Chibimagic's Weblog

Archive for December 2013

I catch him, by accident, out of the corner of my eye. At a stop light a car honks at me to move so it can turn right. I glance around, catching a flash of green, but there is nowhere for me to move except into traffic, so I hold my ground. When the light turns he gives me a nod of acknowledgment and zooms off in front of me. Neon green cycling jersey, real bike, bulging calves: he’s here for some Serious Biking.

At the next light I pull up beside him. “Nice bike,” he comments, eyes darting down. “It’s cute.” I smile in response, unsure of what to say. It is a cute bike. Pastel pink with flower decals. Folding bike; 16″ wheels. It looks like a child’s bike. In my purple flowered helmet, running jacket, high school gym shorts, and pink Hello Kitty messenger bag, I probably look like I’m on my way home from school. He asks me questions while we wait for the light to change: what do I do; how far I’m biking today; where I’m from. This time I size him up. He doesn’t look like an engineer. Indeterminate age, probably early 30s. He’s decked out in cycling gear, but this is a strange street to be biking on. There’s too much traffic. If he were really serious he would be 3 miles west on F St. with its protected bike lane, few traffic lights, and rolling hills.

The whole interaction has me off guard, so I’m relieved when the light changes again and he once again darts off before me, this time with a wave. Within a block or two he disappears from sight, zipping through a yellow light that’s red long before I reach it. A line 2 bus passes me, making me perk up. Now I have something I can actually race. Depending on traffic, lights, stops, and handicapped passengers, I can generally keep pace with the bus for most of this street. I weave around cars left and right, concentrating on beating the bus.

To my surprise, a few miles down the road, Green Shirt passes me on the left, calling out a hello. He must have stopped somewhere. I catch up with him again at the next light. We’re both going to R, where I live and where his parents own a grocery store. He’s from S, and planning to circle around across the bridge. I try to calculate how far that is in my head. Must be 40, 50 miles. Maybe he’s more serious than I thought. Again the light turns and again he zooms off.

The next time we meet at a light, we exchange names, and I promptly forget his. B? M? This time he holds back, letting me set the pace. I wonder if it’s boring for him, to bike so slowly. He is a fountain of questions and anecdotes, keeping the conversation going. Something about Christmas deliveries; his brother’s wife’s brother; how it must be nice to work in software. It’s refreshing to talk to someone so full of words that they bubble out endlessly with the slightest provocation. I forget about the chill of the wind on my hands and neck. We bike together until I hit my street.

He asks me for my number. A for effort. We pull up onto the sidewalk and I end up missing the cross signal for another two rounds of lights. He disappears down the road once more, headed to see his family.

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Startling: to see my car on the street as I come around a corner, in a shape that is mine but a shade that is not mine. This one bright shiny red like an overgrown ladybug missing its spots; that one brilliant blue as a piece of candy you could pluck up and pop in your mouth.

They are the same, but different too. This one with a gash in its bumper, stark against the pale green paint; that one with its seats pulled back in a configuration I would never use. It is my car, transformed.

And then, occasionally: the same as mine. Enough to make me wonder exactly where I parked. Block after block, I am surrounded by cars that are mine and not-mine.

A man clad in suit and wool coat, bending over to pick up dog shit.

Early morning runners, scattering pigeons every which way.

A dirty shopping cart, overflowing with derelict possessions.

A royal blue Fiat, flittering at the periphery of your vision.

A pink mustacioed car, slamming on its brakes because it misjudged your trajectory.

Working class men, walking the 5 short blocks to work.

A pounding in your heart, an aching in your lungs, a burning in your quads; full of dreams and possibility.

On H Street five blocks from their place is a mural. Halfway across is a mouth, giant and gaping, a maw oozing bright fleshy pink. A rivet in the building sits squarely in the middle of its tongue, suggesting a piercing, or perhaps venereal disease.

I’ve run past it a few times now. The art is not particularly skilled. I never see anyone admiring it; it’s merely a part of the urban landscape. What hopes and dreams did they have when they poured their energy into this work? Was this someone’s masterpiece, or merely the aftermath of a disinterested afternoon of teenagers fulfilling their volunteering requirements?

The mouth hangs open, unanswering. The lump shifts colors as I pass it in the early morning sun, and soon my footsteps fade in the distance.

I take issue with this in so many ways: The Other Side of the Story.

Since when is the “victim’s” story the “other side”? That side is all anybody cares about in these situations. No one rushes to sympathize with the villain.

The villain’s name: “Mr. Lehrer.” Lehrer is German for teacher. Mr. Teacher. Wonderfully imaginative. Are we in a Sesame Street episode?

Why the repetition of his name? Trace Lehrer. Trace Lehrer. Trace Lehrer. Pseudonym as it is, it’s stripped of whatever power it once had over her, and means nothing to us.

There’s no trace of exploitation, shame, or regret when she recounts her time with him. All the victimization, trauma, and manipulation came after, forced on her by her parents and therapist: You are a victim because we say you are. She does not feel a victim, but calls herself accomplice. But that’s not the right word either. She struggles with finding the right word: assault? abuse? molestation? affair. She settles on “affair” for the same reason she settles on “accomplice”—it’s the greatest agency she can assign herself within the framework that others have locked her inside. Without intervention, it would have ended as all first loves end: unspectacularly, as a cherished memory full of lessons. I am angry for her, at her forced reprogramming and indoctrination.

Why, then? No crime is committed when B and I do the same, he 16 and I 14, sobbing and torturing each other with our love and trading threats of self harm that we never intended to follow through on. No crime is committed when I moon over A, my high school teacher, who in my fantasies has violated me in every way imaginable but whom I was always too shy to speak to outside of class. No crime is committed when I date D, 2 years my senior, but equipped with 0 years of dating experience to my 13; nor when I bed him, his first time. How is any of it fair?

I try to find the line but it’s a muddle of gray. After over a decade, things are no clearer than they ever were.