She was often seen on an old blue bicycle,
a vintage Schwinn with fenders and a basket, a "girl's" bike with no bar to straddle, so she could ride across campus while wearing her trademark long skirts. The bike could have come straight from the set of "The Wizard of Oz" but this girl wasn't channeling a wicked witch on a bicycle. She was just getting around, quickly and pragmatically.
This was the early 1980s, but like her 1950s mother, this girl had never owned a pair of Levis or any other kind of jeans. When the Rainbow Coalition emerged and asked students to show their support for gays by wearing denim jeans on "Jeans Day," this co-ed had only a pair of corduroys that had belonged to her great-aunt, hand-sewn in the 1920s, but sixty years later, they were comfier than any jeans money could buy. As fashion statements go, this woman who lived in her great-aunt's corduroys and rode her step-aunt's old Schwinn had one message:
I don't care if you like the way I dress, or think, or live.
And, sorry, I don't have a pair of jeans to prove I'm not indifferent to the sufferings of gays or any other minorities our outcasts, but failing to display "unity" is not a sign that I don't care.
She was comfortable in her own skin. On that awful, antique bike. In those dreadful long skirts and baggy sweaters that concealed her figure, because she'd learned her lesson in high school when the boys subjected to her something that wouldn't be labeled and outlawed for years to come: Sexual Harassment.
Lost in her own thoughts, she often failed to notice the opinions of others, unless the topic was literature. She read avidly and endlessly, and her best friends were imaginary people who'd been birthed in the minds of others, yet who came to life on the dry pages of wood pulp beaten down and rolled through a press.
She lives on today, but not with the same oblivion, not with that liberating indifference to the judgment of others.
She started to care what others think. She became acutely aware of the ways she failed to please, the things she failed to accomplish.
Whatever happened to the girl who rode an old blue Schwinn and looked ridiculous and didn't care?