fear of speed

When I was seven, my father bought me a bicycle second-hand. I remember it was blue. He took me to the park on Saturday mornings and tried to teach me to ride. He walked alongside holding the seat and sometimes, he would take his hand away and I would be riding on my own without knowing it.

This was in the spring. In the summer, we rented a house at the shore.

My father stayed behind because he had to work at the grocery store where he stood behind the deli counter all afternoon and worked the meat slicers for the women who came in asking for everything to be sliced paper thin. They pinched their fingers together to show him. Sometimes he would take a break to smoke a cigarette at the back door sitting on an upturned plastic bucket that had once held mayonnaise or pickles or crushed tomatoes.

We stayed at the shore for two weeks. We waited for him to come. One morning my mother called him from a telephone booth in front of the diner where we had eaten breakfast. Scrambled eggs with ketchup and toast with grape jelly. She came out of the booth and told us that he had moved out.

When we went back home, his closet door was open and all that was left were a few plastic hangers on the rod and some loose change on the floor. I picked up the coins, two dimes and three pennies, and put them in my pocket.

My mother carried the blue bicycle down to the basement where there were storage lockers for each apartment – metal cages with a wooden door. She opened the door marked “1-C” and wheeled the bicycle inside. She hooked a padlock on the door and clicked it shut, then tugged on it to make sure it had locked. I could see the blue handlebars sticking out through the metal bars.