Aimea Lunar Reconstruction

Ghetto Bike

part of: The Ongoing

by Jeff Beardwood

related by U’Jzur Twilit Chandorean of the First Generation

Across the parking lot I could see the pair of young teens watching me. They were at the bike rack where I had parked and presumably their bikes were
there too. It was a shopping mall after all. I had come to pick up a few groceries for the clan. And I never drove anywhere, freakish as that is these days
for a middle aged man. I felt apprehensive about heading towards them, not in a danger sense, for I was sure they posed no threat to me…more like
being wary of unpleasantness, whether that sense was cultural training (“the kids today”) or my own remembrances of being teased and teasing at that
age, or maybe I was just reading their gaze. Well, I needed to get back home anyway, so it was time to find out how it would unfold.

As I neared my bike, I became more certain they had something on their minds as they giggled and exchanged meaningful looks. I was pretty sure
something about me didn’t fit their conventional norms. I smiled to myself, realizing there were so many things like that for them to choose from and
held the gaze of the one who struck me as the dominant one. Why did I look for that? I guess every pack has its leader.

Of course what was on their minds didn’t matter to my life, but I was intensely curious what it was they disapporved of and why. They were so sure
they were right, rather than merely different. As in so many circles today, difference is cause for punishment. Why does one generation do that to
another? Is there anything we could have less control over than the precise time of our birth in history?

Our experience will tell us different things, of course. The tools my grandparents needed to survive in their world were much different than the ones I
use daily. Just because times have changed doesn’t mean we need to dismiss all their knowlege outright and just because things have always been done
a certain way doesn’t mean they should continue. It’s when I’m most certain I’m right that I want to try to listen most closely. There is value in all ways
of thinking. It is our challenge to seek it out and incorporate it into practice.

As I reached the bike rack, I nodded to them both.“Good afternoon gents,” I said lightly as I set down the groceries and dug for my lock key in my bag.

The one I had dubbed Leader wore a light leather jacket (despite scorching summer heat), short neat hair and those bell bottomed pants that have been
reborn in recent years. He leaned against his bike, looking back into my eyes and said, “your bike’s ‘ghetto’ man”.

I had never heard the word ghetto used that way before and I wondered momentarily about the terminology. I know sometimes bad doesn’t mean bad
anymore…sometimes being ‘Bad’ is good. Sometimes being phat is really good. Words change and I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but when I
looked into his eyes it was clear to me this was small case ‘bad’; bad like your grandparents used to mean it.

So that was the difference about me that concerned him the most. I couldn’t help but smile as I agreed with him, “yep”. Not only wasn’t I very
concerned about his criticism, it kind of made me proud. I believe in voluntary simplicity and there is no doubt this was not a high end bicycle, though it
was in fact brand new. I wanted to explain some of that to him, but I waited to see what else he might say.

It was his Follower who chimed in next, “Did you get it for like 5 cents at a garage sale?’

“Worse yet,” I confessed with a chuckle. “Got it at the discount department store.”

The Leader spoke up again, quiet and scoffing, “Doesn’t even have shocks.”

I thought to myself, my shocks are built in…they are called ‘knees’. I thought better of the tone that took. They already weren’t hearing me. Instead I
told him, “it has two good wheels and gets me where I’m going”.

I think it kind of confused him that he was getting answers instead of fury. I suspect that’s not the norm. And since this wasn’t going the way they
expected, they were finding it harder and harder to maintain eye contact. The criticims slowly started to evolve toward being questions. The truth was, I
had an odd respect for the leader, if only because he said what he was thinking directly to me. We’ve all been in those situations where you walk away
from types like this and they snicker in malicious secrecy. I considered it a huge step that this Leader said what he thought and that I got to respond.
There was no doubt, as I put the lock away in my bag and pulled my bike away from the rack that we were going to end this without agreeing. There
was just too much difference between us to bridge it in one chance meeting. I don’t understand the things that were important to him, though I have
some idea of the influences in this culture that might have lead him there. I’m quite sure he wouldn’t understand my life or the things I value. But we
got to talk about them for a surprising moment, where the tide of the world stood still and two individuals got to trade baffling ideas and nobody got
hurt.

Now seated on my bike, I looked over at the Leader, fixed on his eyes. The Follower faded from the moment, a little lost and unsure and therefore
quiet. I wanted to tell him all the things I know, because I think I’m right. I wonder if he wanted to do the same for me?

The Leader was getting more uncomfortable as the moment lingered, worried mostly I think about what his companion woud think about his image. His
voice toughened a bit, “Well, are you going?

“Don’t know, are we done?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

As I rode away on my ghetto bike, I only heard one of the two of them laugh.