When is a bike like a melon?
On my twenty-seventh birthday, I learned to ride a bike. It took about an hour and a half, my boyfriend steadying me on his mother’s three-speed as we wobbled around a church parking lot on a sunny August day in Bellport, NY. I neither fell nor crashed, and before long I was able to ride the bike completely unassisted down the street to look at the Great South Bay. Shortly thereafter, I bought my very first bike. Shortly after that, it was stolen.
I was pretty sure that it was taken by a workman employed at the neighbor’s who watched me come home and tuck my bike into the shed, locking the door. When I came home the following day, the lock was gone and so was my bike. I had only had it for a month or so and I loved that bike—teal with handbrakes and seven speeds and a big, comfy gel seat, just right for me.
We replaced it with a similar bike, but it was never the same.
How I got to the age of twenty-seven never having learned to ride a bike is a fairly simply story. I grew up riding horses—why did I need a bicycle? At the age of 11 I was knocked over by a boy on a bicycle. I wasn’t injured, but I decided then that I didn’t like bikes very much. After that, I had no motive nor sought the opportunity. Only after finding myself in a social situation where everyone was riding bikes did I begin to reconsider.
Having conquered riding a bicycle, I didn’t count on experiencing that quintessential heartbreak of childhood: losing my brand new bike. Before that, I had been robbed twice in college. The first time was freshman year, Georgetown University, Halloween night. I had left the reveling to others and gone to bed early. When a noise woke me, I called, “Jill?” for my roommate, thinking she was coming in late. A man scuttled out from under her bed saying, “whoo hoo hoo I’m the Halloween ghost.” I told him to get out of my room and then, calmly, stupidly, went back to sleep.
The next morning I got up early and felt annoyed with my roommate because I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I had to head out to crew—I was a coxswain for the freshmen men’s eight—and it was only when I got back from practice that I realized our room had been robbed. In fact, the place had been turned inside out. My roommate lost a considerable amount of jewelry, including a couple of family pieces. I lost some money, a semester’s worth of stamps, and a gold-plated pen I had been given for high school graduation. I was devastated, not to mention terrified when I came to realize the man who had been under my roommate’s bed was not a student, not supposed to be in our dorm room, and had probably been rifling our room while I slept.
The second time was senior year when I drove my car north from DC to see a friend for a long weekend in Brooklyn. I had finally saved up enough money to have a stereo installed. I parked on the street in front of her house and we weren’t inside for more than an hour, only to come out and find the window smashed, the brand new JVC stereo swiped, and a business card for a glass-repair outfit tucked under the windshield wiper.
It’s always hard to experience, always feels like a violation, and rarely is there any recompense from petty thievery. In each of my incidences, the most recent included, they were random acts, the perp wanting nothing to do with me and everything to do with the item being swiped. But I never imagined I would experience a robbery in the natural world.
My garden has gone awry—blame the odd combination of hot weather and rain or the fact that I’ve been absorbed in painting my bedroom (really just a means of distracting myself from other concerns you’ll be reading about soon) or the fact I’ve spent the week settling my peeps into their back-to-school routine. Whatever the matter, the tomato plants are two feet taller than I am, the zucchinis are producing squash that weigh upwards of five pounds, the butternut squash and cucumber vines have crawled everywhere, even over the fence. A few mornings ago, I went out and found that a creature had chewed every reachable leaf of the melon, squash, and cucumber vines that topped the fence. The carnage wasn’t life threatening to the plants, but the lush overgrown quality of the garden is now simply tattered. From assorted prints and droppings around the yard, my mother profiled the ruffian—a young buck, still in the fuzzy green stage, on his own, with nothing to do.
The next night, the unthinkable happened. The perfect cantaloupe I’ve been watching and waiting for, the melon I tucked straw under and vowed not to pick too early, the only melon on the vine … was assailed, eaten down to a jagged rind. The culprit? A messy eater that could bound over the fence and smell a perfectly ripe, sweet melon. The young buck again? We imagined so.
Not one of my human burglars was ever brought to justice. But this morning when I opened the garage door to send my son off to his early morning bus, there in the grass was our young buck, short, fuzzy green antlers, slim legs, full tummy. He looked at us calmly, turning tail ever so mildly as Twelve with trumpet and backpack walked into the morning. I would have liked to snap a pair of cuffs on those fuzzy antlers, but I had to settle for my zoom lens instead. Crushed as I am about losing that melon, it’s hard to stay mad at someone so pretty.
In appreciation of this season of transitions—my mother turns 87 today, my peeps went back to school this week, Mercury is cruising out of retrograde, and my own birthday was Tuesday—thanks, as always, for reading, Rxo