The Child and I decide we like biking – we like it a lot, as it happens. We live not far from the Sammamish River Trail, which is flat, scenic, and this time of year, at least, relatively empty. You can pick up some serious speed if you want to, which is extra fun if there are some leftover puddles to ride through.
We head out on Sunday afternoon. I notice there are mile markers and start to count how far we’ve gone as we head north toward Woodinville. The Child seems to be outgrowing her bike, I think – but she seems happy and maybe I can eke one more year out of this bike. I don’t have the money for a new one.
My own bike, meanwhile, is fifteen years old, and although it’s barely been ridden in that time, it’s also barely been maintained in that time: when I shift, the gears make a crunching noise that can’t possibly be right.
Still, we’re out and about and seeing things around us. Ducks in the river. A heron. Someone has knitted colorful striped sweaters for some trees. We stop and take pictures.
We head further north. We count mile markers.
We pass a man looking at something in the river – I don’t notice him, but The Child does, and whatever he sees, she wants to see it too. We screech to a halt, then backtrack.
A tall red-haired man is standing at the side of the river, taking photographs of what appears to be an otter. He points it out to my daughter, who starts digging through my pockets for my camera so she, too, can take a picture.
There’s another one I saw before, he says. I think it’s an albino otter? I don’t know if there is such a thing. It’s all white. It’s disappeared now.
The Child is moving closer to the water, down a fairly steep incline. The tall red-haired man notices this and heads off after her.
Be careful, he says, don’t go much further. It falls off pretty quickly from there.
His tone is gentle and polite. The Child stops. I walk over closer to them.
We chat a bit. He prefers walking to biking, he says, because you go more slowly and can see more. I compliment him on spotting the ferret.
He says, no, not a ferret – an otter. We had a ferret once in our backyard, though.
We, I think. Too bad.
He clarifies: My ex and I, I mean.
Ah, I say. I think I may be smiling a bit but I don’t feel stupid or obvious. I try to think of a way to mention that I also have an ex.
It does not occur to me.
The Child returns. I got a lot of pictures! she says proudly.
I’m Barry, he says, reaching out to shake her hand. We introduce ourselves.
We run out of things to say.
We go our separate ways.