Back in the 6th grade I had a crush on my classmate Geoff. Yes, he was a Geoff, not a Jeff (and in my head, I always say “gee-off”). He was short and blonde – he kinda looked like the kid Tanner in The Bad News Bears (70′s version, please) but not as scrappy.
I’m pretty sure he liked me too. We would talk on the phone at night – I can still remember sitting on the floor in our living room, with the stereo softly playing America’s Greatest Hits, while we chatted about this and that, my little 11 year old heart pounding a mile a minute.
I’d even been to his house. He lived a few blocks away, and one afternoon he invited me to his house on our way home from school and had a peanut butter sandwich in his kitchen. I think it was yellow. Isn’t odd the things we remember?
Well, there’s another episode involving Geoff that I remember, but it’s not as cuddly as the aforementioned trysts. Because, as is to typical of Tracy, I managed to make an ass out of myself once again.
Geoff had invited me down to Sylvan Park, which was just a few blocks away, to watch his baseball practice. I was thrilled because I found this as a sign that he really liked me. Rather than walk, I planned to ride my bike, because I was sure he’d have his bike there, and maybe we could go for a ride after.
Upon plopping my keister on the bike seat, I noticed that my tire was flat. Rats. It was either walk down to Sylvan or take my sister’s bike. My sister was pretty possessive of her things when I was growing up, and I had been told to keep my mitts off her 10-speed. But, she wasn’t around and wouldn’t be until after I got back home and her bike was so much cooler than mine. Hers had the loop under handlebars and hand brakes. Mine? A 3 speed 60s reject that required me to take a Brillo pad to the chrome every year.
So, I eased her bike out of the garage and headed down the street towards the park.
I had learned a new trick on my bike recently. I was to break hard and come to a skidding halt. I had practiced it repeatedly and had gotten pretty good at it. As I rode down to the park, I figured this would be a really cool way to make my entrance in front of Geoff.
As I entered the parking lot I could see his team practicing on the far field. I pumped hard and fast towards the field and planned to do my bike skidding trick just before the bleachers and then sit and watch him practice.
I was going fast – you had to to get the right effect. When I was about 15 feet from the bleachers I hit the foot brakes hard. Rather than feeling the resistance and skidding to a stop, the pedals simply spun backwards, fast and wild.
Even though I had used the hand brakes on my sister’s bike the entire trip down to the park, my brain was so used to doing this trick on my bike, that had foot brakes, that I instinctively went to use them.
I cannot tell you sick feeling I had when those pedals spun backwards. Before I could do anything to stop it, I ran square into the bleachers. Well, let’s not mince words – crashed into them is more like it. And I hit them so hard there was no getting up and trying to act cool.
I was hurt. One of the bleachers had caught me under the sternum and knocked the wind out of me. Another riser had smashed my thigh. I laid on the ground unable to take a breath, and before I knew it the entire baseball team, including Geoff (*groan*), were standing over me. There were a dozen heads staring down and gawking at me and I couldn’t take a breath.
The coach eased me up and before long I could breathe. I sat on the bleachers for a little while, gazing at the bent front tire of my sister’s bike. As if this day hadn’t gone to Hell already, that bent bike was the hand basket I was to carry it in.
I didn’t wait for Geoff’s practice to end. There would be no bike ride afterward, and I was so humiliated that I opted to limp home with the wobbly bike and take whatever lumps awaited me at home.
It’s funny that I clearly remember this episode, but not the aftermath. I’m sure my sister was mad at me. I’m sure Geoff and I talked about my less than graceful entrance. I just don’t remember any of it – like my brain blotted it out cause it probably all sucked. That happens to me a lot.
There was a time I went to a formal dinner in college as a Freshman. It was at a hotel in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. My mom had mailed me a white dress from my bedroom closet which I never even tried on before the event. I knew it fit. When the night of the dinner came, I put on the dress and was horrified to discover that the dress was totally see-through. When I’d worn it at home I’d had a slip, but my mom only mailed the dress. Typical.
I knocked on every girl’s door asking for a slip, but I can’t remember if I ever got one. I know I attended the dinner, and I know I was deeply embarrassed, but I don’t remember any thing else.
Geoff moved away later that year. But I had a physical remembrance of my bike blunder for years to come. My left thigh had an indent in it for years. It was from the bleacher hitting me. You could run your hand over my thigh and feel the concave slope.
I told this story to my daughter yesterday during our walk. She was riding her scooter past the park and was trying way too hard to look cool. I cautioned her that the world works in mysterious ways – and that’s just the time a pebble or some sand will cross her path and cause her to wipe out. To be taken down a peg or two.
Listen to mom – she speaks from experience.