by Zanne Blair
“You can tell much about a person by the drink they order.” Marissa was constantly analyzing her customers at Perky Bean. She had owned this closet of a shop across from the park since the day I met her.
“Those guys that race, the ones that shave their legs, they usually want espressos, they think they are Italian. The moms that think it’s ok to leave their strollers outside blocking the sidewalk think that using 2% in their lattes keeps the fat off their hips. They are so wrong, they are going to have to work up a sweat pushing those strollers to work off their drinks.” She rolled her eyes at me.
We’re best friends. She dated a guy on Ben’s team and would hang out with me at races when she wasn’t working.
I had been her very first customer almost 2 years ago, she tackled me when I walked through the door unable to contain her excitement. There wasn’t a bike rack outside, and there was no one in the shop, so I rolled my bike in with me, bikes were always disappearing in the city. Mine disappeared the day before with my lock.
“Welcome to Perky Bean! You are my first customer!” She smiled and clapped her hands, then she looked at my ride. “You can’t bring that in here, there is no room, plus I have a no bike policy, you have to leave it outside.” I stared at her. “Are you deaf or something?” No bikes. Plus who knows where your wheels have been, you could be bringing dog shit in here or something. Gross, get it out. Tell me what you want to drink, and I’ll make it while you take that thing out of here.” She crossed her arms over her chest, tapping her foot, staring at me. I wasn’t sure if I should order or leave.
After lunch yesterday, I had called Ben from my office in a panic, my bike was missing from the bike rack at work along with everyone else. This was my first ride out on this little white bike, Ben surprised me this morning before he left for work. He had just returned from Taipei, someone he was doing business with gave him the bike. Ben was saving it for my birthday, and ended up giving it to me earlier. He thought it would be easier for me to ride this one to the office, over the Brooklyn Bridge and into midtown. It was tidy and folded up easily, I could keep it under my desk. The thought of getting a lock escaped him, but I would pick one up today from Mike’s shop on Fulton, I just wanted my morning tea first.
“I don’t have a lock, my bike and lock were stolen yesterday, can you make an exception just this one time? You don’t have a rack outside, so I couldn’t lock it up even if I had a lock. I’m on my way to the bike shop to get one, I was hoping to stop for my morning tea.” I put my hand out and smiled, “I’m Olivia, congratulations on your first day.”
She smiled back, “Ok, but just today, and just because you are my first customer. But if anyone comes in here, you have to take it out right away, ok?” I nodded, she looked over my bike, “It’s nice, it does look brand new, but it looks funny. Why does it look funny?” She wrinkled her forehead and walked behind the counter. “I guess I better get a bike rack.”
“Hi Olivia, what can I get you today?” Now she was playing barista.
“I’d like a green tea please, to go.”
“One green tea coming up. I have some cardamom simple syrup, would you like that in your tea?”
“Do you have your own mug?” When I shook my head no, she continued, “You should really travel with your own mug, these paper cups are so wasteful. When you come in tomorrow, bring your own mug, ok?” I nodded.
I didn’t leave, instead, we sat outside the shop and talked for hours. She had just gone through a messy breakup and wanted to do something for herself. With her grandmother’s help, she opened Perky Bean. “Grams didn’t really like the name, but I do.”
I was her only customer until the race in the park was over, a gaggle of familiar bike widows popped in for their lattes while their boyfriends recovered and recapped their race. All of them stared at my Tern folded and neatly tucked next to my chair, then up at me, forcing their smiles.
They left and Marissa returned flustered. “I don’t get those girls. Why do they bitch so much about their boyfriends riding their bikes? Why don’t they get their own bikes and ride, or go roller skating or needle point or something? I hate complainers. They all had lattes with water and 2%. Why bother?”
I nodded. Ben raced. I didn’t hate it, I kind of liked our bike weekends. Some races were in the city, and I would ride my bike to Prospect Park and watch, riding home a few hours later. Other races were a few hours outside of the city, full day events, where I would pack the car with my cooler, sunscreen, and a book. I’d find a spot near the finish or at a turn and plant myself. I was the only girlfriend on the team who would tag along. There were times I didn’t go, other plans would pop up, but I know Ben liked it when I came, I’d always take photos or try to give him feedback on his form. Like I knew about form, he seemed to think I did.
I sipped my tea, Marissa sat back in her chair, turning towards me slightly, “People that drink green tea are always calm. Nice too. Next time you come, you can leave your folded bike behind the counter so no one steals it, I don’t care if you ride through dog shit.”
Two years ago, I used to ride with the team on training rides around Prospect Park after work. Now, Marissa and I ride together. I still have my folding Tern, but we each bought road bikes, I have a silver Bianchi and Marissa has a baby blue one. Marissa thinks Ben is secretly hoping we start our own team, she thinks all guys like to see their girls race. She’s got the jersey designed already. I just go along for the ride.
Ed. note: Zanne Blair is looking for a good bike. She has a good man who shaves his legs. She writes from the city of Seattle, but her heart still lives in the cities of New York and Philadelphia.
Find Zanne at zannestars.com.
Ed. note: After a good run of 42 issues, our magazine app is no longer available, but we’ve archived the content here on our blog.
Also published on Medium.