I saw the two women riding their bikes towards me as I walked up the hill. As they got closer, I smiled a little, because that’s what you do, especially when you’re on a campus. You’re a part of the team. You may not know everybody personally, but you know somebody who knows somebody who knows them.
Just as they were about to pass me, the following three things went through my head:
1. How I told Daughter last week that she should avoid riding her bike over the pine cones, because sometimes they hit the wheel just so, just the edge of it, and it makes the bike impossible to steer. I told her about how that happened to me once in high school when I, one morning, took a shortcut through an elementary school’s yard on my way to my school in the city. As I was about to make a right turn, being cool, and ignoring the little kids on the yard, I didn’t see a pine cone, and somehow I lost control of my bike when I rode over it.
I was fine, though, and got up with only my pride hurt.
“I’ll ride around them, Dad, watch me,” Daughter said, and then started to zig-zag her way through the cone field. That didn’t make me less worried, but at least she was wearing a helmet.
That’s what I thought when I noticed that my sandal hit a small rock on the ground.
2. Two weeks ago, with the kids at Grandma’s in Finland, Wife and I went to the movies. We saw Hunger Games, and I didn’t fall asleep even a little bit, and we rode our bikes home in a summer rain. Wife was wearing her helmet, I was wearing a summer hat. Or, actually, my beige cotton hat with a medium-sized brim, and this season’s Summer Hat.
“I worry about you when you don’t wear a helmet,” Wife told me.
“I worry about losing the hat when we’re going downhill. It’s a little too big for me, and the wind may blow it away at any second,” I said.
We rode down a hill, and when I finally caught up with Wife, I told her that it was a little silly of me to try to flex the muscles in my neck, as if that would help keep my hat on better.
“It’s like I’m trying to make my head a little bigger, even though I know it’s impossible,” I said.
That’s what I thought when I saw the stone land right under the front wheel of the bike of one of the women.
3. “This is the university,” I told Wife as we drove through my old hometown. “You know, I was accepted in there, too, in the mathematics department.”
She turned to look at the boxy red-brick building.
“Or maybe it was statistics,” I added, as an afterthought. (It was statistics).
“Huh. I wonder if we’d be driving here if you had gone there instead of the business school. If you’d ever moved to Sweden in that case,” Wife said.
“What are the odds of that,” I said, and then we laughed when we realized that had I gone to that university and studied math, I could have counted the odds, but they would have been longer for us to meet.
That’s what I thought, and the images went through my mind in just fractions of a second.
And then she hit the pavement.