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Bike Ride with Older Boys by Laura Kasischke

published on The Writer's Almanac page, October 1, 2005

Bike Ride with Older Boys

by Laura Kasischke

The one I didn't go on.

I was thirteen,

and they were older.

I'd met them at the public pool. I must

have given them my number. I'm sure

I'd given them my number,

knowing the girl I was...

It was summer. My afternoons

were made of time and vinyl.

My mother worked,

but I had a bike. They wanted

to go for a ride.

Just me and them. I said

okay fine, I'd

meet them at the Stop-n-Go

at four o'clock.

And then I didn't show.

I have been given a little gift—

something sweet

and inexpensive, something

I never worked or asked or said

thank you for, most

days not aware

of what I have been given, or what I missed—

because it's that, too, isn't it?

I never saw those boys again.

I'm not as dumb

as they think I am

but neither am I wise. Perhaps

it is the best

afternoon of my life. Two

cute and older boys

pedaling beside me-respectful, awed. When we

turn down my street, the other girls see me...

Everything as I imagined it would be.

Or, I am in a vacant field. When I

stand up again, there are bits of glass and gravel

ground into my knees.

I will never love myself again.

Who knew then

that someday I would be

thirty-seven, wiping

crumbs off the kitchen table with a sponge, remembering

them, thinking

of this—

those boys still waiting

outside the Stop-n-Go, smoking

cigarettes, growing older.

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