“Forever is composed of nows.” — Emily Dickinson
Like fools, we drag the bikes out of the basement in the last week of summer. Their chains are all Stage 3 rust and the tires are flat and they seem dead and forgotten. Like people get. Out in the sunshine at the top of the steps that lead up out of their dark tomb, I drag them into the yard. The grass is coming back after a dry spell. There is some natural lush to this weedy lawn again, so that’s nice for them, I think to myself.
That’s kind of nice for them, I say to myself. You bikes are having your resurrection on a damn fine day. Good for you. Good for you, you sad pieces of neglected shit.
The whole deal with why a lot of our bikes have been leaning up against a stone wall in the dank basement/ breathing mildew/ pushing silent screams out of their repugnant bad breathy bike mouths like the twisted basement people of the worst kinds of serial killers: the ones that keep you alive in a tiny piss pool of your own horror for a time before that special evening when they dress up in a pair of big old Thrift Store heels and come down there with a plate of squirrel shit that they make you eat before they gouge your neck veins out and push their junk up against your fluttering eyeballs.
I don’t know how I know this. I just do.
Anyways, me and Charlie stand there looking at the bikes in the daylight for a moment or two before he does what he does best. He comes alive. He shines in the middle of so much of the strange, murky uncertainty of living. He picks up a black and orange Mongoose with handbrakes and back-breaks and a messed up seat and he lifts it with newfound interest. His eyes are the fire inside. His twitchy grin is a reason, I’m guessing, that I haven’t blown my own head off fifty times over the last couple of years.
He strides himself over onto the bike and sets his little ass down on the torn vinyl. He boogies his cheeks a bit/ settles into the thing/ then asks me to raise it for him a bit. So I find the tool to do that and I do/ all the while/ he helps me. Holding the bike as I do basic skill-less work on it. Make the seat higher, straighten the handlebars, put air in the tires with my Walmart pump.
All of this goes flawlessly and none of that is lost on me. I take what I can get in this world. I float around in and out of different harbor nooks with the rest of the scattered sea trash. Me and the chip bags/ me and the dirty tennis balls/ me and the used fuck rubbers/ me and the little blue plastic shovels/ me and the cigarette butts/ me and the saturated gutter punks of someone else’s long ago picnic/ me and the doll parts/ me and the fish heads/ me staring at Tom Waits as he treads water right beside me in this butter-colored toxic sea foam/ him writing shit down in his little writer’s notebook so he can make some money/ and me hanging on to the limp carcass of a once-proud inflatable taco because I am trying to stay alive over here.
I stand proud in my own eyes then for a rare couple of seconds. Looking at Charlie looking at me, I get a douchey, snarl-ish smile up on my face, like I’m some kind of dude that gets shit done. Dad Dude. Inflating tires. Straightening seats. Dad shit. Dadness on the Edge of Town.
We watch each other for what amounts to a fleeting moment but feels longer to me at least. Charlie cannot hide his fever/ his new bike fever/ and I am enchanted by it because I never saw it coming. This has been a modern American summer for us. Video gaming has replaced almost everything else for long swaths of time. Baseball was abandoned. The trampoline out back was more or less abandoned. There were days when the old ways took over/ when the hose got hooked up to the sprinkler and the laughter was genuine and all, but there was always a time just up ahead when a kid was thinking about video games. Or YouTube. And no matter what you do, no matter what I did, it didn’t really matter. It was coming. Back inside. Bored with reality. Bored with the sun in the sky.
This though, I just can’t figure it out. Charlie’s sudden urge to ride his old bike, it makes no sense to me outwardly. But I’m no idiot. I was a fool to leave the bikes out of sight all summer, I figure, but all idiots get a second chance. And maybe this is mine.
Maybe this is something good.
Probably it will only last a day or two and then he will be back to the other stuff, I tell myself. And it probably helps that our internet is completely out for a few days now. I mean, yeah. That kind of forced them outside in the end, huh?
Here we are.
I hand Charlie a helmet I find in the toy box and then I watch him climb aboard this bike we have drug up out of the forsaken stone dungeon that lies beneath our everyday feet.
My heart explodes all over the yard. Purple and silver confetti. Blue green veins severed and gushing. Streamers of gold and bone flecks and the whole of my throat, like a chopped off horse’s cock, ripped out of my old self and burst out across the greenish grass from the force of this kid rolling away from me.
I sense the universe.
I refuse time.
There is so much more, isn’t there? But look, it’s nothing we understand.
There is no tomorrow.
And there’s no yesterday either.
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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattlling around his noggin. Once in a blue Muskie Moon, he backs away from the computer, straps on a guitar and plays some rock ’n’ roll with his brother Dave and their bandmates in Marah.