(This is a piece of flash fiction that I wrote for my creative-writing class, backdated accordingly.)


Oak trees swished by on the side of the road, and he took in their clean scent hungrily. Under his palms, the handlebars became two extra limbs, familiar and light. The tires' skin gripped the asphalt with a satisfying firmness. Every push of his feet on the pedals propelled him farther, and the speed was glorious. This road was his escape. With the forest on one side and the lake on the other, he could pretend to leave behind the daily papercuts of the city. The trucks reversing under his window, with beeps that tore him out of sleep like needles every morning. The drowning feeling of friends and coworkers expecting him to succeed, not to fall behind one step in his track record of excellence. And that Hydra from hell, who always wore a tie, and replaced every finished task with two new ones. He fled away from it all.

At a bend in the road, he saw a man and a woman running side by side on the adjacent footpath. They wore identical clothes, and he wondered if they were a couple. Sometimes, even seeing two people together made his insides clench in sour envy. Today, his younger brother announced that he was getting married. He wished him well, trying to hide the pang of anguish that he felt inside. Some day, he would learn how to talk to women. Some day, he would understand them and know how to make them happy. Some day, he would meet someone and fall in love. But bitter wrinkles were starting to appear in the mirror these days, and he has been saying 'some day' since he was sixteen... He realized that he had been staring at the runners. They caught his gaze and waved a friendly hello. Too slow to react, he rode past them without returning the acknowledgment. And now it was too late to wave back without seeming strange. In the register of his mind, he added two tally marks to the number of people who hated him.

Reaching the north end of the lake, he got off his bike, feeling the fatigue spread from his legs to the rest of his body. The physical effort gave him a vague sense of fulfillment. He made his way through the trees to the hidden clearing on the shore, a quiet and cozy place he had stumbled upon as a child. Here at last was something seemingly detached from age and civilization. He sat down on the grass and took in the sight. The sun had just set, but it still shone red on the scattered clouds, which looked like a furrowed brow in the sky. He heard the lone cry of a seagull. The bird rose with six powerful strokes, then spread its wings into an effortless glide. It swooped down, dipping its beak into the water, then rose again. He remembered sitting outside his childhood home by the dock, watching the seagulls, wondering at the joy and freedom of their flight. When had those emotions abandoned him? Now, he only felt tired.