Last night I felt like someone was following me home.
I know this sounds alarming but actually I was not at all alarmed at the time (I am only slightly alarmed at myself now as I write this). Bear with me as I explain:
If you ride your bike in New York City you know that when you stop at a stoplight–if you stop at a stoplight–other cyclists will probably pull up right next to you at the stop or in front of you if you’ve left some space in the crosswalk. It’s because it’s true we’re all trying to get somewhere fast.
It might end up being an awkward I-pass-you-you-pass-me-I-pass-you-again situation and in any case you get plenty of chances to look them straight in the face and tell them with your eyes: stop cutting in front of me at the stoplights you know I am faster than you right now. In any case you’re either passing or getting passed ringing bells or getting rung out and no one is waiting for you.
Last night I took the long ride home from Manhattan. It was late and for once I didn’t have to be anywhere by any particular time and I was going slow. And I was stopping at all the lights. And at some point riding down Scholes I sensed someone on a bike behind me. At first I wasn’t sure–maybe I was imagining the bike–but then I was sure because I could hear the hub clicking when he coasted and sometimes when the brightest street lights were behind us I could see his shadow on the pavement in front of me. He followed me for several blocks. Past Bushwick Ave and into the industrial doldrums.
He never tried to pass me. And when I stopped at stoplights he stopped too and he waited behind me. It was so strange. He was so patient. He was so slow. I considered turning around to look at his face but I didn’t. Because by then I got it in my head that he was someone I knew. Like a friend had found me and decided to follow me for a few blocks and see how long I would ride without noticing. And I liked the idea that it was someone I knew. And I didn’t feel scared or nervous at all. It struck me as quite tender really, this other person who was also in no rush to get anywhere. When all I see is people in a hurry patience starts to feel a lot like love.
It seems strange–it seems messed up even–to talk about how it was nice being followed home by a strange, probably male (is it sexist to presume he was a he? I just got a feeling that he was) cyclist in this age of me too. The age of stay away. Don’t get me wrong I have the other kinds of days–the morning a man sat down next to me at a coffee shop and started talking and I was like no absolutely not not today sir. Not today.
But someday, one day, when we’ve gotten through all this, we will have to find each other again. And maybe we will find each other riding bikes.