It was early evening in summer in Memphis. Cotton stuck to skin, mosquitos like stars in the sky. I swung my leg over the saddle of the cruiser, held the grips in my hands and pushed off.
The bike belonged to a friend who was leaving town. He picked it up for $50, excited to explore his new home.
I rolled up the street half a dozen blocks, coasting down the only hill. Air passed through the hair on my arms and legs, blowing back my long hair and making each follicle stand as if it grew from the back of my neck.
When I locked the coaster brake and skidded to halt in front of him, my grin was too wide to fake.
A year would pass before I’d climb on a friend’s touring bike and spin around his neighborhood. I was ignorant of the gears, the brakes, all the things that make the machine itself a marvel. I moved like wind and the landscape blurred, receding in my periphery.
That was enough.
I no longer recall whether I said this aloud or not, but when I stopped and the world dulled again, I asked, “Why did I ever stop doing this?”
During those few moments I pedaled, I was free of my past, unworried by my future. The now flowed in such perfect pleasure I felt my body glow with joy.
On the eve of spring break I bought my first bike-shop quality bike and took off into the night.
My glow lit the way. It still does.