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Erin on the left, me and my trusty steel frame on the right // Kalispell, MT (2008)

My dad threw away my bike.

I know to most grown up people, this isn’t such a big deal. I’m completely aware of war, famine, poverty, One Direction, and out of season tomatoes (GROSS, GO AWAY UNTIL JULY YOU WATERY STYROFOAM IMPOSTORS). But when I found out, after Ty and I had dug through my parents’ garage for a while trying to find it, I lost my mind. My dad said he didn’t remember if he had kept it or not, which isn’t hard to believe. Dad had a stroke a little while ago, and his memory is spotty at best. So I bit my lip, turned to toss the salad, and then started crying big, fat, I-lost-my-balloon tears into the balsamic. Quietly, I finished tossing the greens through watery goggles, turned around, and went upstairs.

I felt like someone had put my dog to sleep while I was away for the weekend. You see, this bike was special. An unassuming little thing, you wouldn’t know that it was made of steel, solid and unbreakable. I crashed that bike into a guard rail once, and I came out of it about 600% more bruised and battered than it did. If it was a sentient being, that bike would have bounced up, giggled, shook off some leaves from its spokes and cheerily asked if I wanted to go for a hike.

My ex-boyfriend Phil built that bike for me after working at Community Cycles in Boulder. The frame was a rusted over steel Centurion from the 1980s, and it was tossed in a corner unceremoniously. Phil, being a bike-handy dude, recognized that surface rust wasn’t enough to break its spirit, and instead decided to use the bike as a way to bring me into his world of bicycle things. Bicycle things like stripping a frame with sandpaper, carefully rubbing away the red spots until the silver sparkled again. Things like rear derailleurs, which are annoying monsters that smugly wield their necessity over you, forcing you to poke at it until something makes sense.

Phil and I built that bike together (well, mostly him), he stenciled my last name in big capital letters from stencils he made himself onto the frame after painting it a delicious deep burgundy, like I was being charioted around on red velvet cake. I went out and bought chamois shorts, real clip in bike shoes (only fell over a few times in public), and nice pedals. He showed me how to wrap the bars in white bar tape, and how to clip in like real cyclists do. I learned how to do that thing where you ride standing up, and also how to patch a tube.

I took that spindly tank of a bike from Kalispell to Missoula with my friend Erin (pictured above), getting all tan and heaving up huge Montana hills with all my stuff piled on the back, giving my trim bike a very voluptuous booty. I scraped my knee a couple times. The bike was totally fine.

I rode it around Helena during the school year, speedily riding it to see my friend’s first baby at the hospital, or out to the limestone kilns past the state park. I took to locking it to assorted things around the extremely bike-unfriendly city, like trees and road signs and hostile Republicans.

Phil and I didn’t last, but dammit that bike did. It whipped me around from place to place, speedy and perfect and so familiar it felt like a part of my body. I bought a $40 cruiser at a garage sale at one point, and felt so guilty about not riding my faithful Centurion, that I eventually stopped riding the clunky blue cruiser at all.

Before I moved to Seattle, I had stripped down the bike, ready to give it another paint job and gussy it up a bit, before I realized I wouldn’t have time to finish before I was supposed to leave. No matter, I thought, I’ll finish it when I visit and bring it to its new home. It will wait for me, I kept thinking, as two years stretched by and my trips home were short and busy. Remember, this things lasts even when I can’t seem to stop tripping over myself. It will be there, waiting.

But it didn’t last. Now it’s gone, and I’m more heartbroken than I would have ever guessed. Sometimes our special things are thrown away without our permission. A really balanced person would probably say that everything is impermanent and that things don’t matter. I would probably not like that balanced person. That balanced person definitely never rode my bike.

All I can hope for now is that my persistent little bicycle ended up right where we found it almost six years ago: resting in a corner, in the eye line of someone who can see all the places it wants to take them.

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