It was a short, regrettable fling – one of the last, and it may have otherwise been among the most forgettable, had my suitor not resorted to theft to gain my attention, if not my affection.
Lasting only a few days of vegan lunches, soy lattes and his nervous mannerisms, even in its genesis, I knew the deal could never quite be sealed with more than a hops-sloppy kiss. It wasn’t in the stars. So when having the young Scottish import in my personal space became unbearably unpalatable, I delivered the terminal blow by phone and naively expected never to hear from him again. Instead, as it does, dinged pride guided its punch-drunk governor to commit criminal acts of idiocy.
Of the little he knew about me, other than my being the ex-girlfriend of one of his own friends – though the quality of their relationship continues to be debatable – was my love of cruising Montreal’s broad, tree-lined streets on my beloved beater bike, a ’67 Schwinn with just enough of its original paint to suggest it was once a decidedly Californian shade of blue. The bike had been a gift from the ex-boyfriend – a gift he particularly enjoyed reclaiming when it came time to exchange any love he had for me for seething, pathological hatred. Ours was the standard break-up to follow any 7-year union – savage, vengeful and sufficiently bitter to put any Canadian winter to shame. After all I’d invested, anything less and I’d have been offended.
The young Scot seemed an anxious contender for the post, but upon experiencing even a lesser rejection first-hand and over the phone, he both blamed my ex-boyfriend for having rendered me incapable of loving someone new, and set out to win over what he believed to be even the most damaged bits of my icy little heart. But, had he asked me, I’d have said it was less an issue with my heart, and more an issue of instinct. Something, I felt, just wasn’t right.
Within a few days, the misguided young Scot made up his mind and did what he thought best, and resolved to steal my bike back. I know how he arrived at this decision, because the entire decision-making process was recorded in a series of four voicemail messages, from conception to completion. The wayward gesture was highly successful, but only in proving me right about him being so wrong.
While I appreciated his sympathy and creativity, the plan was not very well thought out. My ex-boyfriend, and the bicycle, lived in Mile End, the same close-knit Montreal neighbourhood as me. Surely I’d be seen pedalling guiltily along and be accused of thieving it myself. Nevertheless, in the first message, he said he’d spotted the bike and thought I deserved to have it. The second message reiterated. The third announced he’d developed a plan to steal it. The fifth, told me it had been relocated to the entrance of my apartment building, with a key to its new lock hidden under the seat, awaiting me.
At the time, my ex-boyfriend’s wrath was a fitfully sleeping dragon, and avoiding inducing further nightmares was topped in my priorities only by basic survival. Already subject to random phone calls designed to intimidate and punish me for leaving, any new fodder would surely fan the hellfire. So, after running down three flights of stairs and out the front doors to the bicycle rack, you can imagine my relief to see that despite the young Scot’s strange trail of messages, the bicycle wasn’t there.
What was there, was someone else’s bike – a similar bike, but red, and not the right brand or make or year or, really, anything the same at all. Still, I checked underneath its seat, and there as promised, was a key. I was now in possession of a stolen bike.
After calling friends to rant about my new role as harbourer of stolen goods, I began posting flyers around the neighbourhood, asking for anyone with a bicycle stolen from the area that week to please contact me with a description, so I could return it to its rightful rider. But none of the many hopeful enquiries described the bike I’d been fostering. A week later, it occurred to me to lock the bike up in the same location from where I suspected it had been stolen. To it, I attached my email address, figuring the delighted owner would contact me for the key. Another week came and went, and still no word. When I checked on the bike, I saw that the paper with my email address had been torn away, but a second U-lock was attached and a note snaked through its grimy spokes. It read:
“Dear Bike Angel, I don’t know how you found it, but please call me.”
And he left his number. Bike Angel. I liked it.
Doing the right thing is good, but having it work out is great. The owner of the bicycle was a well-known local character and talented Montreal artist. His prints had been hanging in my home, years before his stolen bicycle made it there to join them. And, because it’s Montreal, and the English-speaking community so small, he was also an acquaintance of my ex, who, as it turns out, still has the blue Schwinn.
A small, awkward friendship budded in the fiasco, with the red bike’s rightful owner, and every time I saw him riding it through the same streets I loved, I felt a little spark of victory. And just once, we also shared a hops-soggy kiss, so every time we stumbled into each other’s paths afterward, my cheeks took the colour of the bike that started it all.
But all of that and all those people have become little more than anecdote. I’ve since fallen in love with someone else, someone without need to impress me, someone completely unrelated this story, someone English who’s never even been to Montreal, and to my own surprise, someone who doesn’t even own a bike. Still, my instincts say he’s also someone for whom it’s worth crossing an ocean.
My ex-boyfriend with the blue bike seems to be letting sleeping dragons lie.
The young Scot must surely have been deported by now.
The artist’s red bike has since been stolen – for good.
And even though it’s raining tonight in London, I’m warm inside with a man who’s doing well at proving I was right about him, and so I think, I may have been stolen for good, too.
This is me with my boyfriend, tolerating London, for some effing good reason.