BLOOD, TEARS AND A BRO­KEN BIKE

National Post (Latest Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS - IVAN COY­OTE “A Dark Blue Bike” By Ivan Coy­ote. From the book Tomboy Sur­vival Guide by Ivan Coy­ote. Pub­lished by Ar­se­nal Pulp Press, 2016.

In Tomboy Sur­vival Guide, Ivan Coy­ote re­flects on a life out­side main­stream gen­der iden­tity, and rites of pas­sage along the way — like rid­ing a “boy bike.” This is the third in a se­ries of ex­cerpts from books nom­i­nated for the $ 60,000 Hi­lary We­ston Writ­ers’ Trust Prize for Non­fic­tion. The win­ner will be an­nounced at the Writ­ers’ Trust Awards cer­e­mony on Nov. 14.

The sum­mer right be­fore I started Grade 7 I got a new bike. A blue ten- speed with curled han­dle­bars wrapped in white plas­tic tape and hand brakes. My old bike had been a pur­ple one­speed with a sparkly ba­nana seat. I had never loved it.

My dad drove us back with my brand new bike in the back of his old red Ford truck. Once we got home, he lifted it out of the back of the truck eas­ily with one arm and set it down on the drive­way. Then he lifted the back tire up off the ground and spun it with two fin­gers. It made a very pleas­ing click­ing noise.

“You sure you know how to work the gears on this thing?” He was squint­ing at me, a smol­der­ing cig­a­rette dan­gling in one cor­ner of his mouth. “It’s a bit more com­pli­cated than your old one, you know. Way eas­ier for the chain to fall off on these ones, too.”

“Jenny Bai­ley lets me ride hers all the time,” I lied. She would barely let any of us even look at her new bike.

He shrugged and watched me clam­ber onto the bike seat and coast down our drive­way.

I ped­aled slowly in too high of a gear along our street and ended up hav­ing to dis­mount and push the bike up the hill in the mid­dle of Twelfth Av­enue. But speed­ing down the other side was no prob­lem, my short hair blow­ing back away from my face and the wind pulling tears out of the cor­ners of my eyes. I ped­aled as hard as I could from the bot­tom of the hill all the way to the turn-off onto Hick­ory Street at the top of Moun­tain­view Drive.

I ex­per­i­mented with one gearshift, and then the other, and heard the gears grind­ing near my back tire. The bike shud­dered and the mech­a­nism that I would soon dis­cover was called the de­railleur skipped back and forth to ac­com­mo­date my in­ex­pe­ri­enced shift­ing. I ped­aled with my head bent, eyes down, watch­ing the chain slide from one sprocket to another and back, start­ing to see how ev­ery­thing worked.

Next thing I knew I was blink­ing my eyes and try­ing to get them to fo­cus. Ev­ery­thing was up­side down and spin­ning, and my mouth tasted like dirty pen­nies. I stared straight ahead, try­ing to un­der­stand what my eyes were telling me I was look­ing at. A curb. A black truck tire. A bumper with a muddy li­cence plate bolted to it. Blood. My blood.

Blood all over my shirt, pump­ing still out of my nose and onto the dusty road un­der me. I sat up and put my head back, pinched the bridge of my nose like they taught us to do in soft­ball when you caught a line drive with your face.

I had ap­par­ently ped­aled my bike straight into a parked truck, and its back canopy win­dow was a maze of cracks. I wasn’t sure if those cracks were from the crown of my pound­ing head or not, but I wasn’t go­ing to stick around to find out.

I stood my new bike up and brushed the dirt and gravel off of my jeans and hopped on, stand­ing up on the ped­als so I could race away as fast as I could.

But my bike chain had fallen off, and my front rim was bent enough to bring upon a se­ri­ous wob­ble, and when I ped­aled hard the lack of re­sis­tance sent me sailing over my own scraped han­dle­bars and I bit the pave­ment again, this time palms and chin first. A dog started to bark from be­hind the liv­ing room win­dow of the house that the dam­aged truck was parked in front of.

I cried all the way home, push­ing my bro­ken bike and chok­ing on tears and blood and dirt and snot. My dad was in the front yard, drag­ging the sprin­kler across the grass, another smoke dan­gling. Or maybe it was the same cig­a­rette? I had been gone a to­tal of about seven min­utes.

I thought he would be mad about my dam­aged bike, but he didn’t say a thing about that. He just smiled with one side of his mouth and asked if I was I miss­ing any teeth.

“No,” I said, touch­ing each one of them with my bloody tongue. I had stopped cry­ing as soon as I saw him. Cry­ing made him ner­vous for some rea­son. He tol­er­ated it from my lit­tle sis­ter, but not so much from me.

He held my chin be­tween his greasy thumb and fore­fin­ger, and squinted down his nose at me, turn­ing my face to the right, and then the left.

“Go clean your­self up be­fore your mom gets home from her night school,” he said. “Spray that stain cleaner stuff on that shirt and put it all in the washer right now. I can fix your bike.”

If we were a hug­ging kind of fam­ily I would have hugged him, but we weren’t, so it didn’t cross my mind.

GETTY IM­AGES / ISTOCK

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