God’s Goofy Guy on a Schwinn (Story #6)


A gun going off in real life makes a thin, mono, popping sound.  In the movies, gun blasts are rich and thick and stereo.   Maybe that’s why I just looked on from my window noticing the transformation of the block.  It was like waves on a beach.  As soon as the bullets rang out, everybody in the park spread out in opposite directions, and then, slowly, people came back out.  After about five minutes, the same spot where the one guy tried to shoot the other was full with more people than before, and everyone was yelling and pointing and making comments about what just happened.

In between the bullets and the wave of people coming back, that’s when I saw him—God’s goofy guy on a hoopty, that’s what I’ve come to call him because I never got his real name.  Right after the bullets popped, he came rolling by on an old-school Schwinn ten-speed.  He had headphones on, these big studio-looking things, and he was just blissing out.  His hands were resting on his upper thighs, and his head was bobbing back and forth like a turkey.  I remember thinking that whatever it was he was listening to, it had to be pretty great—great enough that I wanted to follow him.

I say this, but maybe I was trying to avoid the cruelty behind me or the animosity that the investigating cops always showed to the community after an incident, or maybe it was just the music.  Or maybe it was something else, like destiny, Divine Will?  Hard to know for sure.

What I do know is that without thinking about it, I grabbed my bike and I did my best to catch up.  Lucky for me, he wasn’t going very fast, and within a few minutes, I was pretty close.  I followed him down to Potrero Ave, and passed by the day laborers at the skate park.  Pretty quickly, I started to understand why this guy rode at the same speed.  He had a knack for catching all the lights.  From Cesar Chavez all the way to the 101 underpass, we never stopped once.  And the streak continued on as we turned down Duboce and then caught another left on Folsom.

All the while, the goofy guy kept pumping his legs and pumping his head, seeming oblivious to everything around him.  But here’s the thing: this goofy guy on his bike who had a knack for catching all the green lights also had a knack for catching every sad thing that happened in the city that day.

By the time we passed a high-rise on off of Second St., I could hear the sirens coming down Mission.  There were a bunch of people on the sidewalk pointing at something.  I stopped to join them, keeping my eye on the goofy guy as he kept riding ahead.  “Oh my God, I didn’t know.  I just talked with him last night.”  I heard one of the women in the group say.  “He didn’t seem depressed.  Was he on meds?” a man asked someone else in the group who was pointing upwards.  I followed where the woman’s finger was pointing, and of course, I followed the logical end of what the group was saying and let my eyes retrace the path of the body that had come crashing down a few minutes before.  I didn’t want to keep looking at the stuff on the ground (it wasn’t a body anymore).  But I know I would’ve if the sirens hadn’t broken my trance.  That, combined with the fact that I wanted to see where the goofy guy was.

He was up ahead and looking back at me.  His head still bobbing, still blissiong out to that music.  I think it was music.

I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like he was waiting, so I took off toward him and he started riding as well.  We took a right and passed the Cal Trains station.  Then we got onto Third and started riding toward The Bayview.  Things semed quiet for a while.  It was summer and the sun was out.  The fog was rolling over the hills like liquid hydrogen freezing out everything in its path.  By the time we made our way out to Double Rock, it seemed like nothing was going to happen.  I even thought that I was wrong about the guy.  That maybe he was just some dude who liked to ride his bike around the City, but we kept riding around this one block out by Candlestick.  Like vultures or something.

For a minute, the guy looked lost.  But then I heard the sound of squealing brakes, and I saw a car coming around the corner.  It just missed me, but there was this kid who I’d passed a block before.  He was little.  I don’t know.  Maybe six.  I didn’t see anything, but I knew the car had hit him because all of the sudden, the car stopped, and someone was screaming.

I should’ve turned back around, probably, but I also knew that there wasn’t much I could do.  And by this time, I was sure of it.  The goofy guy knew something, and I wanted to know what it was.

For the rest of the night, we rode through the city.  We passed a stabbing out on the Avenues.  A rape in the Presidio.  A burglary on Chestnut Street, and a gang thing out in Chinatown.  We rode and rode up and down the hills and through alleys just ahead of sirens and frosting clouds of fog.

You always think of San Francisco as a happy place.  Hippies and positive vibes and all of that stuff.  But it isn’t.  The goofy guy on his bike made me aware of that much.

Eventually, my legs gave out and he rode off without saying a word.  And since then, I’ve spent every day waiting for him to pass again so I can join him on his ride.  I don’t know who the guy was.  I’m thinking this guy is like the angel of death, San Francisco style.  I know that sounds nuts.  A goofy guy on a Schwinn doesn’t really seem like the type.  But this is San Francisco, right?  We do things our own way.

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Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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