I don’t know his name, just that he’s old and smells like cigars. It doesn’t even register that he’s usually speaking Italian; fuck, everyone speaks Italian in this town. He’s standing in a white striped shirt with his eyeglass pouch sticking out of his breast pocket, and he’s wearing brown slacks even though it’s balls-hot out. Humid, too. I ride past him as fast as I can, knowing exactly what he’s going to say.
He doesn’t like it when I ride on the sidewalk. It scares me a little, riding past him, but it’s the closest thing this ten year old has to real adventure. The old man and the dirt path between the school and the used car lot below, where I’m not supposed to go. There’s rocks and dirt and bits of peeled up pavement that’s been tossed there, probably before I was born. Front tire bouncing off all of it, this Huffy, this steel tank, these caliper brakes that are all for looks anyway…I bomb down the hill. Bounce bomb bounce. It’s amazing I make it all the way down to the car lot. Helmet? Fuck, seriously? I’m ten.
Another Italian man at the bottom, this time yelling in English: “Get the fuck off my lot!” Then left, then back up the hill. I have to walk the last bit.
And now, the sun’s setting and I’m far from home. At least a mile. Maybe two. The traffic has died down and some people are in their front yards talking to the neighbors, maybe even grilling on their front porches. A wiffle ball game, kids having a sword fight with sticks. I climb back on my bike, take two pedal strokes uphill, then let my front wheel swing, turn, and descend. The descents are always better. Fast rubber on the pavement. If I never go home, that’d be just fine.by