Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Bicycle Game Day 2!

The next afternoon, Mike gets on his bike at 4 PM (Mike doesn't work). He sits by the curb at the intersection of 23rd and Seventh until around 5:30 with no sign of Katie. Mike takes off up 23rd to 3rd Avenue where Katie lives. He rides slowly past her apartment, doubles back and rides past again. And again. He parks by the curb across from her door for twenty minutes, staring up at her window. It's six thirty and the sky behind her building is amber. The breeze chills the patch of sweat on his neck and he remembers when she put her mouth there just under a day ago. A black girl who couldn't be more than ten years old rides past Mike. He pedals after her.

The little girl takes him on a diagonal trip West into the forties. Mike couldn't care where she takes him. He's used to being led around places. It's how he got to this city in the first place. His mother got her divorce from his father in the same year he got his divorce from Mary. "Let's be a team, you and me," she said. "Let's go to New York." They'd barely crossed the tunnel into the city before his mother had a new man and 800 dollars held out in her hand.

"To help you find your own place. I can give you more next week. Frank said he'd help." Frank's the new man. Frank wanted to use Mike's room as his study. Frank came through. He's handed Mike five grand so far over the past four months. Mike's just fine with taking the cash. His divorce cleaned him out of both money and pride. Now he'd just like to have a few friends in town.

Mike's about to give up when he feels a spray of water on his back. Katie pedals up beside him. "You found me," she says. "Good work."

Her laugh says that they both know it was her that found him. Mike watches the little black girl pedal the length of the block and turn a corner. He wonders how long Katie rode behind him, how long she let him hunt for her.

"Race ya," says Mike. "To the park."

Katie says, "To my place."

Katie wins. Mike takes the lead once or twice, and while it could not be said that he lets her win, Mike is relieved when he loses. He's unsure of the rules of this game. Yesterday, he lost and Katie fucked him. He doesn't want to find out what will happen if he wins.

They fuck standing up in the kitchen. Face to face, with Katie's shorts off all the way and her ass pressed up against the fridge. When they finish, they take an awkward walk into the bedroom, remove the rest of their clothing, and lay down next to each other in the bed, like a couple ready for sleep.

"Remember when if you didn't know how someone died you were supposed to assume it was AIDS?" Mike asks.

"Guess so," says Katie. "With celebrities at least."

"I was thinking about that, because I don't know how your brother died," says Mike.

"You assumed AIDS?"

"No, it just made me remember when I would make that assumption."

Katie rolls over and faces Mike. "It was suicide," she says. The inflection in her voice makes Mike think she's joking. The way she's searching his eyes for a reaction makes him realize she isn't. The only thing he wants to know is how.

"Boring," she says. "Pills. Xanax even. Pills he was prescribed. He didn't even make himself a special cocktail for the big blowout."

Mike wants to say something like I'm sorry or whatever, but he is struck with the reality that Katie is going to leave town at the end of the summer to go and be with her boyfriend. His breath goes short. He knows then that he has to get her to stay somehow.

"You're not supposed to be able to OD on Xanax. That's what the doctors said at least. Which lets us think he was half-assing it, just making a cry for help. But he lucked out."

Mike has to say something that will let her think he's someone worth leaving her boyfriend for. He settles on, "What was his name?"

Katie's face turns a little gray. "Georgie," her voice is clipped. She gets up from the bed and steps into a robe from her closet. She knots the robe tight and stands at the foot of the bed. "You have to go now."

Mike's stomach turns, but he speaks calmly. "I'm sorry, did I…"

Katie shakes her head. "I'm not doing this. I'm not laying in Jeff's bed and talking my heart."

"I was just curious," Mike says. "We don't have to." He looks down at himself and jumps out of bed when he sees himself naked, sitting Indian style. On Jeff's bed. He walks past Katie into the kitchen and starts to pull his clothes on. Katie follows him.

"I'm sorry," she says.

"Don't worry about it," says Mike. His stomach is turning over and over. He feels like he could faint. "You have a boyfriend. I understand."

Katie says, "This is still just bike rides."

Mike's blood slows. He pulls his sneakers on, then stands up and kisses Katie's mouth. "I can still come find you then?"

Katie doesn't smile. "How can I help it if someone finds me?"

To be continued… (something interesting will happen eventually)

Happy The Bicycle Game Day 2!