She is like a midsummer day that you never want to end, that particular brief moment near the end of the day as the sweltering summer air begins to cool down into the thick heavy warmth that blankets the night. The moment where warm air meets warm body; they are indifferent. That moment of the day where you can wallow in your own comfort as that particular moment holds not the fast pace troubles of your work day nor the slowing down hours into slumber. It is your time. A brief presently aware moment in life where everything is illuminated with the golden warmth of the sun. She is that moment.
It was the Fourth of July and the sun was beginning to set over Portland forcing him to make a decision. He could remain in North Portland and brave the awkward situation of entangled lovers or head back down to Southeast to watch the fireworks along the waterfront with the rest of the city. His phone vibrates; his mind was already made up. It was a text from Bruce letting him know to meet at the house in 30 minutes. From there they will head to the waterfront to see the fireworks light up the night sky. “I have to get going now. It’s getting dark and I don’t have my bike lights with me. God forbid I get a ticket.” The Pacific Northwest summer days are long, but not long enough. He then glances back over to her who hasn’t looked away. Her stare tries to plead with him to stay unleashing the comforting warmth she always provides for his soul. “Steve,” he looks to the owner of the house “it was nice to meet you but I have to take off.” Steve was an all american gentlemen. Very calm, modest and friendly but also, ex lover of Maggie. He reached down to shake Steve’s hand and as he did, wondered if Maggie had ever told him of the strange arrangement they shared to get through the long cold Portland winter. The moments she provided to get through the long rainy cold days of winter.
Maggie walks him out as they make way to his bike sitting in the living room.
“I’m glad you came by” Maggie says trying to make him stay longer.
“Me too. I really have to hurry! I don’t like riding in the dark,” he responds.
“Wait… you don’t have a helmet?”
“No I didn’t bring one today” he explains.
“Don’t move, I am going to give you mine.”
“No! That’s alright.”
“Wait right there!” she yells already having turned around darting for her living room closet.
He waits there staring back into her house from the porch. The setting sun is shining down on his face, warming his heart with it’s embrace. The sound of things getting thrown around brings him back. “Found it!” Being held out in front of her as though she was ready to charge it into his chest, but she doesn’t.
“Here take this, it’s mine. You can give it back to me later.”
“No” he insist, not wanting anything to tie them together.
“You have to! If anything were to happen to you I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.”
There is a long pause as he looks deep into her eyes. To lighten the mood he lets out a slight chuckle of sarcasm, “If anything happens to me then it was meant to happen.”
“You don’t have to go.” She says in a soft voice. The warmth of the sun was fading; “It’s getting dark, I have to hurry.” He pulls out his phone to text Bruce, “Meet you at the house in 15.” It was nearly an impossible task, but he had the mental map in his imagination of what route to take, which route was the safest, which route was the fastest. He was up for the challenge.
The streets of North Portland were alive with the summertime feel that let you know it was the Fourth of July. As his legs began to pick up steam like a locomotive his lungs breathed in the warm summer scent of fired up barbecues. His belly started to grumble and his heart beated with homesickness. He missed growing up back home and having large family gatherings. He rode through the park, through the trees, through the families that laughed and reminded him of home. The sun, still not below the horizon, shined its rays through the dark green old pines trees of Columbia Park. The smoke that rose up into the evening air caught the invisible sunlight and filled them into rigid low hanging clouds. He continued to ride on.
Down. Further down towards Southeast. From bike street to bike street. He made the turn onto Killingsworth and began to switch gears to get a better stride. Looking back he saw cars beginning to close the gap of highway. The roaring sound of his body cutting through the wind began to get louder and block the rest of the world out as he began to pedal harder to keep his distance. Faster now, he looks back again to see his progress of speed. The sound of the wind cut out and the noise of the world became consistently silent. The sun had vanished beyond the distant horizon and the cloudless sky held a heavy dark blue that was illuminated by the rich golden hue of the setting sun. Beautiful he thought. The embracing kiss of the sun had vanished along with it’s warmth. He pushed his body even harder. Sweat began to drip down his skin. This was that moment of the day he enjoyed so much all throughout his life. He could be anywhere in the world and as long as he had warmth and the light of gold shining across the sky he would always be tied to the memory of feeling loved.
