There was this girl, a writer, always wore blue jeans, white top, men's suspenders. Walking distance from my place, corner of 53rd and Sycamore. You know the place, right? - There's a bike sign, second floor up. I'd visit occasionally, we'd talk awhile, formalities of a bucket listing, and I'd sorta pantomime an outline of a short vignette, her bright magpie eyes unblinking. I'd knew I hit a good idea when she exhaled through her nose. She'd smile, and say something pithy like, 'change that third act by using an "or" instead of an "and"'. And she'd have a burst of energy, snap one suspender with a thumb, sit and type at least two pages, me silent looking out the window, a slow methodical foot fall from above.
Sullivan upstairs. Did you ever meet him? Walked with two canes, talked slow. God of children. I called him that because damaged children breathlessly stepped their flimsy-spoke bikes up the wooden stairs, knocked on his door, and entered into that marvelous apartment full of spare bike parts in glass jars and frame skeletons hanging from the walls, and he'd whistle through his nose a patience and solve any dilemma. The truing of bike spokes with a small metal circular tool he could hide in his hand and reappear out of a child's ear like a magic trick. Their mouths aghast, eyes wide in wonder, this wonderful man hardening their tires and sending them out to the street, balanced, no more wobble, life wonderful.
The writer and I visited Sullivan from time to time. Small talk, shared silent laughs as we finished each others lines, eventually a parable about lives unbalanced, only mended with a good truing. The secret of life, the writer leaning forward, attentive and nodding. He showed us once - flip the bike, just continue to spin the tire, slowly now, a little at a time with a short tightening or counterclockwise touch of the spoke nut. He'd nose whistle over the writer's left shoulder when it was her turn. 'That's good, you know now', he assured her. She would hug him and he would look away, feigning embarrassment.
She called late, must've been three in the morning, weeping. 'Sullivan is dead. He fell. Please come, Phil'. I pulled on a sweater and started to run, thinking all the way it was a dream, not quite sure why I was running. The coroner was just leaving, joking with a cop, at the bottom step. He was smiling and I wanted to punch him. Who exactly do they call when a coroner is dead? I recalled that out loud to the writer two weeks later in the cool basement of the main library, where she could secretly smoke and write after she had packed her one suitcase and carried away the typewriter in a back pack, staying with me now, two apartments left unfurnished instead of one.