Enid was my local crush, as opposed to, say, a music crush, like Laura Veirs, or a back-in-the-day crush, like Janeane Garofalo. I miss Enid. Not terribly, not like a limb, more like a bus – there’ll be another one along in a while. Crush might be too strong a word.
I walk with a stick. Although it’s not an affectation, I don’t use it for support to any great extent; rather, it’s a reference point, telling me where the ground is, when to swing my right leg, where to put my left foot. Enid was like the stick – an anchor, not an object of slavering lust. I don’t even know what she looked like, really, or even her name. I thought of her as Enid because of her short…shortish…Hitler length black hair and thick spectacle frames: Enid Coleslaw from Ghost World. And although I saw her several times a week for years, I never got a good look at her face because she was a bike courier.
There was something reassuring about the way she rode. Not frantic or showy in any way, but straight as an arrow, never slowing or accelerating, just maintaining this smooth flow. I doubt that she stopped for red lights; I used to imagine her ghosting through traffic, eating and sleeping on the move like a two-wheeled shark. She was tall and powerful and only ever wore black, and every time I saw her it was the end of a working day and her face shot by in a flushed blur.
Originally she pedalled a green drop-bar rattletrap that looked like my school bike, although I bet it was always lubed, pumped and tuned to the bridge. Later she got a Bianchi track bike, long before the word fixie was common parlance and legions of skinny-jeaned fixters took over the streets.
I only ever caught one glimpse of her face. I was sitting in the sunshine outside the coffee shop and, just for once, I spotted her before she passed by. There’s no way she looked like a young, purple Sigourney Weaver, but that’s what I saw. Wish fulfilment; I know better than to trust my optic nerve.
I spend most afternoons in the company of a cute five-year-old PowerBook, alternating brief bursts of typing and gazing out of the coffee shop window, a neoprene laptop wallet between the heinously uncomfortable wooden chair and my arse. This coffee shop’s also a bike shop, and in the smell of grease, inner tube air and ground beans, I have another anchor; I know where I am.
If Virginia Woolf had hung on for another ten years, she’d have looked (and dressed) just like Tiko, who runs the Little Georgia café. Tiko’s another touchstone; Ismail the barber too. The opening scene of Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, where the guy uses a cut-throat razor in a very literal fashion, that was shot in Ismail’s place.
Enid, Tiko, Ismail, Lee and Kathryn at the bike shop, Istvan the Polish barista, Hat Bloke from The Film Shop, the lady who runs the sweet shop who looks like a lady who runs a sweet shop, the old woman in the Elvis t-shirt who walks and walks and reeks of piss – I see them and, yes, I know where I am.
I was rolling home from Cranksters’ Paradise just now, podged up on lattes and pain au raisin. A woman on a bike passed by – an everyday commuter, not a courier, but…distracting. Not as tall as Enid, densely tattoed arms, similar heavy-framed glasses. Hair that, although black, was less Hitler and more Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slight smile. Hello! Didn’t I say there’d be another one along in a while?