The hour reflected those pleasant moments when hunger could be satiated through anticipation alone, before the pangs became demanding. I ambled along an empty sidewalk, residents reconvened around the dinner table, leaving breeze-blown leaves as my only company. Since my home offered even less than that, I dismissed thoughts of quickening my step.
Soon after, I came upon a young boy who sat upon the ground. At his side lay a blue Schwinn, lent from an earlier time. His hands were stained with grease from the chain, which had popped from the sprocket, and his shirt stained with grease from his hands. I watched for a moment, then knelt next to him.
“Looks like trouble,” I said.
He pulled with all he had, but from the way he went at it, I knew the chain would break before he got it back on track. “Chain popped off,” he said, his voice trembling in surrender.
“You got it under control?” It was clear he didn’t, but I asked anyway.
He looked up with eyes that matched his tone, and together they told the story. I reached to help. “If you get it started,” I said, “like this, then all you have to do is turn the crank.” In a few seconds, he was ready to go. “Think you can do that next time?”
He nodded with gratitude not yet learned to express with words, unaware he had flipped pages from my past. Maybe it was my loneliness that cleared the way, so eager for companionship that, in the absence of anything else, I latched onto a memory.
Then he left, late for dinner, I’m sure. I watched until he blended into dusk, and then kept looking, even after he was gone. The breeze continued and I was again alone with the leaves. I turned toward home, but looked back one last time. I hadn’t recognized him, but age and hour told me he must live close.
At home I lit a fire before preparing my evening meal. When it was ready, I methodically cleaned my plate, then the kitchen, but my thoughts had gone elsewhere. I followed them to a room packed with relics from my past. Without much effort I located the box and rummaged through its contents. When I found what I was looking for, I returned to the den. My fire had died, so I stoked it back to life, then stoked childhood memories.
In my hands I held an old photograph: me on my bike. I nested deep in my chair and allowed events of more than a half-century to live like new. Lonely no more, I traveled back to a simple time, a time when bikes weren’t just ridden, they were flown. And mine flew me everywhere I went.