Destruction Grinning - 04.21.02|
I never quite understood why my friend ramped his bike off the cliff that day.
It was a sunny day, downright beautiful in the summer. We'd biked up to the old abandoned quarries, where the high-school kids rode their motorcycles on steep, water-channeled trails and tried our best to zoom around on them ourselves. Most of the time, we'd end up riding halfway up a hill, then the incline would get so steep that gravity would stop us in our tracks. We'd spin the back tire around a couple times pedaling in vain, then fall off to one side or the other and try to catch ourselves as we slid back down the loose gravel.
For some reason or another, this was all fun to us, and once we'd actually pushed our bike to the top of one of the hills, we still couldn't find the courage to go racing back down them. Instead, we'd ride around on the small plateau of piled rock at the top, careening around near the edges, but never quite tempting fate enough to drop off the lip and over the edge. To do so would not only mean negotiating the deeply carved ruts that had been formed by both motorcycle tires and the flowing of rainwater, but keeping enough of a straight line so that your handlebars didn't hit trees on either side of the narrow path. On one hand, you'd zoom down the hill out-of-control and all willy-nilly before skidding to a stop, and on the other hand you'd face-plant into a tree.
Although we had grandiose visions of our own bike-riding skills, the reoccuring thought of smashed teeth and broken noses was enough to keep us walking our bikes up and down the steep hills, and riding around on the safer flat areas. Bets were exchanged and turned down hundreds of times, yet neither of us minded being a wimp and subtley giving excuses to one another to actually avoid riding down any of the steep hills.
For some reason or another, at one point my friend simply started swerving around on his bike on top of one of the larger plateaus. We were riding around in circles, following one another, and I thought he was just trying to psych me out. He'd swerve his bike over close to an edge, then veer back again as he got just near where the lip was, then just when I thought he was on safe ground, he would do it again. I knew it was just some sort of elaborate prank with him, and didn't think much of it.
Then, he actually started to straighten out his riding, and sped up as he aimed directly for a sharp dropoff ahead. Thinking that he was going to again turn out of it at the last moment, I laughed it off, but he kept accelerating and riding straight towards the 60-foot freefall.
At the last moment, he simply stood up from his dirtbike, and it went on without him, sailing over the edge into the air and crashing on the crushed rock below, nearly bending the front tire in half. By the time it hit bottom, I was sitting next to him on my bike, and I looked over at his expression as he looked at his bike laying in a twisted heap diagonally below us. After a few seconds, he looked over at me and simply said, "that was close, huh?"
I couldn't quite tell whether he had actually been joking with me, or whether he'd actually somehow lost control of his bike and his only option was to ditch it, but one thing was for sure; his bike was screwed. Instead of asking him about his motives for doing what he'd just done, I instead breached the conversation by asking if we should go look at his bike and try to get it home.
We walked down the hill without saying a word to one another and walked up to the bike like it was a bird laying with a broken wing in the middle of the street. We approached it as if it were something almost holy, and we crept up on each side of it as if even one touch might shatter it into a thousand pieces. The front tire was indeed bent horribly, and the chain had fallen off, but besides those obvious problems the bike seemed that it might be rideable.
After standing in silence for a few more moments, my friend simply picked up the bike and sat down on it as if nothing was wrong. He flipped the chain back onto the pedal crank and started on his way, but the tire rubbed on each side of the fork with each revolution and made a horrible squeaking sound. I cringed knowing that we had well over a mile to bike home, but when I looked over at him, he was looking down at the tire with a blank stare and grinning one of the most devious smiles I'd ever seen cross his face. I could tell the gears were turning in his head, and before I knew it we were on our way home.
The entire way, the tire made sort of a "squeak-skronk-squeak" noise as it rubbed and scraped on the metal fork of the bike, but for some reason that off-kilter sound seemed to almost fuel the huge grin that my friend wore on his face as we progressed home. The bike was disfigured beyond what either of us could fix, and he'd probably need a new rim, but the thrill of riding home on the wobbly, odd-sounding wheel had somehow made his day.
As soon as we pulled into the lawn at his house, he hopped off the wobbly bike and flew through the door of his house. I could hear him exclaiming to his mother that he'd almost been in a horrible accident, almost hurt himself very badly, warning her of just how bad things could have been and just how wrong things could have gone and that he could have had broken bones or even worse. Just as he got her sufficiently convinced that he had somehow managed to escape death, he casually dropped the word that his bike might need a bit of work.