COLUMBUS—I must be crazy. I am riding a bike through this Georgia town, following my wife, who is riding her bicycle with no hands.
The weather is perfect today. Birds litter the live oaks that line the cobblestone streets. The Chattahoochee River is roaring in the distance. And my wife has lost her mind.
We came to Columbus to buy two second-hand bikes that my wife found in the classified ads. They are nice bikes. The thing is, I don’t even know if I remember how to ride a bike.
I gave up riding bikes in the sixth grade. I remember the day clearly.
Robert Danielson dared me to ride no-handed. I did it for five seconds. Then I fell onto the pavement face first. My mother said it was the most expensive dental bill she ever saw.
“Slow down!” I shout to my wife.
“WHEEEEEEE!” my wife says. Then my wife removes her hands from the handlebars again.
But she can’t hear me. She is carefree, pedalling, punching the air, singing the theme song from the movie “Rocky.”
I should not be here. I am not a fan of the bicycle. If God had wanted man to ride bikes he wouldn’t have made biking shorts look so dumb.
Still, I am a big fan of the classified ads. You can buy a lot of nice things in the classified section. And in my family, we bought used things from the newspaper all the time. Most everything we ever owned was fourth-hand stuff.
I was brought up by a man who read the classifieds like some men follow the stock market. My cradle was lined with the “Thrifty Nickel” newspapers.
My father was always looking for a deal. He believed that the newspaper was the best place to buy cars, lawnmowers, radial saws, Christmas decor, wedding anniversary gifts, etc.
The thing is, buying used stuff always requires something called “dickering.” And I hate to dicker, so I rarely consult the classifieds anymore.
Price haggling is a cherished practice for a true classifieds-section man. There is a strict protocol, and it’s a real battle.
First, the buyer makes an insultingly low offer. Then, the seller comes back with a high price. The buyer goes even lower. The seller goes higher. Buyer spits. Seller insults the buyer’s mother. Both parties leg wrestle, shake hands, and build a sand castle together.
But getting back to the bikes. After we bought them, we took them for a maiden voyage by the river. So that’s how my wife ended up riding down the sidewalks of Columbus like a woman with her shorts on fire. Hands free. I can hardly look.
Meanwhile, I hold the handlebars so tightly that I leave inch-deep grip marks in the steel.
“ISN’T THIS FUN?!” she shouts.
Ever since this quarantine began, my wife has started reading adventure magazines about bicycles. These magazines feature photographs of attractive young couples cheerfully biking through the rugged mountains, wearing backpacks that are the size of Yamaha pianos.
I can’t blame her for getting lost in glossy publications featuring exotic hiking trips and places nestled in the woods. We have all been forced to fantasize, ever since COVID-19 became a household word. A lot of people’s summers were ruined.
But you don’t see everyone going out and buying bicycles do you?
Last night I noticed something was a little off. I came home to the smell of steak cooking. Then my wife placed a plate before me containing a cut of meat that was about the size Lou Ferrigno.
“What’s this?” I asked.
Immediately, my radar antennae went up. My wife only cooks steak when she either (a) wants something, or (b) receives a letter from American Express.
“What’s this about?” I said, poking my perfect steak.
I waited for the other shoe to drop, but she said not a word. Instead, she got quiet and asked how my steak tasted.
“Fantastic,” I said. I am particular about my steaks. I like my steak so rare that a good vet could bring it back to life.
My wife let a few moments lapse. Then she said, “So when was the last time you rode a bicycle?”
There it was. I had known it was coming.
So I told her that the last time my haunches touched a bicycle saddle, Eleanor Roosevelt was still first lady. I don’t even own a bike.
“I’m not getting a bike,” I said.
“I know. I was only saying…”
“I don’t like bikes.”
“You’re right, sweetie.”
“I will never get a bike.”
So I bought a bike.
And now I am watching my moderately insane wife speed along the scenic side streets of a picture-perfect Columbus. No hands. And I’m starting to realize something.
It was 18 years ago this week that I met this woman. If I close my eyes I can still see the day itself. She was beautiful, with cheerful eyes. I was an average guy with an overbite and unnaturally big feet.
She was the first person to truly see me. She made me feel important. She made me feel lighter. When we married, I knew deep in my heart that she would be the greatest adventure I would ever have.
So who am I fooling? I would do anything that this remarkable woman asked me to do.
Except let go of these godforsaken handlebars.