Today, a stranger locked their bike to mine, looping their cable lock right around my crossbar; the ultimate in thoughtless, inescapable Valentines hugs. It was cold. I was hungry. I called the campus police to come cut their lock. I felt guilty enough about it to hover around the bike for about an hour as my hands and feet began to freeze, blowing into my mittens and hoping that the careless owner of this maroon 70s cruiser would show up already and set me free. They didn't.
When the police officer finally arrived, he asked me to verify that the bike belonged to me. Didn't I have any paperwork, or registration, or other documentation to prove that this bike was mine? I didn't. "I really want to help you," he said, "but you have to show me some proof that this is your bike. Maybe a photo?"
What followed was the two of us, huddled together against the wind as I thumbed through my Instagram account. Here was my beautiful teal Bianchi with the lavender handlebars, lying on its side in front of the Jefferson memorial after a dawn bikeride with Grace and friends to see the cherry blossoms. Here was a photo of Grace's and my wrists sporting matching besties temporary tattoos, my bike locked to a rack in the background. That was the night she was helping me take apart my bed to leave DC for good, but we left the job unfinished because Ginuwine came on the radio and we made a split-second decision to race our bikes downtown to see Magic Mike XXL with Abby, instead. Here, my Bianchi locked to the railing of my new apartment in Ann Arbor, and a few days later leaning against a tree at West Park with the caption, "YES OF COURSE I HAVE FRIENDS."
Here, my bike a few months ago, the last time someone locked their bike to mine. I didn't call the police that time, and instead left a friendly note explaining how to properly lock a bike and asking them to be more careful in the future. My bianchi is the star of these photos; I'm not actually in any of them.
My hands were starting to go numb from the wind, and the officer invited me to come sit in the car so we could keep looking. I think he was enjoying the walk down memory lane.
We turned to Facebook, and I remembered the alley cat race where LeeAnn, Carol, Grace and I raced around DC together; I remembered nighttime bikerides through empty streets and around the monuments with Chris and Charlie and Grace and James and Peter and Brendan and Kai and so many others; I remembered all the Saturday mornings spent fixing bikes at Annie's Hardware, and Saturday afternoons spent eating fries with greasy fingers surrounded by friends. I remembered pumping up tires in Dupont Circle and then sprinting away to avoid the slow, painful crawl of the DC bike party. I especially remembered a 50-mile ride through the Appalachian foothills with Peter; somewhere around mile 40, I got off my bike, curled into the fetal position on the side of the road, and burst into tears. I remembered biking up 11th street and clipping the back of a taxi that had stopped abruptly in the bike lane, flipping over my handlebars, and landing on my back. A group of guys running a promotion outside of Boost Mobile came and helped me up as we watched the taxi drive away. I remembered bringing my bike with me to New York this summer to save money, riding across the Williamsburg Bridge, sprinting around Manhattan, and moseying with Spencer through downpours and thunderstorms in Prospect Park. I remembered packing it up, he and I placing it piece by bubble-wrapped piece in a bicycle box that we then dragged 20 blocks through Brooklyn in the sweltering heat. I remembered greeting it in Ann Arbor and putting it back together, relieved that nothing was bent, nothing was broken.
So many stories, but still no pictures of me riding the bike. As a last-ditch, I went into my photos, thumbing fast through old albums, when BAM. There: a photo of me with my bike, standing in a DC cemetery many, many years ago. I told the officer the story behind the photo, and he smiled and cut the lock.
This bike, which first belonged to Carol and then to Caroline and maybe to other members of The Bike House before them, has so many stories. I know I probably should have passed my beautiful bicycle down to the next generation of Bike Housers, but I couldn't bear to be parted from it. It has made the past few summers— this last one, in particular— so memorable and magical, and reliving those feelings and thinking of my friends tonight was one of the best ways I can think of to spend Valentines Day.
Happy Valentine's Day, Bianchi. Tomorrow, I'll register you with the police.
Note: If this was your bike, I'm really sorry— we all have long, tired days but I didn't want to risk getting my bike stolen or damaged by leaving it there (locking one bike to another is a common tactic of bike thieves.) The officer took it back with him to the station to prevent someone stealing it, so you just need to call the UofM Campus Police to get it back.