Three days before, the slip-on NR bicycle lamps on our handlebars were swiped. A neighbor reported seeing a black SUV pull up to the front of the apartment building and a man run to the back, trigger the motion sensor lights, and run back to the SUV. My landlady suggested other places we could secure our bikes, and we considered them.
Joachim’s dinky vintage trek road bicycle was fast and quirky but viciously ugly after we had spray painted it with blue and black stripes. My bike—a form-fitted touring bicycle I had purchased off eBay and outfitted specifically for cross-country—she was beautiful. Thick drop bars swathed in white handlebar tape, carbon drink holders, a black standard Brooks leather saddle I had spent the last two years breaking into my butt. The finally-yielding saddle was my consolation prize for having to postpone the tour another year due to COVID. An unexpected additional year to perk her up, she was geared and ready to go cycle across the USA. Finally.
The day before, I had spent the sunny hours of my day-off installing a front rack on her carbon forks and packing everything I would need to ride spring to summer; across mountains and great plains and urban sprawls. Merino leggings, SPF-20 button up cycling shirt, shocking-pink helmet. The whole day dreaming with my bicycle, packing her up, unpacking her, figuring I could cut things down to just two saddlebags instead of four.
The bicycle was secured. The back of the property was hidden from view by a tall red wooden fence; the only access to the back was to walk the little hallway from the front. No one could see what was back there, no alley view, no road view. She was chained to a thick pipe with a kryptonite cable and a u-lock. Both tires and the frame locked to the pole. Before you ask — no, I didn’t get the Kryptonite Anti-Theft protection warranty.
April 23rd is the date I will leave for the mainland to start cycling across the USA.
March 31st is the day my bicycle was stolen.
A week later and I am still gutted imagining myself walking down the stairs in my scrubs, ready to cycle to work, rounding the corner and seeing an empty pole. Joachim’s bike beaming in the early sunlight just down the way, but only a severed end of a kryptonite cable to mark where my bicycle had been.
This bicycle was made for something like a cross-country tour. It hurt so badly thinking it was now stripped for parts, one anti-flat tire being sold to a teenager in Waianae and the steel frame being sold to a commuter in Laie. I’ve said too many times to now not be ironic, “they can take anything but Audrey. Anything but my bicycle.”
This targeted theft set my teeth on edge and made guttural noises on the soft of my throat. I cried through the police report, through the handing of flyers to local bike shops, through the apologizing of our landlady. Through these guilty “I told you so’s” in my brain. My mother cooing, “Oh, Jos. Oh, Jos!” Her crying with me. Joachim rocking me, holding me. I tried to go to work, but couldn’t make it longer than 15 minutes. This bicycle was the reason I came to Hawaii. The reason I met Joachim, the reason I work as a technician at a vet clinic, everything. I wouldn’t be here without my dream to cycle something big. My bicycle was a metaphor, not merely replaceable.
Just as writing is an act of extending consciousness and reading is the act of accepting it — so pain reaches hands across boundaries to grip fast. I received genuine compassion. No one looked down on me for mourning something tangible. I saw that they knew how much it had meant to me, and this justified all the pain I was feeling, so that I could feel it. Really feel it.
At the clinic, we shared stories of feeling violated by theft. When Doctor was a kid, his house was broken into while they were at Christmas mass, all their presents stolen. The thief had used their hand to break the glass, scattering bloody handprints all over. Micheal had his car ravished only for someone to steal an empty shoe box. A tesla window being smashed to collect only spare change. It hurts. Hurts to feel like this belongs to you, and someone could just take it.
Which is absurd, at the breakdown. To base it all on a “citizen contract” to be all equally respectful. That just because I’ve traded money (time) for an object, it’s mine. No one gets to take it, because it’s mine. So much comes down to this fragile citizen contract, the code of human conduct that says I don’t hurt you you don’t hurt me. How violating to look at your neighbor warily. Violating to lock the deadbolt as well as the door handle. It’s a gift to feel safe.
Two things happened in quick succession.
My portion of the American Rescue Plan ($1,400 stimulus check) came in. My co-workers at the clinic worked together to raise $1,200 for me. Within two days of having my bicycle stolen, I was gifted $2,600. What I had built over two years cost me much more in time than in money. Now I could rebuild with borrowed time.
Redemption comes in the form of love. In the form of feeling with certainty that those around me want me to succeed. That the ones around me who matter want me to succeed, and are willing to trade their time (money) for my dreams. Because for some reason, they believe that my dreams will amount to something. Something greater than just a dream.
Which I intend.
Peace and blessings,