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whitebikeIt looked like a kickstand when it was tucked away, albeit a little lopsided, against the white-painted metal of the bike. Now I realized it didn’t function that way.

The bike swayed heavily against the metal pin designed to keep it upright. The awkward angel of the stand set the bike comically cocked sideways. It dominated the space of two bikes within the bike parking spaces at the ground floor of my Berlin flat.

Two days earlier I had seen the bike chained against a parking sign, with a “for sale” sign taped to its seat. On my quick test drive, it seemed adequate enough. It was a little long for my 5 foot 1 inch frame. But I only needed it for two months.

The ride home was long enough to show its faults. A loud clang emanated from with the chain guard each time its pedal passed. I lodged a screw I dissected from its floppy head lamp in the guard in attempt to quiet it. It worked, for a day.

Now standing in the foyer, my head tilted as I eyes grazed over its chipped paint and rusted corners, I realized that maybe I had made a poor investment.

I named him Ike.

Somehow, in those two months, Ike became a lifeline in a strange city where I lived perpetually half uncomfortable. Together we visited markets at all corners of the city. We got lost together. We almost hit pedestrians together. We sailed solo under the leaves of trees in parks and set off with flocks of friends on their own dilapidated versions of bikes. We rode through rain and heat and hail and cold. I saw sides of the city I might never have glimpsed if it weren’t for Ike.

Two days before I flew home I met a Canadian girl at the shopping center a few blocks from my flat. She passed me cash, and I reluctantly gave over custody.

Walking home felt grueling and eternal, when just before the blocks had breezed by in minutes. I went to work by way of underground tunnels on the plastic seats of the train, missing the quiet morning dew rushing by me beneath maple trees. I felt as if I had lost a piece of what had turned the prospective lonely two months in a foreign place into one of finding hidden treasures. And suddenly, I was very ready to go home.

Because Berlin wasn’t the same without Ike.


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