The Love Affair


Ever wonder how “The Love Affair” of cycling is seen through a “non-rider’s” eyes?  Today’s guest post by Vania Selvaggi just might be the most beautifully written cycling story ever written by a non-cyclist.

Earlier this month, I read an awesome “non-cycling” article online and liked it so much that I asked the writer if she’d consider writing a post for me.  She wasn’t a cyclist herself, and I was pleasantly surprised when she so easily agreed.  Below you will find all the goodness that flowed from Vania in response to my request.  Enjoy.

The Love Affair

by Vania Selvaggi

The bike showed up four years ago. After Ian unveiled it, I stalked it from various angles. “Wow,” I said. “It’s so cute.” Ian laughed. At me. So, I switched tactics – terminology. “I mean it’s cute in a powerful way. Slick, with that slanted writing and it’s cool. Black.” Ian laughed again so I kept digging. “The water bottle holder is convenient and the little pouchy-thingie beneath the seat…that’s something, eh?”

“I bought those. You add them on.”

“Oh? Still, neat-o. And get a load of those pedals. And the spokes, how only one is red and the rest are black. I like the tape on the handle bars too. I had a bike once. It was gold. From Canadian Tire.”

Ian nodded and began what I now refer to as the-race-Vania-will-never-win.

We stand poised, the wheels of our minds flush with the start line. The bell sounds and Ian’s off, slow at first with, ‘See this? It’s called a blah-blah-blah.’ His explanation grounds me, so he patiently repeats it before moving on to another feature, his words fast, his excitement pumping-up the pace. ‘This is called a blah, and it does blah and blah.’ I’m trying to rotate my wheels, but they’re stuck. He’s way ahead with ‘Watch what this does.’ I look, but my view is hazed through a blur of cycling jargon. Defeated, I mutter, ‘That’s nice dear.’

On that first day, Ian turned around and rode back. “I know, honey. It’s all new to you.”

“But I can learn.”

“It’s okay, Vania.”

And it was and still is. It’s enough for Ian to know that I appreciate his love for the sport of cycling. He loves riding. He loves feeling the wind in face, how the muscles in his legs burst with heated activity. He loves the excitement of planning his journeys, relishes the unique views offered from the hump of his seat. And I love that fact that Ian is so happy, and satisfied. Plus, I love the clothes.

His pants: full length or cropped but all manufactured with ‘breathe-able’ fabric and then there’s the spandex selection of shorts fitted with booty-protector-padding. His jerseys: day-glo yellows, greens and reds, with full-zippers and half-zippers in the front and back pockets, and the logos that message other riders. The plush socks: black or white mini’s that slip neatly into his socket-soled shoes and the helmet that cradles his head snuggly. The gloves: modern, leather variations on New Wave fashion that expose his finger tips and leave his palms free of calluses.

Every time I see him dressed for a ride, I want to say, ‘You look so adorable.’ But I stifle it because I’m certain this is exactly the opposite of what a rider wants to hear. Instead, I kiss him good-bye. “Please be careful and have a great time.”

And he does. While he’s on the road, Ian snaps pictures and e-mails me immediately. I often break from my writing to see where we’re at. Apart – yet together, we’ve visited Cherry Beach, and the board walk that flanks Lake Ontario. We stood at the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs. We’ve also felt the squeeze of corn stalks that wave in the wind alongside open country roads.

Last month, Ian and I moved to a smaller living space. The reduced square-footage dictated many trips to donations boxes and finally, when I invited our friend, Jaredene, to help plan the placement of our furniture into this space, it was me who had to explain to Ian that the bike needed to be stored in the building’s bike room.

“It’s a tight space, honey. We just don’t have room for your bike.” Ian’s face fell and I felt selfish. My two-thousand book collection took up most of the available real estate that should have been offered to his bike. I also felt hypocritical. I swore I would never become one of those women who banish ‘man-stuff’ to nether regions. The fact that this wasn’t some poster of a bikini clad girl with a beer can, but an item that Ian cherished, deepened my self-loathing. So, a minute later, I retracted. “You know what, Ian? We’ll make it work.”

Ian’s smile made everything alright again in my world. Still, where was the bike going to go?

“Okay,” Jaredene said. “We’ll put the bike on a stand in the hall next to the wall.”

“The hall?” I asked, because now all I could picture was student apartments where, out of necessity, the kids cluttered the entryway with bikes: mud encrusted wheels on carpet, bike frames warmed with thick coats of dust.

“Stop worrying, Vania,” Jaredene said. “We’ll treat it like an art installation. Look; the bike will sit there, and all around it, shadowing it’s every curve, will be photos of your family and Ian’s. It’ll look great.”

And it does. Above the bike hangs a framed, autographed photo of Lance Armstrong who is a mentor to Ian and branching out from the bike’s frame rests photographs of my family mixed together with his. It’s a symbolic wall of two people merging and has become my favorite spot in our new home, all because of the bike. And, while the bike and I still don’t speak the same language, some love affairs transcend words. For a writer to admit this – well, that’s huge.

Vania Selvaggi was born in Toronto. She is currently working on her first novel and will be graduating from the Creative Writing Certificate Program offered through University of Toronto, School of Continuing Education Studies in the spring of 2012.
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