This is something I wrote a long, long, long time ago…
I stood stone-like at midnight, suspended in my masquerade. I combed my hair till it was just right and stared myself down in the mirror. I had just shaved and this time there hadn’t been so much as a nick. I had a sort of reddish-tan color to my face and chest, from working in the hot sun all day, which I thought made me look a bit more steely, a little more solid.
Tonight was just like any other, but I was going to make it different. Instead of putting on sweatpants and a t-shirt to go to sleep, I put on a new pair of jeans and a perfect white baseball jersey. The sleeves were rolled and cuffed just enough so that if I flexed my arms they had to stretch a bit, but otherwise they hung in a not-too-arrogant fashion around my biceps. I didn’t wear a belt, I never did. The classic, all-American black Chuckies on my feet attracted no attention, but somehow hinted that I wasn’t the sort to be toyed with. A cheap watch on one wrist and a leather bracelet on the other, chosen with care to accent my tan, spoke of a civilized ruggedness. And my beaten leather jacket, well, it gave my whole look an invaluable, subliminal cinch.
“Sometimes,” I thought, “I amaze even myself.”
I crept silently out of my window. The cool air was refreshing on my almost-sunburned face. I stood at the end of my driveway and stared up into the night sky – Orion’s arms were thrust out open to me, like they always were in the summer. A solitary cloud quickly flitted past the moon and I was, for a moment, struck by its beauty. With a sleek, silver Zippo I flared a light to the self-destructive cigarette clenched between my teeth.
I only half-wanted to quit. Part of me was still brainwashed by those classic Marlboro man cowboy ads. Part of me thought it was macho and brash and rebellious and wild. But part of me was a starry-eyed little boy who oh so much wanted to be like daddy. And part of me cried every time I put a “cancer stick” into my lungs because I knew it was the paradigm of all my insecurity and need. Part of me said, “Screw you, world! I’ll kill myself slowly and painfully if I please.” Part of me said, “I’ll grow up and quit this wicked habit when you grow up and realize that you damn well can get into a relationship with me without having to destroy our friendship.”
But all those parts were quiet as the wisps of smoke curled up out of my mouth, through my lips, to dissipate into the night. When the butt began to blacken, I dropped it and scrunched it soundly beneath one black Converse. I fished around my jacket pocket, found an apple-flavored Jolly Rancher, unwrapped it with caution (to avoid swallowing a piece of cellophane) and popped it into my mouth. The nicotine tar taste was almost, but not entirely, washed away by the sour apple.
I pulled on a pair of black leather Isotoner driving gloves and walked towards my pride and joy.
The motorcycle was a gift, left to me by my dearly departed California grandfather. It was a thing of beauty, the motorcycle. All black, with blood red accents. Where he got it or why he left it to me, I didn’t care. I wheeled it out to the end of my quiet block and turned the ignition key. It rode quickly and egged my ego better than twenty hero-worshipping fifteen year old girls. I straddled it like one would a beloved thoroughbred, gunned the engine, and tore off into the black night.
Good sound systems, and in fact radios period, are rare to motorcycles. But I had worked my ass off two summers ago to afford to equip mine with a CD player and a pair of speakers mounted close to the handlebars that were loud enough to be heard distinctly, even over the roar of the engine. Now I slipped a movie soundtrack disc into the player and a once-popular Kenny Loggins’ song came blasting out to surround me and complete my charade.
I tore down Riverside Drive – 90, 100, 120 miles an hour. Maneuvering the curves like an experienced “400” driver, cruising the straightaways as fast as I dared – and faster. I didn’t have a helmet on, didn’t think about it. If I die, I die. No muss, no fuss. More existential than macho – I was exhilarated to feel the air crashing against my face, and even though it was night and dark, I wore a pair of Ray – bans so my eyes wouldn’t tear up in the wind.
When I got to the end of her street, I put the kickstand down and the sunglasses in my breast pocket. My timing, as always(!), was impeccable. I didn’t have to wait five minutes before I saw her walking towards me. Like a person who’s just been told he’s won a million dollar lottery, I held my breath at the sight of her.
The wind tossed her hair and tousled it about her face. She held her own arms as she came closer, and I could see even the tiny goosebumps that dotted her skin. The most beautiful wonder any one human should be lucky enough to behold, I thought. Her expression was tired, but there was a smile in her eyes as she kissed me on the cheek.
No words were exchanged, we didn’t need any. I loved her and she loved me and she didn’t protest when I put my jacket on her cold shoulders. And now two sets of legs straddled my mock thoroughbred, and she wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her flushed cheeks in the white cotton muscles of my back.
And again I tore off into the black night.
The music was different now, a Cheap Trick allegory about flying in the night. We sped on towards the ocean, and though she had no idea where I was taking her, I knew by her arms around me that she trusted me completely. And with that knowledge I trusted in the night.
Twin condominiums on the beach, their towers rose majestically stories above us. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore and Berlin sensuously pulsing from my speakers surrounded us. It had been almost a year since we had been on this spot together, but she remembered it as the place where we shared our first kiss. A crazy, stupid, clumsy thing it had been – two drunken friends hedging curfews and experimenting. There hadn’t been any romance or rhythm, just beer-flavored lust and sweaty palms.
But now we had returned, a lifetime’s full of experiences and loves had matured us beyond the time that had passed. As a lover I cradled her face in my hands, and as a friend I told her I loved her; the words barely escaping my lips in more than a whisper. She knew, and she kissed me, and I wanted to cry at the perfection of it all.
We held each other close and tight, and the rest of the universe melted away leaving only the two of us there: lovers and friends in a million inexplicable ways. We smiled and we giggled and we laughed until we cried at the craziness of life. I reached behind me, and our song came out of the speakers, and we kicked off our shoes and fell down onto the beach.
We talked and we kissed, and we grew closer again, like we always did. We shared more in a few minutes of conversation than most married couples share in a lifetime. This time there was no beer and there was no lust. We saw ourselves in each other’s eyes, and we made love in the sand, and we said goodbye to our youth.
We fell asleep like that, and the alarm on my watch woke me up with just enough time to speed her home to her warm bed and flannel sheets. When we kissed goodnight, neither one of us wanted to part, but the rising sun was a harbinger of urgency and we went our separate ways.
She snuck into her house and our song remained on her mind even as she drifted off to sleep. I flew home with it blaring louder than I could sing. When I snuck into my house, there was a red rose and a heart-shaped pillow on my bed…and I knew they were from her.