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A Bike Ride on the Westside

By Stephen Kessler

THE BIKE cost 20 bucks at the Goodwill, what timing to find it, what a deal, it's white with rusty spokes, it works, it fits, and so you take your aging heart for spin, sunlight revealing a long view across the bay, that purple slope of a distant peninsula akin to a tall nude lying on her side, reminder of distant springs, but now you are turning a corner downhill on Arroyo Seco letting gravity have its way with you and your wheels one late afternoon in April, breeze in your helmet, subtle joy in the soul to be gliding so easily along through such hard times, pushing across Mission with the signal and getting a whiff of the pizza place yielding to vapors venting from the Laundromat then a trace of something frying in grease and garlic from the Chinese diner, a rush of smells pulling primal recall in different directions, but before you can do a Proust you are sailing down Swift across the railroad tracks which jolt you back to the present past the lavender bushes and then the acreage under construction on Delaware, before you check traffic behind you and turn, dismount, and walk your wheels through the barrier to Natural Bridges, get back on and cruise past the beautiful eucs, their extravagant smell like your love's wild hair where butterflies light in May, bright wings drinking the warmth of sunlight, but not just yet, this sun is cool and has played hard to get for months, and as it slants west you zoom down into the gulch and pump back up toward the beach, and soon you're there, on West Cliff, breathing the briny, iodine-rich, foam-sprayed coastal view including the wave lovers riding the swells and women out for their evening run whose scent you catch for a flash and elderly couples savoring a walk and men with dogs and young girls gossiping and guys in parked trucks gazing out to sea and clusters of kids passing a joint whose sweet smoke gives you a slight lift as you head for the lighthouse wondering how such simple luck as this can exist in a world so otherwise fucked, this must be some kind of dream where you turn a corner and the bay curves too, revealing a vision of fabulous forms on a boardwalk next to the beach, and beyond, a little city that looks almost mythical snuggling up to its hills.

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