up my sleeves, then remembered that I was wearing a tank top. With that understood, I bunched up my muscles, made strong by hours upon hours of rigorous typing, and launched myself at the shape on the boxes.
I hit it with a clatter of old metal and a crumpled rustling of wet boxes. It was, as I had suspected, my old bike. It was much smaller than I remembered it being and therefore much easier to pull up out of the basement into the crisp, warm sunlight waiting outside.
I'd remembered it as being a dark, marbled blue. It was mostly brown and grey now, although I could see a few places where the paint had neither flaked off nor faded. Triumph flooded through me, perhaps prematurely. My parents had told me not to bother, that I'd never be able to get the old bike into proper shape. I should just save up for a new one instead--or learn to drive already. I'd show them.
Slowly, ominously, I removed the wrench from my pocket. Its weight was an incredibly satisfying feel in my grimy hand. I could take on a world of rampaging robots with this thing. It was a deadly weapon. Now I understand why the girl in that funny Japanese cartoon was always hitting the tiny boy with her wrench.
I reached for the bike. I checked the tires--they just needed a little air. I checked the seat--it was just high enough. I checked the pedals--a little dirty, but still working. I checked the chain--
--it snapped in my hand.
I looked down at the thing of rust that rested in my free hand. Then I put it down and went back into the house. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. I smacked the wrench firmly into my palm to get her attention. She looked up.
"We have a welding torch I can borrow, right?" I asked.
And that was how she wound up driving me to my appointment the next day.