My friend Jeffery got a bike for his sixth birthday. Soon afterward, he learned how to ride without his training wheels and became the coolest kid at school. Sometimes I went to Jeffery's house when my mom was at work. Jeffery never wanted to draw pictures with me or play tag.  Instead, he would ride his bike really fast up and down his driveway and make motorcycle noises while I stood in front of his house and watched him.

One day, I got tired of just sitting and watching Jeffery be cool. I wanted to be cool too. I wanted Jeffery to teach me how to ride his bike. It looked easy enough.

demonstrating bike

He showed me how to get up on the seat and how to pedal. He pushed the bike while I sat on it. It was almost like I was riding it by myself! I began to feel fairly confident that I was going to be the best bike-rider in the world.

excited about bike!

We teetered slowly up and down the driveway a couple times. But on our third time out, Jeffery suddenly veered us off to the left and said "Hey! I wonder if you can make it down this hill!!" Then he gave me a shove and sent me rolling down a steep, grassy incline toward an oak tree.

on bike going fast down hill
crashing into tree

I careened down the hill at chaotic speed and slammed into the tree, at which point I was launched off Jeffery's bike straight into a fence post.

crumpled at bottom of hill

As I was lying there at the bottom of the hill, bleeding from my face, I decided that bikes were fucking dangerous and should be avoided at any cost.  I don't know how or why my five-year-old mind came to the conclusion that the bike was at fault for my injuries, but on that day, I became convinced that bicycles were deadly satan-machines that would eventually destroy me.

My sixth birthday was a few months later, and when it finally came, I could barely contain my excitement. I had asked for roller-skates or a pony and I was pretty confident about my chances of at least getting roller-skates. As soon as I woke up, I raced into the kitchen where my parents were already waiting.

parents saying 'good morning birthday girl'

When my mom told me to look outside for my present, it gave me reason to believe that I would be getting a pony, which was at least nine times better than roller-skates. I was so ecstatic about the possibility of getting a real, live, ride-able animal that I temporarily forgot where the door was and began pinging around the house like a gnat on meth.

running around; deliriously excited'

Once I was able to control myself enough to find my way out of the house, I ran to the backyard fully expecting to find a tiny horse standing there in the grass.  Imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner and was instead confronted by a bicycle.  In a matter of seconds, I went from overjoyed birthday-mode to feeling like my parents were trying to kill me.

scared of bike
creepy bike

I ran screaming and crying from my birthday present. It was not the reaction my parents were expecting.

running away crying
Hiding behind mom

My parents had apparently underestimated how traumatized I was by my first biking experience. They immediately went into damage-control mode. In a tone of voice that was so enthusiastic it was almost condescending, my dad said "How about I teach you how to ride your new bike, Allie?!" I buried my face in my mom's skirt and cried harder. "Well, do you want to go for a ride on my bike?" My dad continued. "You can sit on the bar while I pedal! It'll be fun!"

I don't know how he finally convinced me, but the next thing I can remember is sitting on the cross bar of my dad's bike, clinging to him in unadulterated terror.

Riding on bike with dad

My dad pedaled slowly and safely around the block, doing his best to reassure me that bikes are fun and they are not dangerous satan beasts that want all of my blood. Five minutes had passed and I still hadn't been brutally murdered by the bike, so I began to relax a little. My mom stood in our driveway and watched with adoration. For a little while, it was the perfect family moment.

riding on bike with dad, rainbows in sky

The next few seconds were a real turning point in my life. My dad and I were failure in motion, drifting slowly toward our fate like a miniature Hindenburg.  In my memory, I hear his voice in warped slow-motion saying "Haaaaaa... haaaaaa... haaaaaaa... thiiiiissss iiiisssssss fffuuuuuuuuuuuunnnn! Hoooorrrraaaaaaaayyyyyyy! Leeeeeeet'ssss goooooooo riiiide oooonnn thhheeee grrrraaaaaaaaasssss!"

close up of dad's face, looks really happy

In what I imagine was an attempt to enrich my biking experience with different riding surfaces, my dad veered off onto a little strip of grass.

I don't know how we hit the rock and why we were both catapulted over the handlebars when it happened; we certainly weren't traveling at an outrageous speed. What I do know is when my dad's front tire hit the rock, my hard-earned trust shriveled up like an injured banana slug.

crashing into rock; falling off bike
Falling toward ground, going to be elbow-dropped by dad

All 220 pounds of my dad came down on top of me elbow-first. I struggled free from underneath his crumpled body and ran to my mom.  My dad just lay there face-down in the road, like a Hefty bag full of shame.

trapped under father's apparently lifeless body
running to mom, dad in background looking ashamed

My fear of bicycles stuck with me for over a decade. While all my friends were riding their awesome bikes around town making badass motorcycle noises and popping mad wheelies, I was the weird kid running behind them, trying but failing to maintain some semblance of dignity.

friends high-five about their bikes, I stand dejected in corner