October 29th, 2022
Brooklyn, New York
I HAD SPENT the week before with an obscure sense of doom, certain that we’d wake up sick, condemned to spend the day indoors, glumly watching the fun on our phones. When I opened my eyes and took inventory, it was almost a shock to find that everything was fine. We put on our semi-matching costumes and Tod did both of our makeup. He squinted at my face, sighed, scrubbed it off and did it again; much better, we agreed.
A lady on the bus asked for directions, which I found obscurely funny. “I wouldn’t ask the skeletons, personally,” I muttered. “That’s a you problem,” Tod replied, correctly.
On the dead-end street, people were already riding the mutant bicycles around in circles: tall bikes, tiny ones, a familiar chopper trike with a plastic baby duct-taped to the front, a charming new addition with an enormous disco ball for a front wheel. I leapt onto the big green wheeled couch with a stranger and tried, fitfully, to steer; we drove into a pyramid of large, white barrels, bringing them down on our own heads.
The crowd got bigger and louder; every time someone fell off a tall bike, a moment of relative silence reigned while someone else took inventory of the injuries, before the noise swelled back up again, an orchestra of joyful chaos. Bikes went by like schools of fish; I watched them, my mind absolutely blank for once. Nowhere else to be, no one texting because everyone was already here, nothing to do but watch them all reunite.
Bill wobbled by in a red coat. “Are you going to make it snow again?” he said, laughing; the one previous time we’d met, on the C-Squat rooftop in the East Village, I’d mentioned snow and immediately, miraculously, delicate little white flakes had begun to dust down and cover us.
Everyone began to fall over with more frequency. Jeff went for a spin and came back, his suit and tie intact but his white facepaint a little smudged, breathing hard. “Just got in a six-bike pileup,” he said, straightening his hat. He and Chelsea had brought a huge pot of soup, ladling it out with chunks of bread. Someone else made soup too, and some chai; there were tamales, pork dumplings, fancy cheese wheels of indeterminate provenance. I carried food over to Tod, dodging bikes, leaping to the side to escape a near crash, laughing with relief when I made it across the double lane of traffic.
People crowded around with phones, stood in the lanes of bike traffic, posted real-time photos on social media, gawked and stared and didn’t participate. They wondered aloud to their friends, asked each other questions none of them could answer: “How do you ride that? How’s he going to get down?” Someone stood near me and watched the watchers. “Everything gets celebrated the most just before it’s about to die,” he said, with a grim little smile.
The afternoon light flared orange over the street, the bare, depressing future condo sites on either side of us, the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Hours had gone by, somehow. I tried to locate what was going on in my body and found an anticipatory sadness, a realization that the day was almost over once again. A sort of Christmas afternoon of the soul, the presents already opened, the lights almost dimmed. Finally, almost everyone else was distracted by the tall bike jousting. I seized control of the disco ball bike and took a slow, stately lap, before time seized me again and carried me, unwilling, away.