On Being Sixteen Again - Thursday, May. 02, 2019
Sunday, Apr. 21, 2019 @ 6:37 am
A Day with Chris
I hook my pannier on my rack, buckle my helmet. Clip one foot into a pedal, push off, throw my other leg over, and the day has begun. My day with Chris.
Cool morning air, so I zip up the neck of my jacket. Early morning sun and blue sky. I ride down the middle of the road, through the village, and down towards the mall. I ride down a street arboured with cherry blossoms. Have the blossoms ever lasted so long? Have they ever bloomed so fully? The petals fall down in the delicate morning light and swirl up under my wheels, releasing a sweet and fetid perfume.
I cross an intersection and approach the footbridge that is our meeting place. I’m ten minutes early. Of course he is too.
I ride right up to him, nearly crash my bike into his. I lean over and give him an awkward hug, both of us still straddling our bikes. I search his face for something, for anything. I see good humour, a smile, but I feel distance. A disappointingly shallow hug.
We set off across the district, over the bridge into the park. We lap around the park, pausing here and there, on a mission related to his work: fountains and streams. We circle around the park again, and I see a picnic table in the sun. I feel the 20 kilometers of distance and my meager breakfast.
“Let’s break there,” I gesture to the scenic table.
We ride out across the lawn and lean our bikes against the table and sit on top of it. We both pull out food. I peel an orange as he’s talking. Without breaking conversation, I’ve passed him half of my orange, and in return he’s broken me off half of his energy bar. We sit in silence sharing food, the waves big and the water indigo. Low tide smell of kelp and mussels.
We carry on across town towards the university campus. We are riding out along Spanish Banks into a stiff headwind.
“How are you doing?” he asks. He’s asking about my emotions, my tender insides.
“I’m doing great. You know what, I’m actually really happy right now. All of these incredible things are happening for me. I have much hope for the future. I eventually want to find a new relationship and have a family. I don’t know what that will look like or who it will be with, and the mystery of that is exciting. There’s this whole new chapter of my life ahead of me. It’s the greatest gift - this opportunity to do everything over.”
We ride up the hill onto the the university campus that we both attended, four years apart. He takes me to a new museum, and we stand together under an 85-foot-long blue whale skeleton. We ride out to where the campus farm was, and I tell him a story about an incident with a lamb at 1am and about how I’d have to let the chickens out into the yard before riding off to class in the morning.
We ride back towards the city on cinder trails through the damp thick forest. We pass through the academic enclave of unimaginably expensive bungalows, views to the glassy towers of the city core, magnolias scattered through the neighbourhood blooming in magentas and blushes and creamy whites.
We gather a spread of food from a grocery store and sit on a log together on the beach and eat lunch. I add up the distance - we’re at 47 kilometers. We sit for a long time, wind buffeting our faces, sailboats out in the inlet tacking back and forth. A Dixie jazz quintet plays on the bandstand.
“Where to next?” he asks.
“I could use a coffee to warm up. I’ll take us somewhere,” I reply.
We ride back into town. I want to go to my favourite place, the one across from Peter’s. I luxuriate in this, being in one of my favourite places with one of my favourite people. An Americano warming my hands. We sit beside each other on a bench, facing the windows, watching people going to and fro. A lady pushing a fancy pram containing her toy poodle.
“I went on a date two weeks ago. I wanted to test how it felt.”
I watch his response.
“How did it go?”
“It went well. I’ve seen him again a few times.”
And that’s it. I gauge no significant reaction. We talk for a while longer. I shift closer to him, talking more quietly about something that I don’t wish to share with the entire world. We are now closer than normal; I create an opportunity for him. It’s so wide open, so obvious.
He doesn’t take the bait.
We plan our route home. We ride side by side, both familiar with the quick lefts and rights, ducking through a parkade, these secret cycling paths. These easy times of friendship. I think about how much time we’ve spent together over the years. We are coasting along the industrial waterfront, and I turn to study his face. So familiar. One of my best friends. He’s laughing, and I’m comfortable, and I realize that what we have is unique and perfect. I don’t need anything more from this, from him. Nothing needs to change.
We ride back over the bridge, and we cross over the 60 km mark.
“Would you like to go for tacos?” I ask him with a sly grin.
He buys my tacos. I devour my plate and lick my fingers. The contrast of this taco date with the previous. That one so passionate, so heady. This one sober and wholesome.
We finish off our ride and part ways. He is formal. A shallow, brief hug.
He rides off. I put on my headphones and ride away with a delicate fullness within me. I think about the day, the tossing waves, the orange peel redolent in my hand, the drifting clouds of marijuana. A total of 73 km of cycling and a realization that Chris is firmly in friend zone.
Later that night, I talk with my sister.
“Having a male friend who is not trying to get into your pants is rare and valuable. We never had a brother.”
She's right. I’ve been so busy searching for passion that I’ve projected my desire for passion onto him. Assuming that his caring nature, his empathy, was a segue into romance, when he’s never so much as hinted at anything more. And what it took for me to see this clearly, to see my misguided thoughts, was for me to have all of my passion appreciated and reciprocated, my desires realized and fulfilled by a tender and willing brown-eyed man.
“I’m planning a backpacking trip for next year. It’s a big one. I’ll send you some links. I’m hoping to put together a small group to go with.”
“I already know that I want to go.”
“It’s in Corsica, that French island off of Italy.”