Tonight I am biking home from the video store, where I wheeled my Haro in and stuck Appleseed in the DVD return and wheeled out again, gliding down the sidewalk in the nine pm dark. Black hoodie no lights and a grin I crest one of the rises, happy to be back. They aren’t hills, I live out where it’s flat, where from the roof the sun sets on the Pacific, and where the wind from Asia shakes the trees. Tonight I am coasting down a sidewalk, silent, and the man walking out of the gym, shorts and sweat-wicking top, never sees me, his headphones in and head covered in sweat. I see him and dance past, my BMX nimble, its tires freshly inflated. Down the slope I go, past Roaring Mouse Cycles, who will swap out my brake cables on Tuesday next, something I’d thought about doing in Houston. But boxing and shipping and storing were in our future, this bike’s and mine, and those leave a lot of dirt on the chain, on everything, that needs cleaning and straightening.
Tonight we are done with that, this bicycle and me. Bought in Los Angeles while I was living in China I think it is glad, after our year’s sojourn in Houston, to be back in California, within reach of the Pacific. So am I, glad to be slipping down Iriving amidst the cars and fixies, late night diners and homeless men who accost me, “hey you on the bike!”
This little trip to the movie store is one of our first jaunts, just a quick spin up to 9th and Le Video, home to the greatest selection in the city, or so I was told. Our neighborhood seems to hold the kind of balance I have been seeking, it feels like, for years. Tonight though I am going for speed, for the thrill of no hands in the dark, and the strange acclimatizing that happens on returning to a BMX after a summer of riding full-size mountain bikes around Colorado.
Yesterday I watched the neighborhood while we wandered, the sounds of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass resounding over the trees.
“There’s a good balance here,” I said, “a few Vietnamese restaurants, a few Thai, a donut shop, all filled with people who speak Chinese.”
“I know,” she said, “it’s like being in Asia again.”
“But it’s got what I always wanted,” I said, my point coming together slowly.
“A donut shop?” She wasn’t far wrong.
“Yes, and a pizza place, and a bar that shows sports and serves tacos and is full of people I can talk to.”
“A mixture of Asia and the parts you like of New York,” she said, “in a neighborhood near the Pacific, and the park.”
“It’s small enough for me to know and foreign enough for me to feel alone,” I didn’t say, but have thought all day.
Tonight I know it’s all these things as I unlock the gate with my bicycle in one hand, and walk in to our courtyard quiet and warm. Half of the apartments are lit and the wind, which howls in from the ocean and down the streets, is held back by their walls. Chelsie the cat is no where in sight, but I know she’ll come visit when the afternoon sun pours in our windows. Her owner often wanders up, after an hour or two, to look for her through our open door. He’s content to have her wander the building, and we likewise, another part of the neighborhood not our own but familiar, and becoming home.