Trying put put all of this together, you’d think it would take me back, but there are times when you look back on memories and realize this distance rather than the events. It seems only fitting that a Bike Messenger would be the one to take you through everything. We’ll settle on a name. Alberto Orta. Yes. Let’s use that and see what’s what.
Alberto Orta. Of course, you grow up with that name and everyone calls you “O”. We can play with that one for bit. Alberto got his first big wheel when he was 5 years old. It was his first memory of life. His parents were still asleep in their Mill Valley home when he walked in a saw a giant piece of wrapping paper covering a magnificent mass. They spotted him and told him to wait until the coffee was ready before they officially started his birthday. It was of no use. This kid was up with the sun. He had a sense for it – As if when the sun rose up, it pulled him like a marionette , and the dance of his day started right there. He started wrinkling the paper until it just fell off, and his screams of excitement at the big wheel sitting in front of him woke both of his parents until they were forced to sing a half of a happy birthday song still in deep sleep.
This was the time when he remembered his parents. He jumped on the Big Wheel and sped up and down the safe streets of this, at that time, undiscovered community across the bay and in the trees. The house was one his parents, both from New York, bought because they thought it would give him a good home and some shelter from New York, which they had left because at the time Alberto was born, living in Greenwhich Village meant their were junkies reaching into the baby carriage trying to get a touch of your child. California always gave the allure of gold for east coast refugees looking for a different world to escape into. I guess we’re all looking for that in some way.
Up and down the block Alberto sped. The streamers on the handlebars were red and white. They wouldn’t last long. That little break on the back wheel made for amazing spins. It was obvious that this kid loved to go fast and would be difficult to stop. In the next year, which would turn out to be the last year his parents were together, he would ride the big wheel next to his father and they went a mile down the road to the store. He would use a quarter out of the 50 cent a week allowance he got to but Star Wars cards, but would wait to open them until the sun went down and their was nothing else he could do in the outside world.
When his parents divorced later on that year, his mother was packing what they could into their old gray Toyota, he was coming back from his last trip to the store with his father. Alberto’s mom was waiting, already in the front seat and ready to turn the ignition. The car was packed, with the only space reserved for Alberto.
“What about the Big Wheel,” he said, looking at his father. “I just can’t leave that behind.”
The parents looked at each other for a moments, but their feelings towards each other drowned out the reality of a 5 year old not understanding of adult rules.
“Just get in the car and leave that with your father,” his mother said. “We’ve got a long ride ahead of us before we get to Los Angeles.”
Now if you ask Alberto any of this, and I have tried to talk with him a few times to get more specifics on the story, but if you ask him, he’ll just talk about the Big Wheel and not the last goodbye from his father.
The door closed, and the car started up. As they pulled from the driveway he tried to look back and see his father and everything else they were leaving behind, but the clothes and boxed stacked too high, blocking a view. The smell of the gas and sound of the motor was burning through him.