If Celery Girl had been a cat or a dog instead of a bike, I would never have gone out one week later to get a new one. I thought about waiting, entertained a mourning period. I thought, too, I should wait to see if she was recovered, but it didn’t “feel” like she was coming back. And it just seemed too hard. It’s still too hot for walking in the middle of the day and too much to be schlepping home bird seed and watermelons on foot. So I just went and did it, bought a new bike one week to the day when she was stolen. When Marylou and Richard found out Celery Girl was gone, they called me right away, tears still fresh in their voices. It makes my own tears try to come, remembering how loved they made me feel. “Maybe you can get Carrot Boy next time,” Marylou says. We all laugh together on the phone. But it turns out she was right. My new bike is a bright, shiny orange. “I think your name is Carrot Girl,” I whisper to her, patting her seat. (She is a girl’s bike, after all.) I tell her about the phone conversation, about Marylou’s precognition. I am growing fond of her already. Colleen called me, too, when she heard about Celery Girl. Their calls make me feel glad, and they make me feel a little funny, too. People love me. They really love me.
My bike is stolen, and life gets dreamlike. I walk outside and see the empty black metal bike rack, the cut lock lying on the grass beside it. The police dispatcher tells me it could take five or six hours before an officer would get there to take a report. I start walking to the police station. Halfway there the universe sends me a bus driver who stops for me, unasked, unheard of, in the middle of the block. When the officer at the front desk is gruff and makes me feel like I’m foolish to even bother filling out the form, I begin to cry. “What would have been nice,” I say, “is if someone had acknowledged this is a loss for me.” The woman behind the glass softens then, becomes kind, explains how the serial number will go into a database. I head back out into the hot afternoon, a bubble of hope in the palm of my hand. I loved that bicycle. I had her six years, my pearl green bike, my Celery Girl. She was pretty and sturdy and loyal and carried me all over town, to Trader Joe’s, to yoga, to Sunday meditations. I rode her beside the creek singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” at the top of my lungs. I miss her already. I walk to Jack in the Box, drink diet Coke and eat tacos, unheard of for me now, my ancient comfort food, refuge, too, from the Palm Springs summer still outside. I give money to a homeless man charging his cell phone beside the door. I walk across town shaking my cup of ice. I think: I am lucky. I have a small savings. I can buy a new bike. I think: how will I ever be able to leave it anywhere again? I think: I am lucky I didn’t have to be afraid. There wasn’t any threat of violence. It didn’t happen at home. I don’t get angry. I feel sad, vulnerable. I stop in the middle of the sidewalk, my cup in my hand, my face wet with tears. I think: I should have had a friend I could’ve called today when this happened. I walk home from the grocery story with a small bag of bird seed slung over each shoulder and a watermelon cradled in my arms, bikeless. The next day it seems like a dream. I forget three times I don’t have a bike anymore. In the late afternoon, I stand in front of the mirror for a long time and cry. “I love you so much,” I say, hands pressed flat against my chest. “So much.” I smile, look in my wet eyes. I laugh and watch my face grinning back at me. I know something is happening, some deep bedrock thing that got opened up in me when I saw that empty space where my Celery Girl was supposed to be, her mangled lock lying in a lonely coil there on the grass.