[Ed. note: This article was originally published on June 5, 1995.]
A few weeks back, I had an encounter with a Bicycle Boy.
It happened at a book party that was held in a great marble hall on a tree-lined street. While I was surreptitiously stuffing my face with smoked salmon, a writer friend, a guy, rushed up and said, “I’ve just been talking to the most interesting man.”
“Oh yeah? Who?” I asked, glancing around the room with suspicion.
“He used to be an archeologist and now he writes science books…fascinating.”
“Say no more,” I said.
I had already spotted the man in question—he was dressed in what I imagined was the city version of a safari suit—khaki trousers, a cream checked shirt, slightly shabby tweed jacket. His gray-blond hair was raked back from his forehead, exposing a handsome chipped profile. So I was motoring, as much as you can motor in strappy high-heeled sandals, across the room. He was in deep conversation with a middle-aged man, but I quickly took care of the situation. “You,” I said. “Someone just told me you were fascinating. I hope you won’t disappoint me.” I bore him off to an open window where I plied him with cigarettes and cheap red wine. After 20 minutes, I left him to go meet some friends for dinner.
The next morning, he called me while I was still in bed with a hangover. Let’s call him “Horace Eccles.” He talked about romance. It was nice to lie in bed with my head throbbing and a handsome man cooing into my ear. We arranged to meet for dinner.
The trouble began almost immediately. First he called to say he was going to be an hour early. Then he called back to say he wasn’t. Then he called to say he was going to be half an hour late. Then he called and said he was just around the corner. Then he really was 45 minutes late.
And then he turned up on his bicycle.
I didn’t realize this at first. All I noticed was a more than normal dishevelment (for a writer), and a slight breathiness, which I attributed to the fact that he was in my presence. “Where do you want to have dinner?” he asked.
“I’ve already arranged it,” I said. “Elaine’s”
His face twisted. “But I thought we’d just have dinner at some neighborhood place around the corner.”
I gave him one of my looks and said, “I don’t have dinner at neighborhood places around the corner.” For a moment it looked like it was going to be a standoff. Finally, he blurted out, “But I came on my bicycle, you see.”
I turned around and stared at the offending piece of machinery, which was tethered to a lamppost.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
Mr. New Yorker and His Three-Speed
This was not my first encounter with a Manhattan literary-romantic subspecies I’ve come to call the Bicycle Boys. A while back, I was at a dinner with one of the most famous Bicycle Boys, whom we’ll just call Mr. New Yorker. Mr. New Yorker looks like he’s 35 (even though he’s quite a bit older) with floppy brown hair and a devastating smile. When he goes out, he usually has his pick of single women, and not just because the women want to get something published in The New Yorker. He’s smooth and a little sloppy. He sits down next to you and talks to you about politics and asks your opinion. He makes you feel smart. And then, before you know it, he’s gone.
“Hey, where’s Mr. New Yorker?” everyone was asking at 11 o’clock. “He made a phone call,” one woman said, “and then he took off on his bike. He was going to meet someone.”