Tom and Lefty

by Griffin O'Hara

Today, I tried and failed to replace a little part on my car. Rust is not my friend. I’ll have to bite the bullet and send it to the shop.

More notably, I met a bicyclist named Tom who was touring the country on his bike. Tom is about 60, tall, fit (biking six hours a day does that), with close cut white hair and glasses. I saw him by the intersection on the highway, then a few minutes later by the Starbucks that I was about to enter (I caved on the Starbucks, okay?).

Tom was from Austin, Texas, and had been biking across the country for the last three years. He kept a few sheets of  3×5 paper that neatly listed all the places he had been in the last year. Tom was a kindred soul—an English major—and was rereading Anna Karenina.

Tom had been in an accident about six weeks back where a car had hit the trailer behind his bike. The driver had been texting, and hit Tom while while he was biking on the shoulder. He was suing the driver for five thousand (which seemed really reasonable to me).

We discussed sleeping bags, thermarests, farming methods, food, books, and his ingenious bathing technique which only used three cups of water. To my delight, he explained how he secretly lived in a storage unit for three years, while he worked the night shift at a convenience store.

I explained being deaf. Hard of hearing. Whatever it is I call myself. He understood the strange “in-between” that the Hard of hearing person occupies.

Our conversation gradually turned to me listening to Tom—at times impatiently so, though I think this is more of a strike against me, than him, because biking around the country doesn’t seem like it affords much socializing (and Tom seemed like the kind of person who spends a lot of time by himself).

We talked for a couple of hours, it seemed. Finding someone who “gets you” does that. When the conversation was winding down, Tom abruptly stood up and held out his hand and we said goodbye. Meeting a friend who you’ll never see again is bittersweet.

Lefty, I should tell you guys about Lefty.