A Taste of the Bitters
I went motorcycling yesterday. Have I told you I love motorcycles? The power of them at the least – fairly predictable. A grown up version of girls and horses. I am a fool for a guy on a cycle. This doesn’t sound like a bitter tale yet, does it? Be patient, it will come. So anyway, Tom, the mechanic, came by to pick up my car, well, really it was my son’s truck, and he, Tom, was riding a Harley. I melt. That’s true, just melt into soft and girlie.
“Ooh,” I gush. “Ooh. I just love motorcycles.” What could he say, well, really?
“Would you like to take a ride sometime?” Oh, for Christ’s sake. Is there a question? Yes, there is a question, in fact. It is an issue this – motorcycles and riding… Gone are those wild and carefree days in college when I hopped onto a bike with Joe or later John. I was wearing a bathing suit that one time, and you know there were no helmets to speak of. Well, we rounded that bend almost horizontal and then onto the San Diego Freeway, and zoom over to the fast lane. We were trucking. Oh, yeah. Maybe eighty or who knows what. The wind was buzzing, humming, rushing, and I let go – I spread my arms and legs, almost naked in that bikini, and my long black hair pulled back into wings, streaks, like a cartoon character shot out of a cannon, those kind of black lines behind me, and I was screaming. Can you hear it? I am screaming, “YOW,” in bold type.
Well, I tell you, uh huh. That was something. That ride and all the rest. Well, really before I was an adult and all that brings to bear. I mean, I worked in a hospital for a few years. My job was to go into all those rooms with those young hunks, those cool cats, all hooked up to pulleys and rollers – those guys’ bodies tortured into loop-de-loops by motor cycle fiascoes. I was the one who made the arrangements for them after discharge. To the rehabs where they would adjust to the disaster of wheelchairs and catheters, to bedsores and pity. Jeez. That was a lesson learned.
So when I had kids, boys no less, I sat them down, they must have been under five, I sat them down on little stools, and I made one thing clear. “You will not ride motorcycles. Do you get me? You can do anything you dream of – but no motorcycles.”…
“Just one ride,” I say to Tom. “It’s too dangerous. I might die.”
We go riding on Wednesday – yesterday it was. Tom picks me up after work. He doesn’t look like a biker. He’s chubby and tall with thinning hair combed to the side. Maybe he could grow it long and pull it into a ponytail like those guys at Johnny’s Ice Cream Parlor do. Have you been to Johnny’s this summer? All those bikes in a row, maybe thirty or so of them, and all the biker boys and girls, well, actually they’re all at least fifty years old, they’re hanging out in their leather and fringe and beards and tattoos eating ice cream and drinking coffee. Like a big AA meeting on the streets. Tough mixed with Candyland. A pink montage with a skull and crossbones in the center.
Anyway, Tom tells me to dress warm, and I jump into jeans and a jacket and climb on. Already I know happiness. Just the throwing of a leg over the black leather seat makes me shiver. I wrap my arms, mindful of where they are landing, I wrap them around Tom’s waist, and we take off. Oh yes – I am wearing a helmet. It’s 2017, and much has been learned. I yell, “Hey, Tom, I don’t want to die, okay? Promise me you’ll be really, really careful.” Tom grunts something I can’t hear, and then we’re banking a curve, and off we go. A ride in the country. Trees, green, cows or some blur of an animal image, and by Goshen I am all fluid. The bike swirls this way and that like the tides. A pure sea and surf cresting venture. I am screaming, ‘YOWIE’ but only inside. I am too old for all that now, am I not?
Or am I?