I never learned to ride a bike.
It wasn’t from a lack of trying on my parents’ part. They bought me a bike as a birthday present. I was 8 or 9 years old; I honestly don’t remember my exact age. I also don’t quite recall my exact reaction to the bike. I am sure I was happy. I don’t know. I do recall that they woke me up at the asscrack of dawn to show this bike to me; perhaps it was a schoolday. The living room of the house we were living in at the time was dark except for that strange glow of lamplight that I always associate with early morning. This is all I remember about the presentation of the bike.
At first, my dad and I tried no training wheels. I would sit on the bike and he’d give me a push and I would freak out. I would take my feet off the wheels and stop myself from moving forward. I was terrified of falling in the driveway, getting roughed up by the dirt and gravel, breaking something. It was the pain I was afraid of. This is the price you pay for spending so much time with an overly protective ninny of a grandmother who was convinced that EVERYTHING outside of the house was going to kill her firstborn grandson. This rubbed off on my like cheap newsprint, and I was stained with this innate sense that EVERYTHING might eventually hurt me, so I took no risks as a child. Or as a teenager. Or as an adult.
My dad put training wheels on the bike. I rode it a bit in the yard. But I just never took to it. My parents bought a bike, and we kept it until it rusted into uselessness. I was a walking kid from that point on. I shambled around our neighborhood, watching the other kids on bikes, circling around, trying to do tricks, and, invariably, I was always so many steps behind them because they had bikes. They had speed. They had mobility. They had less fear. I was a scaredy-cat pussy of a child whose parents had spent money they probably didn’t have on a bike I was too chickenshit to ride.
People tweet a lot about their “inner child,” jokes about what their inner child does and looks like and so forth. My “inner child” looks like me as a child. He’s scared and worried and he cries a lot and he wants things he cannot ever have. He feels shattered when he is criticized and elated when he is praised. He wants to be liked, but is scared that people who like him will find out what a fraud and a loser he is and walk away from him. He can be cruel to others, but he his most cruel to himself. He never remembers the best things that are said about him, but can recite verbatim the worst things said about him.
Come to think of it, I have no “inner child.” I am still all of those things. My body just got bigger.