Would you just go away from the one you love because she thinks that you are an asshole? You don’t know who you are so why do you keep telling everybody else who they are? Why do you insist that I am wrong and “in error” when you cannot even see where you will be the next second? Was Jesus crazy when he said” judge not lest ye be judged?” I quit the debate. That’s my answer.
I will live or I will die. Which one it will be I don’t know. I’ve ridden more miles on a motorcycle than I care to remember. Fell asleep on my Road King in 93 not knowing if I would wake up or not it was so cold. When Barbara left me for that asshole Sayers I knew that I wouldn’t care where I slept after that. Haven’t been back to Sydney’s Hole in ten years since then. Barbara married and divorced the asshole, but not before he gave her three kids, the third one with leukemia, no less. Fuck assholes. They’re everywhere dressed like anybody, like you or me, like the dentist, the dentist is an asshole and you have no way of knowing. He’s doing something with your wife probably or somebody elses. Assholes are only remedied by Harleys and a lot of time on your hands. But what’s time if you got a Harley? I guess I’m wrong.
I feel sorry for Barbara, but what am I going to do? She didn’t want to be with me. I rode from Sydney’s Hole, Oregon to Portland, Maine in three days after that. Why Portland, Maine? Because it was as far away in this world as I could think of going on my Harley and remain in the United States, because I do, after all, love this country. I was in Portland, Maine for that winter of 93. I got out of Sydney’s Hole only to go to Portland. I think now that I was thinking of just going up north a few hours to Portland, Oregon, but got pissed and went to Maine. I’m glad I did it now. I left everything: my horses, my other Harleys, my six trucks all with ladders. I could give a rats ass anymore if Henderson Electric bit my scarred, old ass. I gave it to Johnny Two-Time, Ray Pierson, and said take the keys. Johnny sends me a check whenever I want it. That’s Johnny. I guess I’m lucky. I guess.
In Maine I rode a sportster with studs in the tires when it snowed. I stayed six months there at a ski lodge called Mersheau. We’d get ladies up from New York City who wanted to rollick in the snow with somebody other than their husbands. I was only too happy to oblige. Or if they came with their husbands, a lot of them would lose them. I knew that was true because they’d tell me. We’d sit up in bed afterwards and tell me what an asshole their husbands were, how their husbands were screwing their secretaries, just like in the movies. Everybody screwing everybody else. For the record, though, their husbands would leave after awhile at the bars with their buddies, because gangs of people would come up. Those gangs were the strangest social structures I’ve ever come across. Wives would sleep with husband’s best friends. Virgins would give it up, even to me. I wondered whether the loss of morals had something to do with all that snow everywhere. Maybe it was the cold, the icy freeze on the face and the way it made a person’s face look all red and needy-like, as if somehow those faces were ripe and what was ripe was good to take at the moment. A chic is sexy as hell standing there in ski boots sipping hot chocolate with her friends. She’s like a prize that nobody can take just yet because you never know where the emcee is standing waiting for his cue only in this case his cue doesn’t include giving you the girl, but includes punching your lights out. Everything was done on the sly. Everything. The coke, the weed, the ecstasy. Little college girls from Brown would ask me up to their rooms and I would snort coke off their bellies. It was what they wanted. It was what I gave them.
That’s what happened after Barbara. Come springtime I was the hell out of there though. Three states away I checked myself into a clinic and got off coke. It took me three weeks, but at least I knew what the hell was wrong with me. My eyes sunk down into my head and the whole time all I could think of was Barbara. I remember sitting there looking outside at my Harley parked in the parking lot, thinking Barbara would be happy to see me in a place like this. I talked to this guy named Stan Willis who was an alcoholic and had been having really mean flashbacks. Stan told me all about flashbacks, even LSD flashbacks. I’d never had one, except for the face in my sleep of Barbara, her eyes black with hate for me for something I didn’t even do. She looked down and hated me for not keeping her after she slept with somebody else. There’s no logic to that. When I left her she beat the shit out of me and I let her, I let her hit me in the face over 20 times and didn’t lift a finger. Christ, what the hell did I do. It really made me think. Christ. I still think about it. I can’t figure out what I did except for this: nothing.
I didn’t do nothing. I thought that to be married you just didn’t have to cheat on her. I never did, but it wasn’t enough. It’s the figuring of what you did that hurts. That’s what I did when I was in the hospital with my coke addiction like a sword with Barbara’s face over my head. The simplest thing I can think about the reason why she came to hate me so much was my Harley. Christ, I hate to blame anything on my Road King, but I think I’ve decided that my marriage broke up because of it. I try to reason everything through every day, but I can’t reason much anymore. My Road King was more beautiful than Barbara. But it’s not even that. It’s more like woman herself was in my bike. A man can’t ride, can’t fly on his own. He needs a woman to carry him over the hills. My bike became more than Barbara and I guess I was out of the house too much and when I wasn’t I guess I wasn’t quite there anyway. Sitting there looking at the ceiling wanting more coke, I had a lot of time to figure it out.
