A Second-Hand Bicycle

A man is walking down Shinjuku Dori as the sun approaches the horizon. His polished shoes splash in the remnants of the day’s storms and his briefcase feels heavy beside his carefully pressed pants. He keeps his head bowed against the cold dusk breeze, trying to ignore the scent of freshly cooked ramen as it makes his stomach rumble.

It had been a long week, and six days’ worth of files were following him home. The heavy load makes it difficult to dodge the cyclists that strayed onto the pedestrians’ side of the path. He is further hindered by the road works and shop displays that spill out onto the concrete. He tries to trace the line of store fronts, hoping to escape the tide of workers seeking a way home. He almost trips over a pale pink bicycle that is propped up by the door of a second-hand shop.

A secret anger begins to grow inside him as he stops and stares at the bicycle. The silver metal shines, but the dullness of the pink paint gives away its age. He was never a fan of the colour, but this particular tone has a strange charm.

No, he thinks. I’m not supposed to be admiring this damn bike; I’m supposed to be mad at it. He absently flips over the small, paper price tag. ‘¥4800’ it whispers.

This man has never acted upon impulse in his life, but something compels him to remove his wallet from his pocket and enter the store. He speaks to the shop assistant and gestures out the window at the obnoxious bicycle, still blocking the way of passing pedestrians. I’m doing them a service, he convinces himself as he passes the assistant a few folded bills.

Too quickly, the pale pink bicycle belonged to the man, and the man belonged to the bicycle.

He puts his heavy briefcase in the wire basket, kicks the stand, and swings his leg over the frame. He sits down in his pressed pants and joins the crowd of cyclists weaving between the timid pedestrians.

When he reaches his apartment building, a touch of light still stretches the length of the horizon. He had never beaten the night home before, and had rarely seen the sunset from his front steps. He pauses there for a moment to watch the unusual sight.

Once the lingering gold has faded to a pale blue, mostly hidden behind the smog, he enters his apartment. He abandons his briefcase in the study. He walks from there out to the kitchen. He opens his fridge. He closes it. He paces back to the hallway and turns towards the front door. He purses his lips.

He locks the front door behind him and perches himself atop his bicycle.

The back streets look different from his new vantage point in the centre of the narrow roads. The hills seem less steep, easier to climb, and the view from each peak excites him. He sees the city differently, not just as an obstacle to traverse on the way to and from work, but as a place to exist inside of.

He looks out over the rooftops of this incredible city. The largest city in the world, with all its sparkling lights and bustling activity. The city he is lucky enough to call home, along with 33 million others, nearly twice as many as those living in the fabled metropolis of New York. People make pilgrimages to this city every day to see its temples and its skyscrapers; this man, with his pale pink bicycle, has lived here for so many years but rarely saw anything outside the walls of his office.

Paused on the peak of one of the many hills in the streets near his apartment building, this man reflects on the lights of nearby buildings and the lights of distant stars, and he cries.