Bike Story (Manhattan Before Dawn I)

I actually got a comment, two if you count the email from one of my former students, so I give you more here now. It started, much less ambitiously, back here. (Are my smatterings of Spanish working, or do they sound tinny? Does it bother you if you don’t understand Español?)

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Off of the bridge he just sailed down 2nd Avenue, keeping the lights green he made it all the way down to Houston. The sparse traffic kept him company as he pedaled the bike down the avenue. Kiko liked the speed and space. Having cabs and cars and trucks on the road gave him a pace that, while hard, comforted him. When he paid attention to the parked cars and pre-dawn pedestrians he was passing he was made aware of his speed and got nervous. In the East 20s a young woman in a small dress staggered out between two cars and hailed the cab next to him. Even at that speed he could tell she was crying and he wondered how she had had come to be out so early and so unhappy. She pulled a rich coat around her discrete figure as she saw Kiko speed by, wiping tears and snot in the left lapel as she denied the stranger a glance at her form.

The cab’s sudden turn and deceleration made him aware of his own speed and vulnerability. He was one mistake away from being like the crying woman who had carefully put on that tiny dress some hours before as he had taken his boss’ bike home last night. The dress and the bike were supreme acts of optimism, each meant to somehow improve the lives of their “owners.” Little did he know, just as the dress had come to rule the woman in it, soon the bike would become Kiko’s hard master.

He made it to work on time, though he was sweaty. Kiko declined with a smile the customary cup of coffee that Mrs. Choi offered the men as they arrived before dawn in her daily act of kindness. She and Santayana seemed to move in slow motion as they prepared for the day’s rush. After the 12 mile ride from Jamaica, the spaces in the basement kitchen seemed so small. After the climb up the Queensboro Bridge there was no resistance in the lifting, cutting, boiling, pouring and mixing that it took to make the food for the day. His knife cut through the salads, vegetables, fruit and produce like they weren’t there. Even the cáscara de la sandía which used to give him blisters after just two just fell away leaving seed-filled watery red cubes. The flank steak for the house specialty, which he and Santayana would fight to avoid, practically cut itself on the dull knife his cycle-charged hand held. Riding through New York before dawn on a bike, swift, silent and invisible, made the hard work of an underground industrial kitchen seem like child’s play.


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