some things I may never out grow......
or at least
I will never grow up
(I hope)

so i am going up New Hampshire Avenue just north of Dupont Circle
this is a post work ride after working late
last night I worked late and did an hour plus ride which got me home late
leaving lisa holding both boys after a full day of work
so she will have two kids and have to walk two dogs
and then
make sure everyone is fed and entertained
just putting two kids to bed can often take more energy than a full day of work
and yes.... this process is always done at the end of the day... everyday
it is spectacular
luckily it is cumulative
if you do it well
it keeps going well
but things change
just as you get in a groove with a system
then the kids outgrow that stage and it is onto something new


so where was I when I got all side tracked to the split screen
me on one side on my bike on New Hampshire Avenue headed north just past Dupont Circle
while lisa is on the other side of the screen with two boys under three years old
and two dogs over 55 pounds
now we concentrate on the left side of the screen
the screen with a dark sky
the red tail lights and the white head lights of rush hour traffic
city streets with city lights
even a few houses still lit up with a little stale christmas spirit
while taking in the sites and dodging pot holes and taxi cabs I approached a roadie
he is long and lean
even from behind I recognised the rider
the bend of the back
the tappering of the legs to those skinny ankles with those long feet
a lifer
a lifer on the streets working the bike
a regular for the Rock Creek culture of long weekend road rides (of which I have never participated)
I know who he is
he has no idea who I am
he was a messenger long before I did my time on the streets some many years ago... many many years ago
they call him Stuttering Mike
not sure if that is what they call him to his face
but when people refer to him he is not just Mike
they make it more clear by describing his stuttering speech
we are rolling at a mellow pace
but at a mellow pace
mine a little faster than his as I have caught up with him without intention..... just going my way
I turn and smile and tell him that I have no intention of racing... that I am just riding
he looks over
I tell him that I know that I am no match for him
mike must have misheard me and asks in a stutter if I want to race
I say no... as I know he would beat me
sure maybe I could beat him on dirt I express
but I would never expect to beat him on the street
then I confess the short length of my commute
sure I have no idea of his destination
but the mile or two up the 16th Street hill along side of Malcom X Park is not a measure of much
so our conversation goes that way
he is friendly enough
then he says... "I gotta go"
with a sort of a tone that is like... now is where I kick it up a notch
I look down at his rear cluster..... some sort of little straight 7, 8, or 9
with the chain already in the big ring up front
I too was in the big ring
with a crunch a crack and a skip he was in a harder gear
without changing a gear but picking up my cadeence I move forward faster with him
another crunch crack and skip I look to the pavement with my helmet mounted headlight I scanned for parts of his cassette or even his frame
that noise was not good
with a silent push of a thumb lever and a quiet move of the deraileur and the chain and I was moving forward faster at the same rate

well... seems on this day Mike was without his 'get up and go'
or perhaps he did not want to test that chain
or who knows.... maybe he did not care about some FRED lit up like a CHRISTMAS TREE was moving up the hill faster than him
unable to control myself I mistakenly take his friendly goodbye as a little bit of a challenge
so I hung in his shadow
not in his draft
just over to the side a bit at the same rate
never so close as to risk any collision
always giving him enough space for him to redecide his course and his path
always concerned with my safety and his
always more concerned with my safety which dictates my next move

up New Hampshire we take the same wrong way on a one way
right past the Freedom Market (the beer store on the corner)
then we meet the intersection of 16th and U Street
to make the light and not get creamed I have to sprint ahead
Mike is in a different zone... like a kayaker relaxing in an "eddy" the cars move like rapids around him
all the while expecting him to pass me within the next blocks I drop my pace from the sprint to a more rational fast hard grind as I move to the sidewalk along side the tall walls of Malcom X Park
we have done this very dance before
only this time he is not there
times before I have seen him just over my shoulder making the pass on the road as we take the hill
on this day he stays back
by this time the cold was joined by rain and snow
stuttering mike was somewhere unseen... no lights and out of sight
I make no effort to find him behind me
my focus is on not getting hit
and not running into the Spanglish officer in Mount Pleasant
soon enough I am home
unsure if Stuttering Mike is still on 16th Street working a long cold grind in the snow home
or if his house is as close as mine
who knows he may have turned off headed to a friend's house or turned around to grab a chilly one at the Freedom Market or any one of the many bars in this tragically hip area
either way
it was nice to make contact with a familiar face
even if I am a stranger to him

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