My bike was sitting outside the entire three weeks without once having been started. Marvin, an old black caretaker at the clinic jumped me. I dusted her gas tanks with my hand and rode off until I found a car wash and I washed her good. Checked all her fluids and all that. She was good. We rode about 600 miles that day until I could barely tell what state I’d gotten into. I knew where I was headed though. I’d called Barbara from the hospital and told her I was coming. She said she didn’t want to see me. I told her again, rather, I informed her that I would be there and she would listen to what I had to say. She hung up on me. I didn’t care. I was feeling okay, not wanting any more coke, smoking a little weed and about a pack of Winstons a day from on top of my bike and whatever rest stops I took. It was like I woke up in Nebraska. The hospital had made me a little pale. I felt like I felt when I was a kid getting out of the hospital after having my appendix out. I’d been fed sherbet and meatloaf for way too long. I wish I could talk about those six hundred miles of forgetfulness between the clinic and Nebraska, but I can’t, at least not well. I’d imagined whole conversations with Barbara in that hospital. We’d talked about everything, how it felt when Sayers dick was in her, whether she liked, what her feelings were when he was inside of her knowing she was still married to me. We got over that in the hospital because we talked like grown-ups. I told her I’d once kissed a girl who I took for a ride outside of The Pit where we’d go for Buds on Friday nights. She didn’t care. She just sort of told me that she loved me then and it probably wouldn’t have mattered all that much if I had or hadn’t. What worried her was when she was needing to be with somebody else. That meant I wasn’t there even though I was. That’s what she told me and I believed and knew that I blew it and that was why I needed to come back, come back right away. I needed to apologize for the way I wasn’t there for her anymore, the way that I would wake up in the morning and light a cigarette and blow smoke on her while maybe she needed a little love or something. I’d forgotten how to love and in the hospital when we sat there, her face above me, me trying as hard as I can to make sure her face stayed real and didn’t drift into becoming somebody else’s face, her mother, her sister, that chick I kissed on my Harley, I remembered that you have to remember to love and because I’d forgotten to love its very simple, the remedy I mean, the antidote to forgetting how to love is remembering how to love. That’s something I couldn’t do when she was with me. I forgot everything about her that I loved. That’s what ten years does to you. Ten years makes you think that everythings fine when in actuality everything is being torn away from you slowly, in little particle chunks, but chunks just the same. So you got to remember. When you look at her and see the face you’ve been seeing every night for all those years you’ve got to remember that that chin you used to kiss at the very beginning belonged to the same soul as you knew now. The body changed but the soul didn’t and when you marry its to the soul and if you forget that you become a liar because when you marry the preacher expressly asks you if you will love and hold and cherish forever this person and he doesn’t call her “soul” but you know that’s what he means. You know that if you don’t know that he means soul you might as well bail out of there, do Maine thing as quick as you can because otherwise you’ll be waking up with a stranger.
I won’t go into Barbara. I’ve said “soul” too many times already. Her soul was guiding her body when she went with Sayers. That’s strong. Coming home I didn’t want to fight it. She hadn’t married the guy yet and I wasn’t looking to get her back exactly. I don’t know what I was looking to do I just knew that when I got there I would know. I wouldn’t know if Sayers would be there. I could bitch slap him down in a heartbeat, but I didn’t want to do that. I really just wanted to go and observe what was happening to Barbara now that I was supposedly gone out of her life forever. I did Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada in a haze. I took to smoking pot while riding on those long stretches when no other cars were around doing 90. I don’t know what happened in that stretch. All that open space kind of relieved my mind from worry. I didn’t think so much anymore on the weed. I just sort of let everything go and hoped I wouldn’t die like I deserved or worse, kill unwitting family with my bike. The mountains in Nevada held me in a force stronger than anything I’d known. I hadn’t known Nevada was so beautiful, but it was Nevada that they meant when they came up with the lyrics in that song “purple mountain majesty.” I was keenly aware of road signs with distance numbers on them. I considered each mile to Oakland a pregnant moment that I needed to savor, but not let get to me. I was in a dream, the same dream I think I dreamed when I was a kid wanting to go out on that road with a Harley or an Indian or maybe a Triumph like my dad had. I was remembering those early rides, too, especially the ones with my dad, Hank, my dad, Hank.
I thought about him there, too. I remember when he showed me how to ride he sat behind me and held the handlebars on his 53 Triumph, his tattoo right there on his left arm for me to look at and wonder at as we rode. Annie, it said, blue type inside a red heart, the name of my mother. We rode out into the mountains. We lived in Redding then. I’m a hill boy. The red hills and towering pines went by and the cold air felt good with my dad being there and I felt safe. I hadn’t felt safe like that ever before and ever again. But riding through Nevada I felt that way a a little bit because I’d let Barbara’s face float away from me, sort of like placing her in the sky to take on the role of a star. She was there, but I didn’t know where. I sort of wish now I hadn’t lost sight of her on that last stretch towards Oakland. Maybe I would remembered how ugly she could be and it would have prepared me for what I came home to.