Stories for Liberation: A Red Bike
By: Georgina Peralta
I wonder if he was ever real. Where did you go? Can you see me now as I write this? Do you know I struggle speaking because I have braces this year? Danny’s 8, and he has your eyes.
Have you seen me reach out to you- is actually silly because I like looking at your old passport photo id. Your passport shows all the places you traveled to, I close my eyes and imagine you at these places smiling like you always did and winning everyone over with your funny jokes.
I actually have your wallet. It smells like the taxi car you used to drive when we all lived in Brooklyn, in that one bedroom. Is it fair that you needed two jobs to help support us? It was never really your fault you didn’t know how to speak English, so here and there you would have a drink too many and I would forgive you. Because just like you, it was hard to forget the air I used to breathe, and is hard to forget the friendly vecinos salundando con un “dimelo!”. It was hard to forget that we were hungry. It was hard to forget the color of skin. It was hard because everyone noticed.
I recently wrote this letter in a poem for you and yet I know you will never read it here, you will read up there…
I understand that you never had a retirement plan or a life insurance policy
But you did buy me my red bike, and this red bike gave me my freedom.
Freedom to play in a man’s world, freedom to ride faster and explore more places.
As a girl I used to ride the red bike thinking of what kind of woman I was going to be.
You gave me choices. alternatives. dreams.
I understand that you never had the chance to own land and that you never learned English
But you did buy me the red bike, and that showed me who I am.
I even raced the neighborhood boys and was actually faster than them every time.
I was your daughter – so I needed you to be proud.
After riding the red bike, you want to know what I remember the most?
You used to carry me into your arms and tell me I was special.
You didn’t care that I did not comb my hair that day, or that I talked back to Ms. Ana
Who never really seemed to mind her business. I had to put her in her place.
I understand that when you came to New York, this city was loud -with sirens and police cars
And trains and faces that never had a destination to Quisqueya.
“ ecuseme, do u speaky Spanish,” is all I can ever hear you say.
I remember just that exact moment that I decided the kind of woman I wanted to be- one that helped those like you shine.
But you did buy me the red bike, because you knew me.
You knew I wanted to participate in this masculine world and teach others
that being different is a gift not a crime.
As I peddle and push past the world we live in- the world where the tv tells you who should be, where a woman’s body is worth more than a college degree, I avoid that and turn to the right, and find out that I live in a world where Travon Martin died, so I continue peddling and ride even faster but end up in the corner of where the president hates a face like mine and where concerts become shooting ranges for the mentally ill.
I continue riding this red bike, and end up on Freedom Blvd. and Warrior avenue.
In this cross section I carry the gift you gave me to live free and authentic, to be strong willed and to encourage those like me to never give up,
you let me know I will break the chains of failure, and become the voice of freedom.
I continue peddling.
And although you missed my son’s birth, and my soon to be college graduation, I forgive you for all of that.
What I am trying to say is that, I am proud to be your daughter, born to an afro-Caribbean man who understood
From early on I did not want to play with barbies or dolls – I just needed a red bike.
Your Dominican princess