The bike was too big for her, the gears as rusted and cranky as she was, and the left pedal broken. “It won’t matter,” he’d said. “It’s all downhill."
Downhill meant an uphill return, and there was a wind.
She was familiar with his back, bent over the antler handlebars—he called them something else—bent over, the stag on a gallop, and all she saw was his butt high in the air and the calf muscles pumping, pumping, pumping.
She shifted to low, rode as slowly as possible, more a walk than a ride, and let him go. It was possible to enjoy herself—she was determined to in spite of . . . He was coming back, pumping uphill as fast as he’d sped down, his wavy black head bent over the handlebars, not looking up, but he knew exactly where she was. He stopped, crossed his bike in front of hers. She stopped her slow pedal.
He looked up, all teeth and eyes. Lord, the man was happy. The sun full on his face, happy to be riding, happy to be with her, oblivious of everything—the hill, the sun, her resistance. “Isn’t this a great day?” he said. “Look at that sky.”
It was a child’s drawing, sun in the corner, cumulous clouds around a great oak tree—a perfect day. Perfect.
It was sweat in her eyes, not tears, but she could only nod and admit that yes, she was okay. The bike was too big, the gears jammed, the pedal slipped, but she was okay. His lips grazed her cheek and he was off—but it was okay. She had his back.
© Kathleen Coskran 2012