Bike Messenger

My bartender tells me that different parts of Columbus are home to different pests. “Old Towne East is definitely known for cockroaches,” Elijah said. “I think the Hilltop is known for rats. Lots of small fields over there.” He moved along the bar’s countertop that separated me and him, wiping as he walked.

I’ve heard Clintonville is bed bugs. Mice in Westgate (and Elvis impersonators).

In East Franklinton where I live, my neighbor Mike says we’re known for rats and mice, but I’ve only had a problem with mice.

Mike warned me that, in the “bottoms,” as he says it’s called, it’s best to keep your head down and speak only when spoken to. There’s always a possibility of threat, he says. Even walking to the corner store.

“I’ve lived here for 17 years Nick I still got jumped down over there in that alley. These young kids don’t care what you got on you they’ll still take it.” He calls me Nick sometimes when he drinks.

And he hasn’t lived here 17 years. He told me that later. He just moved back from North Carolina.

I first met Mike on my front porch with my friend, Ryan. Mike heard us sitting and walked over, leaning against the banister that wraps the porch. Only his shoulders and face were visible above the weathered white plywood wall of the banister, which stands three feet top-to-bottom above the weathered grey porch floor.

On my porch, there are more reasons to cast a wary, sidelong glance at approaching noises than on a porch in Granville, where I grew up. Like a shoe scuff on the sidewalk that I can hear before I see the figure that it’s attached to through the holey latticework of leaves climbing up the neighboring fence. It’s not really the noises that spook me. They’re normal noises, mostly. It’s just nice to see the noise.

Sometimes I don’t want the noise to see me. Like when a truck slows in front of the blue house diagonally across the street, and I lie back on the car seat that found its way from the back row of a Yukon to my porch a month ago. I turn my screen brightness down.

Though I don’t play music too loudly on the porch, an occasional lilt of a synth will reach my ear as it drifts from across the street when the blue house is charcoal-grilling on his front step with his dog. I wondered where his dog was the evening that I saw him sitting in the back of a police van out front of his house. He’s out now, and I’m glad that we can continue our daily ritual of waving as I drive to work, except on mornings that he’s at work earlier than I’m awake.

Before I wave to him, the house across the street greets me from her porch as I get into my car. I always wish I had more time to talk to Judy. I don’t think I’ll see her as much now that it’s getting colder.

One night, Mike and I argued outside Judy’s as we walked home. He told me that I should’ve taken the gas money that his niece offered me. I told Mike that I didn’t need it because I considered driving them a favor. By the time we’d reached the house across the street that got evicted in June, we reached an understanding. “If you didn’t want the $15 I could’ve used it but it’s okay I love you Nick.” I miss the kids who lived in the evicted house.

I should’ve taken the money. Friendship based on favors is not what Mike and I are looking for.

Mike has given me one thing, though. When I found a bike in my parents’ shed and brought it home, it was the first time I could ride to nearby spots in the city. Riding made these places even more enjoyable.

Once Mike saw me riding home from Double Happiness. As I was fumbling with my door keys, he yelled hi and walked over from the porch that belongs to the couple next door, where he’s staying for now. They share a Wi-Fi bill with me. “I’m not gonna lie to you Nate I’ve never lied to you. I wouldn’t ride my bike at night in this part.”.

Now I don’t ride at night. I also steer clear of the corner store where a man told Sara that she looked like Pocahontas while we were buying airheads. I bypass this corner by taking the side street, the one that starts in front of the houses who walk by my portion of sidewalk on their way to the gas station. They're friendly kids. 

You have to be careful of the tight turn between the gas station entrance and Mound Street where I once cut off a fast car, and when they yelled at me through their windshield, I kept driving past my house, just in case they cared where I lived. But that’s an easy spot to avoid on a bike. Nothing’s really over there.

Good riding music is something with variety in tempo. Sometimes you want a tune to pump your legs to. Other times you want to glide. I like music that can capture the ups and downs of pedaling through both. This quality also makes it a good soundtrack to the neighborhood in general.

Now I ride freer, fidgeting to find the right cord position to get my left earbud to work.

Art by  Andrew Davalos , a photographer and painter in Chicago. Model:  Aunty Chan .

Art by Andrew Davalos, a photographer and painter in Chicago. Model: Aunty Chan.


  1. The Stood - Masta Ace
  2. Lil Baby (ft. Ty Dolla $ign) - 2 Chainz 
  3. Sippin On Some Syrup (ft. UGK, Project Pat) - Three 6 Mafia 
  4. Splattitorium - The Pharcyde 
  5. Knocked Off (ft. Birdman) - Young Thug
  6. Killed Before - Young Thug
  7. Black Ice (Sky High) (ft. Outkast) - Goodie Mob
  8. Go! - Killer Mike
  9. They Say (ft. John Legend, Kanye West) - Common
  10. R.I.P. Kevin Miller - Isaiah Rashad
  11. Brujas - Princess Nokia
  12. Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin') (ft. Yung Joc) - T-Pain
  13. John (ft. Rick Ross) - Lil Wayne
  14. Gamin'On Ya - People Under The Stairs
  15. Get Dis Money - Slum Village