Red Bike

June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 26

Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

I can still recall the day I first saw her bike. It was a deep red Trek that was, in her words, “not too girly.”

Classic Nikky. She was one of a kind.

I remember entering the Starbucks and having one of the kindest, most beautiful people I’ve ever met ask me what I wanted to drink.

That was years ago.

Her name tag said, “Nicole.” I, being the smooth operator I am, said something about her name being an anagram of “El Coin.” It’s a wonder she didn’t push me to the floor and begin kissing me all over.

But that was never how it was between us. An age difference had positioned us on opposite life’s shores, effectively precluded any such a pairing.

At that time, she was a fine restorative elixir for me. I was reeling from the discovery that my girlfriend at the time suffered from a borderline personality disorder. Her anger storms never lasted long, but she seemed oblivious to them, unaware of how much she hurt everyone that loved her. With her, it was genuinely chemical, her responsibility but not her fault. I tried getting her to see, but she was blind to her behaviors. She justified her anger as righteous and that I, or whoever received her wrath, was deserving of her reaction. It was our fault. So acting with all the characteristic passive-aggressive behavior I could muster, I melted into the ground until she broke up with me.

When the sadness landed, I felt sure it would never leave me.

Nikky was life’s funny way of balancing things. She was all the things my ex was not: even-tempered, patient, tender and deliberate in her praise, and always rational.

For months, I frequented her Starbucks. We would sit in the comfy wicker chairs outside and talk about everything.

I remember how my heart would lift each time I saw that bike.

But one day, she usually worked, but her bike was gone.

While I had considered us friends, we weren’t consistent in our visits. And we never traded phone numbers. We preferred to allow our friendship to blossom in some non-hurried, organic fashion.

I remember asking the manager where she was. She’d taken another job, one in mental health.

I had mixed feelings. I knew she had a master’s degree in social work and was licensed to perform such things, so I was happy that she’d found something more rewarding in meaning and money. But I was also sad there would be no more rambling, beautiful talks on the corner of Preston and Royal.

For months I would still wander by there and look for that red bike. I would sigh sadly, knowing she was gone and our organic friendship had likely suffered an organic death.

But one day, it was there again; the red bike had returned.

I study it, suspecting it to be a mirage. Something my wishful, needy mind had hallucinated.

But it was there again.

Now, we see each other regularly. There is a small town cafe that sits halfway between us. And we meet there for Sunday breakfast. Usually, we sit outside; that is our way. The food is terrific; the coffee is bracing; the conversations are what they are, and the company is exquisite. While I’m there, the world is a fine place to be again.

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