She tries but she can’t, she tugs on the key but it won’t turn, she yanks on the bike but it won’t move from where it has fallen to the earth, she even kicks the metal sign post and nothing still and she stands and shivers in this cracked-stones cold Saturday afternoon.
She looks around but the street’s empty, victim to the languorous vacancy between Saturday brunch and Saturday dinner.
She sighs. She takes her phone from her pocket, stares at it for a minute and slides it back without opening it. She looks around again.
A car pulls up near her and a boy about her age steps out and walks toward the dumpster outside Treehouse Records with single-minded intent. He opens it, sees nothing of interest, and then sees her.
He takes a few steps toward the intersection and then turns to watch her. He turns again toward the intersection and then again toward her. He calls out, Do you need some help?
She nods and smiles she pulls her hat below over her ears. She says, I can’t get it. It happens sometimes, I can’t get the thing unlocked.
She hands him the key and he kneels in the frozen boulevard dirt and fiddles with the lock. His luck isn’t any better and he knows it immediately, but he performs a little, for her sake, he twists and turns the lock and tries to lift the bike and after a few minutes he stands and shrugs his shoulders. He says, It’s stuck.
She says, I don’t know what to do. She looks at her pair of shopping bags resting on the ground and then at her sudden and chained betrayer.
She says, It’s a long way home.
He says, I have some tools at my apartment. I don’t live far.
She sizes him up for a moment, looks in his eyes, at his car, down the street. He blows in his bare hands and smiles shyly and pretends to be interested in the passing traffic. After some silence her face relaxes and she says, OK. And then: Thank you.
He walks to the driver’s side and steps in and she slides into the passenger seat and sets her bags on her lap and they drive away.
Two hours and the bike is still there. Four hours and the same.
The next morning it’s gone.
The following Saturday in the minutes after bar close she walks down the street to the same sign where she again has locked her bike.
The boy walks with her.
It’s colder than last week, too cold for November, too cold for anything, they both shiver as she kneels and inserts the key into the lock. She tries to turn it. It does not move.
She says, Not again, and the boy opens his mouth and the cold whisks his condensed breath and sing-song laugh down the alley.
He leans over and she allows him her key and he tries, for her sake, but he already knows the outcome. After a moment he stands and looks at the bike for a moment and then he says, Well, we can come back for it tomorrow. I have the tools.
She says, I know.
She wraps her arm around his waist, they walk to his car, he opens the door for her and touches his hand to her back as she ducks inside.
He starts the car and pulls out and the light turns green and they drive off, together, into the night.
The next morning the bike is gone.
26th & Lyndale is an attempt to capture life at a busy Southwest intersection, through essays, observations, conversations, overheard dialogue and other storytelling forms. To check out Brian Voerding’s blog, go to www.26thandlyndale.com.