It is overcast and rather cold outside. The people walking by on the street beneath my window are wrapped up tightly, with little white puffs coming out of their mouths.
Today is my last day in Vienna, and it is gloomy, sad, depressing, heavy-hearted, a day filled with the weight of introspection, considerations of things undone, loves unloved, books unread, streets unwalked, sights unseen, words unsaid, in short, a perfect day!
Bicycling is normally a freedom thing, casting shit aside and pedaling on a light machine with nothing on but your stretch undies. In Vienna on a gloomy day, however, bicycling is a kind of indentured servitude, the bike is a heavy rental thing, slow, unresponsive, and you are bundled up in wool and dangling clothes that threaten to, but never do, get caught in the spokes.
The bike paths enforce slowness, and the criss-cross of pedestrians slows you further, and every little while there is a red light, always red, at which you must stop. One does not run lights in Vienna, it is unseemly. It shows you are not Viennese, and in a city filled with tourists what is more important than pretending you are not one?
Slow, gloomy cycling is a beautiful thing. You don’t go very far and you certainly don’t go very fast, but you see everything, the cobbles, the Turkish bakeries, the cigarette butts, the people issuing into and out of the subway stations.
You see the streetcars, none of which is named “Desire,” but all of which could well be named “filled with grumpy people,” which is not nearly as sexy until you think that under all those grumpy clothes there is in fact quite a lot of sexiness. Sexiness in Vienna is swaddled in grumpiness, grumpiness and cigarettes.
Last night I drew my bike up to a red light. There was no traffic and I could have easily kept riding but, unseemly. A grumpy young woman in tight jeans stood next to me, smoking a cigarette. A grumpy bald man came up to her. “Hey,” he said, imperiously.
She removed her earphones, grumpily. “What?”
“Can I have a cigarette?”
“Sure,” she grumped, and fumbled one clumsily onto the pavement.
He scooped it up off the ground as she proffered a light. He sucked the end red. “Ah,” he said, gushing forth smoke. “Thank you!”
She put her earphones back in and nodded in a grumpy, sexy kind of way. The light turned green and I pedaled on.