autumn sky
Her bike is leaning against the chain link fence, unprotected. I pause a minute with my laundry, worried that someone might steal the bike, when I see her coming out of the garage. I feel relieved.
“Hi. Cold out today.”
My next door neighbor is a small Asian woman – she can’t be 5 feet tall – with a broad face and a quick smile. In her puffy coat and comfortable black shoes, she looks much younger than the sixty-something I imagine her to be. Her English is broken, so our brief exchanges typically revolve around the weather and, in the summer, her garden. She takes great care growing an impressive assortment of vegetables in her tiny yard.
“Your garden looks beautiful this year,” I’ll say as I fumble for my keys.
She usually smiles, but then brushes this off with a comment about how it’s been too wet, or too dry this season.
At least once each summer, as I am coming in from work or exiting the laundry room, she will offer me something from her garden. Once, she handed me a fistful of tarragon, and told me to cook chicken with it. This past summer, she plucked a cucumber off the vine, quickly rubbed away all the prickly bumps with her rough hand, and gave it to me.
“There. Now no need to buy salad.”
I thanked her, and said I would eat it that night with my dinner, which I did.
But even more than her handsome garden with rainbow pinwheels to scare off the rabbits, what I most look forward to is seeing her on her bicycle. She rides a child’s bicycle – small pale pink frame, high handlebars with glittery tassels, and a long, pink rectangular seat. Whenever she leaves on this bike, she pushes herself down the alley with her feet, never pedaling until she turns the corner and reaches the sidewalk. Her feet dangle over the asphalt as she coasts effortlessly.
Sometimes I see her riding home from the grocery store, plastic bags of food swinging from the handlebars. Where does she put her bike when she shops? I never see a lock on it. Why doesn’t it get stolen? I spend a fair amount of time worrying about someone stealing her bike. I think to myself that if her bike ever got stolen, I would buy her a new one. But one that looked exactly the same.

17 Responses to “Pink”

  1. Dave2 Says:

    Well, if it DOES get stolen and you DO need to get your hands on a child’s pink bicycle… stay away from mine!

  2. kat Says:

    next time throw the tarragon in your salad. i did tonight, and it’s made all the difference in the world.

  3. Neil Says:

    Do you also have a yard? And why don’t you start planting vegetables? She could probably help you get started. Sounds fun.

  4. jenny Says:

    Dave2: I would never steal your pink bike!
    kat: Tarragon? In a salad? It’s so crazy it just might work.
    Neil: No, sadly, I don’t even have a porch. I think that’s partly why I enjoy her garden so much.

  5. sizzle Says:

    what a sweet image you paint.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    This is a beautiful piece.

  7. Fiorello LaGuardia Says:

    And the best thing about this piece is that I know you really WOULD buy her a bicycle…pink…with a basket and tassels.

  8. churlita Says:

    I love this story. One year for my 22nd birthday, my brother fixed up this old 1960’s 3-speed bike for me for my gift. He even put the Pee Wee herman tassles on the handle bars and a horn on it and everything. For years I rode it everywhere I went. It’s still my favorite present ever.
    Let me know. I’ll go in on the pink bike for your neighbor if the need arises.

  9. Charlie Gordon Says:

    N’aw. And to think I was having this really shity day and was *this close* to posting about dog’s diarrhea and vomiting. And how I missed my flight to Florida because I lost my birth certificate. And how the whole world sucks more ass than (insert some random gay porn star here).
    But you. You just made it all better.

  10. Roy Says:

    So, you got a lot of bikers in your neighborhood?
    Seriously, though, I loved that story. You’re a nice person to worry, even though she is probably secretly hoping someone will steal it so she can get that mountain bike she’s had her eye on.

  11. jenny Says:

    sizzle: Thanks – seeing her ride her bike is the sweetest thing ever.
    vivian: thanks, kid!
    fiorello: ooh – i hadn’t thought about the basket – she does need one of those!
    churlita: oh – that bike sounds amazing! i hope you have pictures of it somewhere!
    charlie: well, thanks – so glad i could at least temporarily get your mind off of your dog’s digestive problems. yuk! :)
    roy: all kinds of wild bikers – mostly from the dreaded schwinn gang!

  12. peefer Says:

    You’ve done a perfect job describing her … I’m convinced I know her.

  13. peefer Says:

    ‘Might have even slept with her.

  14. peefer Says:

    Sorry Jenny, I got confused by the tassels.

  15. shari Says:

    The best part is how gardens encourage generosity among neighbors. I love that! Because really, show me a garden plant that produces only precisely as much as the owner/tender can use, on precisely the needed schedule… no, there’s always extra and you hate to toss it away, so you find someone to take it. Everyone feels good about the exchange, and it’s very cool.
    And you write your protagonist so well — that’s very cool, too. Will you bring her to TC’07, please? I’ll bring her a bike to ride.

  16. claire Says:

    I never liked my 12 speed as much as my old banana bike. Thanks for the reminder of what my next bike should be- except not pink! ;)

  17. Jessica Says:

    This….this is why you were my blog crush.