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Love on the Tracks & Missed Connections


She was French but the rear hub was Italian. I could tell by its clickity-clack as she pushed her bicycle down the platform. I boarded the train and tucked my folding bike under my seat. We were ticketed across the aisle from each other on a Swiss coach bound for Paris. Cycling was our icebreaker. Over a bottle of red, conversation shifted to all things medium rare, print versus e-books, and the cinematic genius of Chunking Express. Vibe was happening. 

Somewhere in eastern France there was a mechanical failure—a hiccup on the track. We were told to quickly change trains at the next station. A steward insisted on wheeling her bike. She offered to stay behind to help with my panniers. I stubbornly declined. 

“Then I will hold you a seat. No?” Her legs gleamed like the skyscrapers of Dubai as she strode away.

I surrendered to fantasy while hustling my luggage. That afternoon, we would go to her friend’s coffee shop in Montparnasse. In the evening, we would lose ourselves in Belleville’s gallery district. Later, our trans-Atlantic genetic tinkering would produce offspring the likes of whom the cycling world had never seen.

My daydream was interrupted by two substantial flights of stairs. The effort required to descend and climb was doubled because I had to haul my bicycle box and panniers separately. By the time I sweated up to the new departure platform, the train was already in motion.

She had saved me a seat in the second to last row of car number seven.  I know because I saw her through the window there, her left hand fidgeting with a feather pendant necklace while her right hand waved goodbye.  The train trundled on.  I never asked for her name—but I still have the cork from that bottle of red.

*Originally published in VELO Magazine. More short stories by Gregg Bleakney -- HERE.