“If he’s at that bike ride thing tonight, you should ignore him,” Sierra (aka mother) advised via Messenger.
“Yep,” I agreed. “Going to do just that.”
This was on Thursday morning, and when Thursday night rolled around, yes — he was there.
Feeling exuberantly bummed that A. he was present and B. he cared enough about me to greet me, I tipped my head down in mute response and then hurried on to the restroom, peeing for the 17th time that day (I drink lots of beverages).
After walking back outside, I hopped up onto the concrete ledge and leaned my back against a whitewashed brick wall. This is my usual “waiting for the ride to start” spot, and like other “fixed” parts of my life routine, it gives me a sense of comfort and ease — a feeling of safeness. Withdrawing a book from my helmet, I stretched my legs out, crossed one foot over the other, and began to read.
Less than 30 seconds later, I felt another human being hop up onto the ledge and plop down beside me. I glanced to my left, and it was him… that (not)stupid boy that I like.
Against my will, I chatted with Audio about this book (Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood) and other books, and when I learned that he’d also read Ender’s Game (one of my all-time favorites), I accidentally gushed about the piggies (an “alien” species Ender encounters in the book’s sequel — my favorite piggie of whom was named Human).
While we chatted, he held out an open bag of walnuts, and I hesitantly withdrew one of them, mentioning that I had macadamia nuts in my backpack, which was in the car. We talked about motorcycles for a bit and I began to miss mine. I wondered if Audio wears a helmet when he rides, or if he would like to borrow my armored leather jacket for a while, and then chided myself for caring about his safety so much.
We both fell silent for a minute, watching an older couple taking a selfie (or trying to) in front of us. The guy wasn’t into it, but his gal was. “Get into my picture, dammit,” she said, and Audio and I both laughed. Hearing us, the guy turned around and pointed over at Audio and me.
“Take a picture of them instead… they’re cuter,” he said. And the woman did — I laughed nervously, glancing over at Audio, and saw that he was making a cute face at me. I couldn’t stand it. But I also had to refrain, later, from asking the lady to please send me those pictures.
Just before the ride began, I hopped off of the ledge and walked over to my bike, noticing another bike positioned closely alongside it. Drawing nearer, I realized that the other bike was actually leaning right up against my bike — very odd. I lowered my head to assess the situation further and perceived that the other bike didn’t seem to have a kickstand of its own, and when I went to move my own bike, this other bike moved with it. Not wanting this mystery bike to fall over, I paused.
Well shucks, I thought to myself, looking up and around. I won’t be able to go anywhere until this bike’s owner returns.
Audio strolled over to where I was then, and just as I began to ask do you know whose bike this is?, he reached for it, gently grasping the handlebars.
How FORWARD of him! I thought, love-hating the gesture and feeling slightly indignant. Placing his bike in MY bike’s vicinity…
But my heart quit missing so many beats when I was able to steer myself and my bike away from Audio. As our bikes cut through the humid air and rolled over the hot asphalt, my mind cleared all of that emotional debris away and I felt calmer, content to enjoy the scenery and the sound.
“Remember: You made it clear – WEEKS ago – that you like him like him and he didn’t seem to reciprocate… so keep your guard up, rabbit,” I advised myself coolly.
“I KNOWWWWW,” I replied, exasperated.
Our secret destination turned out to be a lovely little park over near Crestwood. After parking my bike, I moseyed off from the crowd for a few minutes (to inspect an old brick building across the street) and then spent the last bit of our break swinging. As I was happily kicking my legs into the air, I felt someone seat themselves and start swinging next to me (him, of course). We didn’t speak. I just don’t get you at all, I thought to myself.
When it was time to go, I returned to my bike, tugged my stickered helmet off of a handlebar, and started fiddling with it — my helmet had been giving me grief that evening, resting on my head a bit too loosely.
Suddenly, Audio appeared in front of me, took the helmet from my hands, and began adjusting it. After tightening the straps, he placed it on my head, adjusted it a bit more, and then buckled it, his fingers brushing lightly against my chin. What the hell.
“You’re supposed to wear it like this,” he explained, pulling it forward.
I felt myself blushing and hoped he didn’t notice.
Forty-ish minutes later, we were back where we started — hanging out in the alley behind Redemptive Cycles. I gave my number to an old guy who enjoys talking psychology and then tried to sneak off, quietly wheeling my bike around a bulky SUV en route to my Fiesta. Somehow, Audio still managed to spot me and intercepted my path, holding his arms out.
I hugged him back (happily and sadly), and when I sensed him not letting go, I seriously felt like vomiting. Does this dude actually LIKE me, or is he just crazy un-perceptive and unaware of how torturous this is?
So I pulled away to look at him: He was smiling. Radiantly.
“Look — can you just… walk with me to my car?” I asked awkwardly.
I rolled my bike forward and he walked alongside me. I still felt queasy. What was I going to say next? This wasn’t planned…
“Listen… do you NOT like communicating outside of these Thursday night rides?”
He seemed surprised, but recovered quickly. “Oh — yeah… I don’t like writing much,” he said, which explained his habit of not responding to my text messages. “Also, there was sort of a disconnect for me growing up, technology-wise. I prefer in-person interactions.”
“Ahhhh…” I murmured. Reasonable. “Okay — because I felt like I was probably driving you crazy with my texts a few weeks ago, and decided I should just stop messaging you altogether–”
“NO,” he exclaimed quickly. “Don’t do that — it’s something I need to work on.”
I realized we’d already reached my car and noticed that he’d placed his beer on top of it. I wasn’t sure when we’d stopped walking or when he’d set it up there. I felt queasy and nervous and dazed.
“Well okay then,” I nodded slowly. “Then I will likely text you a song or a picture of my German Shepherd from time to time,” I warned, and he laughed. His face was tinged with red — just a little. I was happy to realize that he might be nervous, too (or possibly just flush from the alcohol).
“And uhmmm — since you prefer in-person interactions,” I continued boldly, “I’m dropping my best friend off at the airport this Saturday and then I’ll be pretty free, so if you’d LIKE to get lunch or dinner or coffee or drinks or whatever this weekend, just let me know — you don’t need to decide right now,” I added hurriedly. Although I like you so so much and I bet we’d have a really great time together and I TOTALLY think that you should stop being so freaking mixed signal-y.
Then I bid him farewell and drove home, trying to NOT replay and over-analyze every single second spent with him. HA!
I texted him a song recommendation later that night (#whywastetime?) and a picture of my German Shepherd the next day, proposing that – on Sunday – we could maybe ride our bikes over to a local brewery and then check out this jazz show on 5th?
Still waiting to hear back. 🙂 Shocking, huh? WAIT, hang on — I just got a notification on my phone! …ahhhhh, it’s just DuoLingo; time for my daily Spanish lesson.
Randomly sharing a few pics from my recent trip to Knoxville — had a great time visiting w/fam!