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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

A new bike

I kept mine in the enclosed porch to protect it from the torrential rains that arrived a month after I started. The storms were intense, and any bike that did not get blown away was left under brutal sunlight and in the salty air. This combination slowly corroded metal frames, and since the closest bike shop was hours in flight and in a different hemisphere, I did everything I could to protect it.

Visiting periodically to see how I was doing, Biita took notice of this strange habit. “Why do you keep this inside your house? Is this what people do in America?” 

I think I was the only person to keep a bike in their house on the island. The house was meant for people, not bikes. Many people keep their cars and bikes inside back home. We keep them in big rooms called garages. I explained the turbulent weather of Ohio — snow, sun, rain, tornadoes, and how important it was to keep things inside. 

“Is the garage attached to your home?” 

The look on his face told me he was pondering something, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Several days later, I woke to loud bangs emanating from his house. Biita’s younger brother was in the front, making dried palm spine flats. Do you know where Biita is? I asked. He pointed to the back of the house, where all the noise was coming from. 

I found Biita stripping fronds with his machete. 

“Ah!” Saying with his typical big smile, “what do you think?”

I think it’s early.

Laughing, he explained that he was constructing a garage. 

OK… I responded, in a state of exhausted shock. 

A cargo ship was expected within a few days. Are you expecting a new bike? With a deep breath, another smile appeared, “yes!” 

Word came later that morning that the ship would arrive that day. By noon it had made its way to the edge of the reef and by one o’clock, school was canceled.

Able-bodied adults made their way to the government center to help unload. I went with Biita and eventually joined in the unloading process. Knowing I owed no debt, I was questioned as to why I was helping. The fact of the matter was the sooner the store had supplies, the sooner I ate. Load me up!

At sunset, the cargo was emptying, there were no more bags of rice, flour, sugar on the waa. The only thing left was Biita’s cargo. His bike was one of the last items to be unloaded. 

I had assumed he purchased a pushbike, like mine. I was wrong. He purchased a red Honda motorcycle! Until that day, the island had only one motorcycle. It belonged to the island’s nurse. Such a big purchase and new garage would have commanded a formal celebration, like the one held for a new village truck in Maiana. However, this was not to be. He had a much bigger gift he and his family were waiting for. The arrival of his second child, Nei Aarema.

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