The leg moved the pedals round, a thin metal band strapping the ankle in place.
The ankle bent in the proper places, the plastic and metal giving and moving along the pedals’ arc. Circles within circles as the ankle connected up to a plastic calf nearly tortoiseshell in its brindled browns and green. It moved the pedal moving the gear moving the chain in perfect precision with the woman’s other leg, the one still made of muscle and bone. Circle. Circle. I was reminded of automata.
The bicyclist with the prosthetic leg wore Capri pants. She smiled as she rode.
Above the Capri pants that hid how far the prosthetic went, the woman wore a light white cardigan over a floral blouse, the type a nurse might wear in a hospital that allows expressive scrubs. Her hair was mid-length, black turning white one strand at a time.
Her eyes were kind.
And her right leg was plastic and metal.
She rode up the bike expressway on Milwaukee Avenue. I followed a bike behind, thinking of the most sensitive way to get her to stop and talk for this story you’re reading now.
“Wonderful workmanship on the leg!” I blurted at a stop light.
“Oh, thank you!” she responded.
We stopped by a diagonal street, across from a sign shop where the owner lets American and POW flags rot without replacement over anti-Obama signs. She smiled at her leg when I complimented it, like a different woman might look at a dress just called beautiful.
“Are those shoes?” I asked, nodding toward the lacy flats she had slipped on over each of her feet. “Are they matching?”
I meant if the shoes matched each other. I don’t know what she thought I meant.
“That’s just my creativity,” she said.
She smiled and looked lovingly at her shoes while she said that. They were a light, lovely, pale turquoise.
“They match the bike,” she said looking back up. “Bianchi Green.”
The bike was a Bianchi, an Italian manufacturer noted for that light, lovely turquoise. They’re expensive. The wear on hers told she used it often.
The woman with one plastic leg rode her bike often.
The woman with one plastic leg wore Capri pants.
She smiled when she looked at her shoes.
Her shoes matched her bike and calf.
I don’t know where her confidence came from and I didn’t ask. This is the story of a moment, not an interview. The light turned and I wished her a good day. She pedaled off, automata leg circling circling. As I do with those ancient dancing, painting, writing, drawing machines, I marveled at her.
Maybe that confidence will flood over me some day, wash over me like ocean water. A peaceful sea tide, one the color of Bianchi Green.