They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but that isn't true. Sure, the mechanics of foot-push-glide-steer remain, but that's not riding. It's the balance, the body poised over the bicycle's frame, leaned into a curve, or weaving around an obstacle that is forgotten. Forgotten so that what remains is a clumsy, mechanical imitation of bike riding.
Steve didn't know any of this, though, when he bought the bike with the flat tire for $10 at a yard sale. It didn't occur to him that he could forget, and in that moment of hopeful weakness, he didn't want to entertain doubts. He was emerging, he thought, from the throat-gripping darkness that had cloaked his life. After two (or was it more? he could hardly think of it) years of desperate misery, Steve was ready to consider the possibility of something other than pain. The bike seemed like a good start.
But it huddled, injured with its flat tire, in his front hallway for weeks. Every time Steve walked past it, he grimaced, both at the reminder of his unfinished task and at the bike's pathetic silhouette.
The decision came, as they often do for those who are healing, without any warning. He woke up, dressed, and took the bike to the shop, where he bought a new tire. Before putting the renovated bike back in his car to drive home, Steve swung a leg over the frame. He bruised his knee against the seat, but ignored it. He lifted himself onto the pedals, and with an anxious breath, pushed off.
Then he realized how much he had forgotten. He wobbled around the parking lot, and nearly strayed into the street as he turned onto a sidewalk. His body felt foreign as it stumbled to execute his biking commands.
But as the breeze flowed past his cheek, his hair, and as his hands flexed against the breaks, he realized what else he had forgotten. That there had been a time when he bicycled. When he had moved from place to place in the open air, or simply traveled for the sake of the journey. That he had once grinned so widely he had inhaled a large bug. That he'd skinned his knee but hopped up again to finish racing down a hill, just to see how fast he could go. He had forgotten those things too. He smiled, just a little, as the memories trickled in. Oh. This is who I was. Am.