Turning his head back towards the road ahead unleashed the thunderous rush of wind passing along his ears once again. His striped summer shirt pressed tightly against his chest from the crushing force of the wind leaving the rest of the loose fabric to blow in the wind behind him like a superhero cape. He is flying now; Nothing could stop him. Feeling invincible he pushed even harder now, gaining even more momentum. He got his bearings straight as he flew past his old college that he knew all too well. It had been awhile since he last attended, but that didn’t matter now. He felt alive pedaling as fast as he could. The distance between him and the cars behind him began to grow and he began to pull away even further. His speed dominated the street. His lungs burned. The school had came and gone and he was fast approaching the next major bike street that would take him directly to his house.
Keeping his eyes focused ahead he caught glimpse of a van in the opposing lane preparing to make a turn into the upcoming street. Still a football field away, he slightly applies pressure to his breaks but his legs keep pedalling. One more street to go. The van begins to turn. He checks in with his ego. Fearlessly pedalling on, his leg muscles are constricted by his shorts from his legs being pushed to their limit. Assuring his confidence, the van clears his lane and instantly proves his worth to the open road. Coming out of that same street is a small white Honda being driven by an unsuspecting driver. For a brief moment as the warm summer wind rushes over his body, the blood coursing through his veins and confidence reassured he sees the honda emerge from the other side of the van. A California Roll is what they call it where he is from; he thinks back to his childhood back in LA once again. An instant stretches into a lifetime of thought as he makes eye contact with the driver of the honda. It’s a young girl, with a face covered in paint as though she is on her way to a rave with the other two girls in the car. There is nothing he can do now. It’s too late to break, too late to turn, too late for anything.
Metal meets metal as he turns his front wheel only to soften the blow as it collides with the front fender of the little white Honda. The instant stretches even further. No longer attached to his bike, reality was suspended. Flying through the air with his arms stretched out to brace for any collision his unprotected head might have. Deflecting off of the hood with his arms, he was now on a destined path to meet the windshield. His body twist and turns in a panic preventing his face from going into the window. Hip meets glass and sends his body tumbling through the air above the car. There is no telling what is up or what is down. Only the thought of complete helplessness as he is once more detached from everything and is flying through the air in a world now unrecognizable. A world not bound to the limits of gravity. He waited for everything to vanish. “Would it hurt?” He thought. This was the closest he had been to death. There wasn’t much he could do, only to wait for the infinite nothing.
The world became recognizable as the ground came straight for his face. Once more he put out his hands out to brace his burning body for an emergency crash landing. Flesh meets pavement and lets out the sound of paper being ripped. His body was still charged full of momentum and uncontrollably slid until enough friction from flesh and pavement brought him to a hault. The cars behind him were the first things he thought of and immediate jumped up as to not get run over. “FUCK!” He hobbled up to his feet and over to the sidewalk. Comforting the pain pulsing on his hip, his hand reaches around only to feel a metal like bar protruding through his shorts. It was were he kept his bike lock while riding. “FUCK!” he yells aloud once more and yanks the U lock out and throws it onto the ground in frustration. He looks around, there are people everywhere. It was the Fourth of July and the streets were full of Portlanders. The pain should be arriving shortly he thinks to himself as his heart beat pushes rushing blood and adrenaline through his veins. “I’ll just… I’ll just lay here on the sidewalk” he says under his breath. And so he does. To those witnessing the event unfold, panic fills the air as the once airborne bike rider collapses to the ground. Laying there on the sidewalk he waited for the pain to kick in, he closes his eyes and breathes deeply. The familiar soothing summer scent of barbecues is still in the air. The warmth of the day was fading and a cool trickle of what felt like cold sweat ran down his head onto the sidewalk.