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RIDING THE WHITE LINE: A Memoir on Two Wheels/ Connie Oehring THERE ARE IMAGES SHARPLY fixed in my memory from my youngest sister's disappearance in 1980, though most of them are things I never actuaUy saw. One is the face of her murderer, who in the weeks before her death stopped his car twice to offer me a ride as I walked the mUe and a half home from the bus stop. Another is a confused vision of this man dragging Doris off her bicycle and into his car. Nobody saw this happen, but it comes to me when I try to understand her death, to comprehend an essentiaUy senseless act of violence. Sometimes I remember my sister's blue bicycle lying in the ditch, with her backpack stiU strapped to its carrier. I never saw this either, but nine years after her death I coUected the bicycle from the coroner's office and brought it to my older sister's house. She still has it, at the back of a storage shed, though I doubt anyone wiU ever use it again. I caU these pictures memories because they are the way I remember what happened, and they have shaped my Ufe in ways that her murderer, now dead, could never have imagined. A couple of years ago I bought a new bicycle, replacing the old Huffy Olympia ten-speed Td had for fifteen years. It had been years since I bicycled regularly, or at aU, though I kept the old bike with me, moving it into new sheds, basements, and yards everywhere I Uved. When I moved from Fairbanks to Boulder, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I had gone anywhere without driving my car. When we first arrived in Boulder, my husband and I Uved a block from the campus where I was a graduate student. I walked everywhere and had to fight often overwhelming attacks of terror to do so, especiaUy after dark. I rode the bike a few times, but never with pleasure. I told myself it was too old, needed too much work and money to put it into reasonable shape. In truth, there were stall too many specters, which untU then had been inhabiting neatly locked closets, to aUow me to move easily The Missouri Review · 199 through open air. DayUght walks and hikes were okay—actually, anything in company was okay—but when I was alone, a feeling of imminent danger accompanied me everywhere. On at least one occasion, walking home after dark from a friend's house two blocks from mine, every pair of approaching headUghts sent me into a panicked crouch behind the nearest hedge or tree until the car had passed. GraduaUy, however, my terror eased. As it did, an awareness of what I had lost crept into me. I wiU never again move or breathe or Uve anywhere thoughtless of my own safety. I spoke two times to a man who would have kiUed me if the circumstances had varied by a hair—if he had met me a Uttle later or a Uttle earUer, if I had been smaUer, like my sister, or a shade less alert. My luck may have been my sister's misfortune, but the point is that we were both keeping company with death and were obUvious of its nearness. Before I faced my fear—which took years—bicycling was an easy thing to give up. After aU, it had always been frightening on one level; I did know the Uteral danger of exposure on a flimsy, unstable pair of wheels to the fast-moving automobUe traffic in which cycUsts must mix. However, that risk was manageable; I could always persuade myself that I was too smart, too careful, and too quick to be in much danger. This second level—the more visceral exposure I felt, raked by aU of those passing eyes and not knowing what kind of notice they might be taking—was different. My sister's kiUer cruised the highways and saw her as an easy target. Whenever I throw my leg over my bicycle, I know that I could become that kind of target for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 199-208
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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