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Urban Velo
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across the rain-slicked asphalt. I carom off a retaining wall. Somehow I don’t go down. The bus would have flattened me.

Shaking, I coast into a parking lot and spot an old man on a bicycle. No time to gather my wits. I chase after him, shouting questions in my bad Japanese: How do I get out of this airport? Where can I find inexpensive lodging? Where’s the public rest room?

He looks at me the way people look at dogs foaming at the mouth. He pedals harder to get away. I tail him like a shadow. There is no way the old man is going to get away from me. Biking up the Pacific Coast has given me muscles, so I feel powerful. I chase him as easily as a cat toys with a mouse. The sight of me swooping down on him must be terrifying because he pumps standing, as though his life depends on it. I should feel a twinge of guilt, but I don’t. It is late: he must be going home. And home couldn’t be the airport. I am feeling nasty and have no desire to sleep on the airport bench.

“Gomen nasai!”—Pardon me—I shout, but he ignores me.

After a few blocks, his strength fizzles and he paces himself, realizing that he can’t get away from the lunatic screaming incomprehensible Japanese. I tell myself I can ignore him as well. Just shadow him. Sooner or later, he’s bound to lead me out of the airport. The rain runs down my face, misting my glasses as I gloat at my brilliance, my prey unwittingly guiding me out of the airport and meandering me through guarded checkpoints and a maze of construction-project detours.

In the second it takes me to swipe water from my glasses, he shifts into hyperdrive and runs a red light. I skid to a stop, the cross traffic separating us. I feel bad, good, guilty, tired-sick. That old guy is one slippery noodle. It is a daring escape, very gutsy and well timed. I explode with laughter, roaring my appreciation to the wet sky. A sharp sensation of being alive suffuses me, tickling, tingling. I’m not miserable anymore. The rain comes down hard, soaking me, and through my foggy glasses I see him glancing back as he swings the corner. I wave farewell. A magnificent night. Everything forgivable.


“The roads are dangerous,” she says. “The country is not safe.”

“I was stabbed right around the corner by two muggers. They wanted my motorcycle.” Hung shows me the scar beneath his shirt.

“One thousand seven hundred kilometers on a bicycle to Hanoi! A bicycle! When your parents find out that you’re going




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