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My face was pressed up against the glass, trying in some way to be closer to Rain, to push her out of danger by sheer force of will. That car was going to run her over; there was no way it could miss! Rain had started to slow for some reason. What was she doing?
“Faster Rain! Faster!” Talking to myself again, I didn’t care.
Rain was riding a fixed gear. She didn’t have a freewheel on her bike, if she pedaled forward she went forward, pedal backwards she would go backwards. That meant that for instance, if she were to hop slightly to lift the back wheel off the ground she could lock her legs. When the back wheel came back down she would be skidding. With a slight shifting of body weight she could turn her skidding bike to the side. A power slide on bicycle.
Rain was now moving to the right, the straps from her aviatrix helmet flailing like angry snakes behind her. She had slowed down just enough to keep her from flying over the handlebars as she performed her bicycle ballet. She shot up over the curb and down an alley pushing more speed into the cranks as she made her getaway.
The huge car behind her had no such turning radius; it continued going forward, dutifully following all the relevant laws of physics. Newton would have pointed out that it’s forward motion was transmitted into heat and noise as it smashed into the large truck that had just pulled out of a driveway.
Minutes later I head the muted ‘ding’ of the elevator and turned to find a panting, sweaty, Rain holding her bicycle in one hand and a full bag in the other. She sat her bike against the wall as I ran forward to wrap her in a hug. She held on to me tightly.
It was a couple of seconds before we realized the awkward nature of our embrace. Pulling away we both looked down unsure of what had just happened. I was the first to break the silence.
“That was fucking amazing!” I was picking up bad linguistic habits from her.
I showed her the accident below, people were approaching the car, both passengers had not had seat belts on, it didn’t look good.
“Fuck, I didn’t want to kill them, stupid fuckers.”
“We better get going” She said as she grabbed my arm. “We still need to get you a ride.”
We snuck out the back of the office building, taking a route through a maze of dumpsters and loading docks. Rain walked next to her bike so that I could keep up.
“How did you learn to ride like that?” I was still in awe of her performance.
“You want to drop your package on time you got to ride hard.” Simple enough I guess.
We didn’t talk much, she was out of breath, and my jaw still hurt from where she had decked me. We stuck to the back alleys as much as we could, slowly working our way uptown, finally arriving at a small wooden door with a large chain ring from a bicycle nailed to it.
“This guy owes me a favor, but he is kind of a cranky bitch, so just don’t say nothing, and please Quentin, don’t have any freak outs in there, ok.”
She was trying to make it sound nice, but it sort of hurt my feelings anyway. I guess it showed.
“No don’t get me wrong man, I think you’re a pretty interesting guy, but well Jake is kind of a douche, but he has rides, and we need one, just let me do the talking k?”
Rain knocked on the door a couple of times, and a Jake opened it.
“Rain, what’s going on, didn’t see you round today? You got the day off?”
Jake was wearing a pair of cut off jeans that did little to hide his massive legs. The man was built like a T-Rex with calves that looked like they could crush a walnut. His brown hair hung down past his ears, and was tucked under a bicycle cap.
“Yea, well I’m taking some time off. Look Jake can we come in, we need to talk”
We went inside and I could see that besides riding them, Jake also like to fix bicycles. The shop was full of bikes in various stages of repair. I would later learn that Jake ran an unlicensed business building and fixing bikes for messengers. He would let them buy parts on credit and have them pay him back after they got paid. He seemed like a nice enough guy, it wasn’t until much later that I learned why Rain didn’t like him.
Rain and Jake went in the back room, leaving me alone to admire the bicycles. The different kinds of frames reminded me of some sort of metal geometry lesson. Triangles, circles, lines, combine them in just the right way and you got a bicycle. I had never really ridden much, but these machines looked so clean, appealing even. I had read on the internet that bicycling was the most efficient mode of human travel. Was I really going to ride one of these things all the way to Ohio?
Jake made fixed gears, he took normal bikes, removed all the extra gears, all the cables, and created bikes with just one gear in the front, one in the back. The handle bars all looked unique. Some like bull horns, some like strange insect arms curled under, some flipped over and cut off in the middle. I was absentmindedly looking at them when Rain and Jake came back in.
“So he needs a set of wheels, huh? Let’s see what we can do.” Jake was looking at me, sizing me up.
“You know how to ride? You look a little skinny man?”
“Just get him some wheels Jake.”
Jake picked out a bike from the corner; it was an old steel frame with Italian words on the side and no wheels. Jake selected some tubes and tires and I watched as he threaded the circles of rubber onto the metal rims. He then made me stand over the bike; sit on the seat, and a couple of other things. This resulted in various adjustments to the seat stem and the handlebars.
Before we left Jake gave me an old messenger bag and filled it with a set of Allen wrenches, patch kits, a bunch of tubes and tools to change a flat tire. Then he and Rain went back in the back room and I could hear them fighting. She came back out and she had tears in her eyes.
“Let’s go Q.” She was walking towards the door. When she got there she turned.
“Please think about it Jake, just for once use your fuckin brain and listen to me.”
Jake threw up his hands and swatted the air in frustration. Rain held the door for me and then closed it quietly. Outside it had become overcast and the wind had picked up. A storm was approaching.
Offshore, a giant cyclonic eye surrounded by miles of swirling winds was starting to push toward shore.