My bike got nicked last week, which initially presented itself as an experiment in consciousness, a magic realist problem: it had to be there, because that’s where I’d left it. And yet it wasn’t there. I spent a shamefully long time just staring at the place it had been. Later, I tried valiantly to insert some false memories, where I’d moved it somewhere else; then I went to look over there, where it still wasn’t. I gazed around for security cameras, as if I would have a clue what I would do next if there were any. I’ve seen Slow Horses. All you need to do is find a camera, make a call and punch someone. But there weren’t any cameras.
The next morning, I returned to the area, just to do some more walking around. Maybe the thief had experienced a fit of conscience and abandoned the bike. Or had become somehow vexed by it. Maybe if I stood in the vicinity for long enough, the bike would scent me on the air and return of its own accord.
It took ages to accept that it really had vanished, and then another century (three days) before I stopped thinking, “Huh, where’s my bike?”, and repeating the circle of realisation and acceptance all over again. I moaned about it, constantly; borrowed other bikes, whinged that they weren’t as good; had a sub-category of whining for lost accessories, water bottle, lights. I whined so much that my mum said she would buy me a new bike, which forced some self-reflection. That lasted about five minutes, before I was off again about its lovely markings, and the tragedy of its brand having closed down in 1995.
When you have a useful thing worth money and regularly leave it outdoors, ingenuity and an angle grinder will come for you in the end. You have to see yourself not so much as the bike’s owner as its foster carer, and just hope its next home will appreciate it. Someone tell my brain all that, anyway, because this is ridiculous: I feel as if I’ve lost my horse.
• Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist
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