outwait outrun outwit


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Yesterday at sunset, I spray-painted my bike gold. It was a sloppy job - I don't know how to take the bike apart so I resorted, instead, to taping last week's Galway Advertiser to the bits I wanted to keep unpainted. Parts are gold or white or pink when they should be, well, black. At least it's not pink anymore, which I spray-painted it last, in the dark on the eve of a torrential rainstorm, with a can labeled magenta, NOT undeniably pink.

Certainly it's no longer orange, with SET ME FREE emblazoned on the down tube, as it was when Elisa gave it to me last April. At that time, I was still sharing a flat with Jim because I couldn't afford to move out, silently crying to the same songs at work until midnight when I would walk back through chilly darkness to the flat I couldn't call home, as Jim had taken to waking me up at 3 am as I lay in my bedroom, so that he could enumerate all the things wrong with me and how I had to atone for everything wrong with his life.

As Elisa handed me the key to the u-lock for her ex's sturdy bike, she said, You are staying with me. The moment you want to leave, just call me. That night Jim spotted the bike and raged: You can't leave that bike here, what are you thinking?! I left that week, to stay in Elisa's flat up the road for awhile, occupying a small bedroom haunted by an old black cat. Here, among the boxes containing things I had extricated from the "ours" of marriage and looking out into a yard full of old machines and planters without plants, I would weep for the end of my marriage and this emerging sense that the forces at work in the relationship that Jim had torn asunder had been damaging to say the very least, and there was no way I would ever go back to that.

Set me free my bike declared. The next year or so, I learned the art of self-extraction. That is, the act of releasing the essence of one's being from its entanglement with another's, so as to draw out, to obtain, to develop, to distill that unexpected thing - what is it? No longer orange and neat like a declaration, the bike is now unfinished-looking, shambolic, an eyesore perhaps, shameless and something amazing.


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