He glared at me filled with bitter rage, His 6’1” hulk towered over my child’s frame. “Goddammit, you’re going to ride that bike and I don’t want to see you again for at least an hour.”
We were visiting my parent’s friends, Bob and Sarah, in Cedar City. My brothers and sisters were old enough to stay home and bow out of this trip. I was only 10 or 11 and had to go with them. I was alone with my parents.
Bob, an older, retired man, realized I was most likely bored moping around their house while the adults sat around the kitchen table, catching up. He offered me use of an old bike. Scared of being a bother, I declined the first two times he brought it up. By day five, however, I was going stir crazy and asked if he minded my using it.
I shrunk in horror when I realized the bike was located in the far recessed corner of the shed. “No, no,” I wanted to shout, “Nevermind, please, its okay.” Bob moved the mower out of the shed, rearranged the aluminum lawn chairs and wrestled the bike to the grass with a clatter. My father looked on.
As soon as he set the bike down, I knew I was over my head. It was a dusty, black men’s ten-speed and the top of the frame landed somewhere between my navel and my chest. This bike was much too large for me. I bravely took it over to the porch steps, swung a tentative leg over the center bar and took off – my feet didn’t touch the ground. I rode it down the sidewalk without a hitch, but when I stopped to turn around, I instinctively jumped down, smacking my pubic bone hard on the center cross bar.
I dismounted the bike and limped my way back to the house. “I think it’s too big for me,” I said as I brought the bike back to the porch. My father would have none of it. The malevolence that could flash from his eyes towards his own child always overwhelmed and shrunk me. I had inconvenienced Bob by asking to use the bike and I was expected to ride it now – to hell with safety or injury. My father looked at me as if he wanted to squash me like a gnat if he could.
Upon waking this morning, I remembered this incident from my childhood. I remember riding the bike back and forth in front of the clapboard houses, as I was commanded, dreading the end to the sidewalk where I must stop. I tried using the fence to assist my dismount. Almost every time, I bruised myself on the crossbar. I road the bike for an hour, came home, and didn’t ask Bob for anything again.