Ah, Nora. I still remember that stolen night in Rome: 'I frutti proibiti
sono i piu dolci,' * she whispered after a romantic tandem ride along
the Via Veneto, to which I replied 'But I'm not forbidden my love, this
ring I wear represents a contract null and void, I just can't get it
off,' and she laughed, the way she does, and tugged playfully at it,
then a bit harder, until she was gritting her teeth and really pulling
now - it hurt like hell but that's love, it sometimes hurts like hell.
She spat on her hands to get a better grip but it was no use. 'Loshka
degtya ve bulke modje!' ** she growled in her mother tongue, the multilingual
little minx. There were tears in her eyes. I tried to wipe them away
but she just slapped me, muttering 'It's no use, the finger will have
to go, you have others,' while casting about for a rusty blade in her
purse. Finally she gave up her search with a huge sigh, her angel face
melting into a pout, and told me 'It is not meant to be. We will meet
again.' Then she disappeared into the night, taking the tandem with
* Italian for 'Forbidden fruits are the sweetest'
** Russian for 'One drop of tar spoils a whole barrel of honey'
My darling Claire met me at the door, tied in a ribbon of red handlebar
tape but nothing else. 'I'll be with you in a sec,' I told her. 'I have
to see to my bike. Just a wash and some light maintenance, promise.'
I kissed my hand and pressed it against her lips, sealing our date.
She gagged a little - perhaps my cycling mitts were a bit sweaty
- and looked away demurely. I took the bike into the garage and got
to work. It was really much dirtier than I'd thought. And the chain
deserved a good degreasing. This would take awhile. But Claire would
understand. As I was finishing up an hour later I noticed that the wheels
weren't quite right. Never one to put off till later what I could easily
do now, I gave 'em a spin on the truing stand, at one point running
out to the shop to replace a bent spoke. While I was there the salesman
introduced me to a new range of lubricants and, though I was anxious
to get back to my patient Claire, I chatted with him pleasantly just
to be polite because he was the new guy and the owner was out. It was
late when I finally made it to the bedroom, tired but satisfied, only
to find my paramour otherwise engaged. Let's just say I'd located the
bike shop owner. A shame, really, because he used to give me a nice
I don't like my women easy. I need a challenge to get my blood pumping.
Katharine could see this in my eyes the moment we first met outside
the train station. She was using a cable lock and had accidentally lassoed
my front wheel to hers in the heat of the morning rush hour. I'd returned
that evening and surveyed the situation with a pang of annoyance which
quickly dissipated when she made her appearance. I was busy picking
the lock when I heard the tap of metal on pavement (she rode clipless);
a well-turned Team Estrogen-clad ankle was attached to a fabulous leg
which merited closer inspection, at least after the scowl somewhat further
north was dealt with. Of course after I showed her what she'd done the
scowl disappeared, we conversed, and I asked her out.
A few dates later
things were progressing nicely when I got my first clue that this was
truly a girl to be reckoned with. After a romantic dinner at a bike
cafe we went to her place and it was clear things were about to finally
get biblical when I struck not gold but a reinforced tempered steel
alloy. 'I haven't seen one of these for ages,' I told her, scanning
the chastity belt for signs of weakness. It really was a good model,
rated at 5+ minutes in the magazines. 'Give up?' she laughed playfully
after a few anxious moments. 'Not on your life,' I told her, holding
the whupped casing in my teeth 5+ minutes later. As our relationship
progressed she introduced increasingly well-specced models to keep our
foreplay interesting until eventually I had to admit defeat when presented
with a fiendishly foolproof design specially handmade by master Italian
locksmiths. Feeling utterly desolate and certain all was lost, I looked
up and she smiled. In her teeth was the key.
She was a roadie and I never touched tarmac except under sufferance.
Her tyre tracks could fit comfortably in mine and she used to say that
made her feel safe. In the beginning we saw past our differences; it
was a case of opposites attracting. I even got an audax bike to understand
her better, and hunched myself over the drop bars in a posture of love.
I rode hundreds of miles accompanying her on those hateful car conveyor
belts, hoping she'd mistake my uncontrollable scowl for an insane grin
of pleasure. Of course she was a good sport and accepted my gift of
a borrowed mountainbike, her eyes as big as the knobbly tyres when she
lost her virginity one misty morning on the sweetest singletrack I could
offer. She tumbled off and immediately remounted, a desperate smile
plastered on her face that I recognized well. We both tried, we really
did. We half-convinced ourselves that we still had two wheels in common,
and lots of other components besides. Many couples don't even have that,
do they? But in the end the gap was too great to be constantly minded.
After exchanging teary farewell speeches we kissed one last time on
the boundary of dirt and macadam and went our separate ways.
Plus, February 2003