Unimelb Field Guide

The Parkville Push-bike

15 May 2017

There is a Push-Bike that’s not owned by anybody. It looks like the other push-bikes people pedal around campus, but it’s different. It picks its own parking spaces. It locks itself to a rack outside Baillieu or it leans on the Cussonia Court fence, under the tree. It counts the leaves that have come off and twisted to the pavement. (Last time, 337.)

It is difficult to describe the Push-Bike’s physical features, because they shift. Its shape depends on who is watching. Some students who walk past will see a racing bike with flattened handlebars, but for others they will be curved. The bicycle could appear battered with bent spokes and a patched seat or be glossy and vintage-style with cloth flowers wrapped to the frame. It could fade or shrink or gain gears. It could grow a wicker basket.

On weekdays other bicycles are cluttered around campus, but by the time it gets dark, most of the parking spots have cleared. This is when the Parkville Push-Bike can jitter around the Uni. If it’s windy, it chases stray coffee cups. It likes the texture when its tyres touch their cardboard. It is calmed by the sound that they make as they crumple.

Sometimes college residents who’ve lingered too late in the library hear its wheels whir and its gears click as they walk home. Sometimes taxi drivers glimpse it. They see its spokes glint in the streetlights when it crosses Grattan Street on its way down towards the law school. (It likes resting in the park there. 53 trees and 1 fountain.)

The Parkville Push-Bike has no voice, but it knows language. It also knows it has a mind because words keep flickering in it—phrases, sentences and other fragments. Some are always there, imprinted. Others are loose and flick through it like pavement-leaves. (∞.)

Sometimes the Push-Bike needws language. Sometimes it needs it to stop. At night it often tries to set itself a pronoun but gets nowhere. ‘It’ makes no sense to it, but ‘she’ and ‘he’ make less.

The Parkville Push-Bike does not want to worry anybody by moving without a person, so it has vowed to be more careful on main roads re: taxi drivers. It will double check Grattan is clear of cars now, when it crosses. It has boycotted Swanston altogether. (7-Elevens. Late trams.)

By 9 a.m. the Push-Bike likes being outside the MSD. It clips itself somewhere it can see into Standing Room, because it likes the glass wall and the plants. It likes the people leaving with soy lattes, and bagels in paper bags. At 9 a.m. there are so many.

At 3 a.m. there is no one. Or, no one except the people skating in the park. They glide across the concrete, skidding, twisting, trying tricks. They have spiked hair and nose rings and no pronouns and their calves are grazed but elegant. Sometimes the Parkville Push-Bike needs to hear their skateboards clatter. It leans nearby and wonders what shape they would see in it.

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