The Blue Bike

At Christmas time, my mind tends to skip back… Today, I revisit 60th Street. 6:30 pm. December 23, 1980.  

Jorge and I had done some last minute holiday shopping and we found ourselves in a gridlock just south of Merida’s main plaza. Hundreds of frustrated, hungry motorists wanted nothing more than to get home… I would definitely say, their Yuletide spirit was NOT in full splendor. They honked, made obscene gestures and hurled decidedly un-Christmassy words at one another. The inexperienced traffic cop could make no sense of the spider web the motorists were mired in. We sat and waited for the situation to resolve itself.   

It turned out to be a good thing that the cars only crawled that day. I am convinced that divine intervention must have been responsible for what happened next.

I saw the guy before Jorge did.  Some ways away yet, he careened unevenly through the crowd, a boy’s shiny blue bicycle tucked under his right arm. I stroked my 5 months-along belly and wondered if my baby would one day ride such a splendid bike. As he closed the gap between himself and our stalled VW, I realized that he was drunker than any skunk could ever be.

And then it happened… His eyes closed, he crumpled and fell right in front of us! Between our vehicle and the car ahead were maybe 50 centimeters, and he disappeared underneath our yellow hood. The traffic started to surge but we of course, could not. We jumped out of the passenger and driver’s seats and proceeded to drag the inebriated idiot back onto the sidewalk. He fought us all the way and I knew why… the bike! Jorge sped back into the street, and threw it up onto the curb. The drunken dad grabbed the bici and sunk down onto the pavement. My distraught hubby was, by this time, behind the wheel again and yelled, “Come on Joanna!”  

“We can’t just leave him… he’s going to lose the bike… what will his little boy say?” Jorge mouthed something unsympathetic and signaled that he needed to go around the block and park; he’d get back to me as soon as he could. The passersby were somewhat amused by the sight of an obviously pregnant gringa, standing guard over a bedraggled borracho and a blue bike. Finally Jorge came back.

“We need to find out where he lives and take him there,” I announced.

“In his condition, he doesn’t remember his own address. We have to get going,” reasoned Jorge.

I insisted, Jorge shrugged his shoulders and tried to elicit the necessary information. Of course, as suspected, the drunk did not have a clue where he lived. We couldn’t look through his ID because if he’d ever had a wallet, he’d lost it at some point during the trials of his day. Yet Jorge’s persistence finally paid off and he determined where the house was. Next, we had quite a time getting him and the bicycle into the Beetle. Eventually we did so and about half an hour later, we pulled up in front of his house.

“Hovel” better described the place. All the markers of an alcoholic environment were staring us in the face. After we’d called out “Buenas… Buenas…” for a good five minutes, a tired woman appeared at the gate. “Why did he bother coming home?” she sneered.

More struggling and the three of us extracted him, still holding onto to the metal frame for dear life; he slurred out, “¡Miguelito! ¿Donde estas?”  A very small boy appeared shyly and eyes glued on the bicycle, he asked, “Whose is that?”

Puffing himself out in the chest, Dad answered as clearly as he could, “¡It’s yours Mi’jo!”

The expression of disbelief was quickly replaced by adoration as Miguelito hugged his father. The teardrops welling in my eyes turned into a full-fledged flood… and my crying was only matched by Miguelito’s mama, who sobbed openly.

The older Miguel, now suitably correct, asked if he could pay us…

Jorge clamped his hand on the other man’s shoulder, looked him in the eyes and said, “Just stay straight tonight Viejo. You owe it to yourself, your wife and that great kid.”

Who knows if the father continued drinking or not? We never saw him again and that was definitely for the best.

Thinking back to that experience, I always feel love for Jorge, the reluctant savior and I wonder whatever became of Miguel, Mama and Miguelito.

Sometimes life presents us with opportunities to be bigger than we believe we are. At such moments I am reminded of something Emily Dickinson once wrote,

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

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13 Comments

Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

13 responses to “The Blue Bike

  1. Nice story. You’re, alas, a better person than I am.

  2. Ditto to all the above. The story (so well written, I might add), is one of those I believe I will not forget.

  3. You and Jorge are truly special people as this moving story shows. Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday.

  4. Jody

    You made me cry outright with this story of life. Bless you and Jorge for your compassion. You did not know (and still do not) the far-reaching consequences of taking that time and trouble to care for a person in need. Thank you for touching us, too. Happy Holidays, Jody

  5. What a wonderful story Joanna and how like you and Jorge. I’m so happy to have met you both, the good shines from your eyes.

  6. Jan

    Thanks for the great story! Merry Christmas, and thanks for being a light in all of our lives!

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments. In retrospect that evening does seem rather unusual but at the time, it just unfolded and played out little by little. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the story and I wish you and your loved ones,a very wonderful holiday season.

  8. A wonderful holiday story…the real meaning of the season. Thanks, Joanna.

  9. kwallek

    The very nature of doing good is that it is seldom easy-but then you know that…

  10. Reg

    I have very fond memories of a used bright yellow bicycle that my great grandfather brought me on year for Christmas, after my parents were divorced. Can’t imagine why he had it painted yellow, but he and I and that yellow bike will never be forgotten I can only wonder how many special bicycle stories are out there amongst your readers???

    You and Jorge are incredible people and we are so proud of your accomplishments and the fine examples you set for all of us in your caring ways…

    Abrazos amiga!

  11. Larry

    Oh Joanna! You have made me well up with emotion… and have reminded us how important it is to love and have compassion and be a friend to others..especially to people we meet only once in our lives! Reg and I are so blessed to have you in our lives! Thanks for this most appropriate message at this wonderfully awesome time of year!
    Love and hugs, Larry

  12. Delightful! Happy Holidays Joanna and Thank you for sharing!

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