My teeth bite into hard butter and break the baguette’s crust.
The friend of a friend’s (FOAF) wiry fingers claw two pieces of Swiss Gruyere. She’s a remnant of the female anatomy. She informs my friend and I that: she’s frigid, she needs the shower first, and she didn’t sleep at all last night. This houseguest is so devoid of poetry and introspection that her voice caws her needs.
The plan to bike 200 kilometers around Lake Geneva had been my suggestion. Size- Zero rides ahead of us, then rides back with determination or rides ahead and waits with single-mindedness. She’s zeroed in on the next destination. Does she notice the freshly fallen apples so crisp they beg to be eaten? Does she see the plums’ perfect purple or the corn that looms over our heads? When I eat a clump of grapes she says, “I wouldn’t eat them.”
She does notice the sunflowers that are passed their prime and haven’t been harvested. She stops at 3:10 pm. wanting a coffee in the Geneva Starbucks.
She says, “I can bike until four.”
“If we’re going to get around the lake we need to go further,” I say.
“It’ll get dark.”
The obvious gets up my nose. “Take a boat or train back. Meet us in Evian tomorrow.”
“You’re trying to get rid of me.”
It’s not a question. My read is that she’s panicky with travel. But what doesn’t make sense to me is that she’s not willing to be easy to get along with.
We ride through a thunderstorm and stop around 7pm in Yvoire, France. Size-Zero needs to shower first. We hear her laughing and singing Frère Jacques in the bathroom. When she turns on the TV and tells us how good her French is, Eve hand signals out of air and then clenches her fist. They’ve been hiking for two weeks in the Dolomites and tensions between them are prickly.
Day Two: Zero continues to ride ahead and back. Around 4pm Eve declares that she needs to stop. With twenty more kilometers to go high into the heritage vineyards, we are at Vevey, Switzerland. I have an analgesic endorphin high. We divide and find our own bathrooms.
Beside the bikes waiting on a bench at the lake, a seagull steals the end of my sandwich. I watch other seagulls dive for it. There is a vigorous squabble and the fast gull swoops down triumphant. The others dive bomb the top gull. Two loser seagulls fly wings away in the winner’s circle.
I look up and see that Zero has raced on again. That’s when it hits me that I’m one of the seagulls who’s body-checking the winner. The seagull scenario is a grim reminder that I don’t want to stand by and watch humans soullessly approach a supposedly fun activity - a bike ride - competitively. I want a more compassionate sense of living where the distance between riders is bridged and they watch each other’s back.