Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Farewell, Rocinante

On an overcast Monday morning, a drab gray blanket hanging over Lake Merritt, I walked out of my apartment with a bicycle fender in hand. My shoulder bag was packed for a workout, my helmet strapped to it, clutched against my hip. It was gym time. But when I turned the corner to the bike racks at the back of the apartment complex, I did not see my bicycle in the spot where I locked it. With my mouth agape, I stood and stared at that bike lock where my bicycle should have been. It was not locked to the other two racks. Confused, I wandered back to my apartment. I had that familiar fuck, my-bicycle-has-been-stolen feeling. Gee, I guess I’m not going to my gym today. Back in my apartment, I thought back to when I last rode my bicycle, which I called Rocinante. For an instant or two, I got bouncy and thought, you dumbass! You left him locked up in one of the lockers at the Lake Merritt station. But then I remembered that I had gotten Rocinante out of the locker and secured him in my apartment complex on Friday night.

And that was the last time I saw him.
He was gone.
What a way to start the week.

Rocinante was a blue Bianchi Osprey mountain bike. He was equipped with an odometer, kickstand, bottle holder, and big plastic horn shaped into the head of a blue cartoon hippo (everyone loved that horn, loved giving it a squeeze to hear its silly squeak). When he was stolen, Rocinante had practically brand new hybrid tires since both tires were stolen two months before within the same Oakland apartment complex where he was ultimately taken.

In the winter of 2009, I bought Rocinante to replace a black-gray mountain bike named Charlene (she was stolen at the corner of 26th and Mission in San Francisco’s Mission District; she had a formidable, seven-pound, Mr. T-like chain that I sometimes swung around my head before I locked her up). From the get-go, I was fond of him because he was salvaged from the city’s dump by a man who worked there and fixed them up as a hobby (and as a means of making some extra scratch to give to his grandkids, if I remember correctly). Rocinante was the only bicycle I bequeathed with a boy’s name. When I first bought him, I named him “Blue,” for obvious reasons. Since my testicles ride on the seat over all those miles——and since I’m hetero——I have always given my bicycles a woman’s name, or one that can be both genders. He was my loyal steed for about three years. My primary means of transportation. Together, we surpassed a few landmarks on my odometer: 6,000, 7,000, and 8,000 miles pedaled.

Together, we had many memorable rides: the five-mile ride from the Lafayette station through the beautiful Moraga hillside as I cycled to and from Saint Mary’s for my graduate degree. The morning rides from my home on Dolores Street to USF’s Lone Mountain campus during the summer of 2009 for a weeklong writing workshop when my chemotherapy infusions began. I remember cycling up one of the steep hills to that campus, listening to Led Zeppelin’s “In the Light” through my headphones. With the sunlight pouring down on me, Plant singing Light, light, light…in the light, I closed my eyes. My eyelids were warm blankets of orange. I imagined myself grasping that sunlight, imagined it to be like water seeping into my roots, to my very core. I imagined myself become one with the sun’s light (which we are a mere extension of)——its warmth, its energy, healing and nourishing me as I pedaled on. I rode Blue to and from San Francisco General for all those blood tests, examinations, and check-ups with my oncologist. During a rainy January, Blue and I scaled the sharp hill on Dolores Street and zipped down it on our three-mile long rides to my radiation treatments at USF. In March, we rode over to San Francisco General where my oncologist told me I was cancer-free. We were together through a critical time of life. I am certain that riding him helped to keep me alive.

After I graduated and segued into post-cancer life, I read Don Quixote and redubbed Blue with the name of Quixote’s loyal horse. It made perfect sense. A good friend of mine agreed. I have always been a bit of a Quixote in this insane world we have created.

Last June, Rocinante came with me as I moved back across the bay to Oakland’s Lake Merritt area. It was a time of rebirth. A spring during summertime as I continued on with my life away from the city where my body developed and rid itself of cancer. I fell in love with Oakland when Rocinante and I rode around Lake Merritt one sunny afternoon, the kind that was all too rare in San Francisco. It filled me with a sense of serenity that I needed.

Before long, I met and fell in love with my girlfriend, Maria. Together, we rode our bicycles around the Quarry Lakes in northern Fremont, which happens to be our hometown. It was a joyous, sunshiny ride. It had been years since I had a partner to cycle with, which made it extra-wonderful for me. I am so grateful that my one bicycle ride around those lakes——a ride I had wanted to do for years——was with Maria and Rocinante.

I had a number of rides I hoped to have with Rocinante. I wanted to return to the Lamorinda Trails to cycle through their nature trails that I have always missed. My homeboy, Scott expressed an interest in mountain biking through the lush wooded trails at Joaquin Miller Park in Oaktown. I looked forward to more bicycle rides with my favorite Maria in the whole wide world. And I never tired of riding Rocinante around Lake Merritt, whether if it was gray and drizzly, warm and bright, or alit at night with its necklace of lights that have shone since 1925.

Like any good bicycle, Rocinante was an extension of myself. Now that he’s been stolen, I don’t want to think of him being taken apart, piece by piece. Whoever has his frame, his handlebar, cannot imagine or understand what we went through together. All those hills we surpassed, all that sweat I expended, all those miles we traveled. They cannot imagine all the beauty we saw, felt, and created together——foot to pedal, hands to handlebar; my legs pumping, his chain turning to propel us forward. There was so much I wanted to see and feel with him. So much we had left (or so I would like to believe, but nothing in life is certain except for death and impermanence). I have had no choice but to move on without my dear companion but I will carry those memories we made together.

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