Alex and the Bicycle

Alex, who had become convinced that he was about to die, was suddenly discovering with joyful grief exquisite phenomena he would not be there for. His parents, who didn't know, bought him a bicycle for his birthday.

He nearly choked blowing out the candles. To think this was his, Alex's, last birthday party, that he would not grow up, that he would not even be around to howl over the loss of himself. His parents' cheerful congratulations broke his heart. He was determined to convince them of how excited he was for their present. But when it was brought out, he did not need to convince them of anything. He forgot his death entirely for the first hour that he had the bicycle in sight.

When he remembered, he was alone, in the backyard about to take it out in the autumn streets for a maiden spin. A wild, hateful fury rose in his throat at being dragged away from all of it: the green paint and black wheels, the tall frame, the complicated gears; his own steering arms, his growing legs which would have pushed the pedals and taken him and the gorgeous machine anywhere he wanted to go.

Alex jumped over the seat, sobbing. His ride in the cold, smokey air was long and full of events.

His mother was concerned when he reentered the house, because he rambled and gestured. "I was a bicycle person, my brain was in my hands, on the handlebars, I had legs and wheels, I could do all sorts of things I'll never do again. I went so fast, but I'll never go so fast again, and I didn't know people could go so fast without an engine. I was like an engine, because I had a machine, and someone made the machine first, but I'll never make a machine first!... And no one will see me as a bicycle person, going so fast, doing those things, ever, ever again!"

She gently pushed him to bed, though he stayed awake, stricken, mourning his death as he would never mourn anyone else's.

In fact, Alex lived through the night. In the first light of morning he sat up exhausted in bed, not knowing what to do with himself.