“Mr Invisible look at the flowers in bloom
You stay in your secret room
always so quizzical!
Mr invisible why don’t you ride on your bike?
Why don’t you do what you like?
You should be physical
It was nonsense of course, but everytime he heard the 1968 “Toytown” style hit by The Young Groove, Geoff was reduced to a state of panic. After the panic, a dull ache of regret and embarrassment seeped through him and he, momentarily, had to put his head in his hands to hide the frozen horror of his facial expression. Even years later on the morning of his retirement.
Surely the whole office knew, surely the pretty office assistant knew, surely the annoying red faced office wag knew, surely Steve Wright in the Afternoon talking all over the end of song knew. He could see it in their eyes and hear it in the tones of their voices.
When he’d first heard that number, through his sister’s transistor, the shiny new bike given to him on his ninth birthday was standing in the hall, unused, red, and brand new. Dad’s last attempt to make him rough and tumble.
Something rose within him, a purple mist of hope, an urge to be seen, a need to have friends, a desire to be admired, an instinct to inspire parental pride. Like Pinnochio his hope of being a proper boy led him astray.
He walked out on the pavement, a surge of confidence rising in him like a mighty wave and then, with no practice, no helmet and a set of limbs that had always disobeyed him he’d mounted the bike, tottered, …….and crashed.
Watching were the girl next door, the local bully and know-it-all Phillip Coleman……..
The laughter and humiliation stayed with him far longer than the grazes and tormented him like homemade jumpers and Aunties that kissed you. He went back to being Mr Invisible.
He saw Phillip Coleman at a meeting years later and Geoff avoided eye contact, because, though Phillip never mentioned it, he could see a cloud of disdainful memory around him.
Geoff got a life, he had a wife and kids and friends and was only dragged back into his sad childhood occasionally by things like the song or friends suggesting cycling holidays but no one ever called him a confident man. He made very sure his own children had proper cycling lessons early.
On the first Saturday of his retirement, he stood the local community track with 16 children under age of 10 and a jolly plump woman with a disability. He was wearing a helmet, and knee pads and elbow pads. His instructor did not patronise him. He mounted his brand new bike.
He fell over 17 times. But after four hours he could stay up, brake, weave gingerly round cones and, with difficulty, stop at the fake traffic lights.
And since that day the Young Groove and the girl next door and the local bully and know-it-all Phillip Coleman and the pretty office assistant and the annoying, red faced office wag and Steve Wright in the afternoon talking all over the end of the song, have never tried to tease him again.