Squeezing between bodies as I made my way to the back of the bar, I brushed up against a tall lean figure standing with his back to me. He turned in my direction and as I glanced up I found myself locked into the wild eyed stare of an infamous local legend.
I stumbled all over myself in an attempt to make conversation with him as I struggled to regain my composure and be my flirty self.
It was no different than the first time I met him two years earlier at the tender age of 15, time stopped and the only place I wanted to be was where he was.
Playing it cool wasn’t even an option. The physical reaction from being in such close proximity to this man coupled with the knowledge that my best friend who had an on again/off again relationship with him was safely half way across the country, left me helpless from preventing what I inevitably wanted more than anything I’d ever wanted before.
I felt it right away, that I’d be leaving with him. I knew by morning’s light I’d know what it felt like not only to be on the back of his bike, but to be in his arms.
I never left his side for the rest of the night, too afraid that any sudden movement could cause a shift in direction. This felt fragile and too delicate to survive if not handled with the most extreme care. I wanted nothing to jar us back into a reality where there was no us.
And then there was an us. I brought him home and he stayed. When he left, I left with him. We rode slow past store fronts and vainly looked at our reflection. Leaning casually back against that high sissy bar was worth every bruise on my spine and the fender of that chopped out panhead, with my legs wrapped around his waist, was my favorite place in the world.
His friends became my friends, and when he spoke of future plans I was in them. We purchased a cheap van together, along with some tie downs for the bike and began making a plan to head out to Colorado.
News eventually got back to my friend and I received an angry call from her. I offered no excuses, just a weak apology. She was pissed, but she seemed to get it. She knew the pull he had.
It made me sad to have betrayed my friend, but if that was the cost of being with him it was worth it. Being with him was everything, and then some, that I had felt that afternoon 13 year old me had her first ride on the back of my uncle’s friend’s bike, by the end of which I knew I had no use for boys my age and there was nothing like a modern day outlaw…A biker.
So while I may have been honestly sorry to hurt my friend, I was more than willing to do it. It wouldn’t be long however before I felt the bitter sting of betrayal myself.
My own on again off again relationship, the one with my mother, was recently on. She was living nearby to the house I resided in. She had begun to make attempts to get sober and was going to AA on occasion.
She had been in and out of so many detoxes and rehabs. It was a pattern that would continue for years to come. At this point she appeared to be sober and genuinely interested in a relationship with me, and I was in a space where I was feeling grateful to have her in my life.
I was excited when I introduced her to this man, and made no secret of the fact that I was crazy about him and the happiest I’d ever been. I could tell she wasn’t immune to his charms and I loved that he had that effect on everyone, but chose to be with me. I wrapped all my self-value up in that feeling.
“Come on, please. It’ll be fun, and I’ll do our laundry while we’re there”, I said to him as I snuggled up on him and attempted to fully wake him from his half sleep state. Begrudgingly he gave into me, and I assured my mother we would be there for dinner that evening.
That’s the memory I would replay in my mind for the next three days. How he didn’t even want to go.
That and especially how he had initially turned her down as we sat around the table, in front of dirty dinner plates, and she asked “Is there any chance you would give me a ride to my AA meeting on your bike?”.
He hadn’t wanted to, and just like I’d gently persuaded him to join us earlier, I again cooed, “pleeeease, don’t make her take a taxi there”.
He reluctantly agreed.
As I stood there at the kitchen sink, and heard the loud engine fade into the distance, leaving just the rhythmic noise of the dryer turning in the background, I reveled in the contentment I had found in this simple moment.
The time passed, and he didn’t return. My mind raced with possible explanations, most not good. He was only to drop her off a few blocks away, and then return.
Did they have an accident on the way there? Did he have one after dropping her off? Did she convince him to stay for the meeting? We were all trying to stay straight, perhaps he stayed with the intentions of checking it out and then giving her a ride home? Maybe he saw someone he knew, there or between there and here? Before or after he dropped her off? It was all just speculation.
Questions and guesses floated through my mind, but the one that kept pushing all the others to the side and coming prominently to the front, was the image of them together, together in a way that made me sick to my stomach.
I knew the truth and I hated myself for basically orchestrating it. Who did I think I was to trust them?To trust life? To believe I could have both a mother’s love and a man I adored…
I was a fool, a fool washing her dishes and doing his laundry.
There are clear moments in time where a divide occurs. A before this event, and an after this event. I’d experienced them before, and I knew this was one. Nothing would be the same, nothing could bring me back to the “before this happened”.
I wanted to die. For the next three days, I basically invited that outcome. I swallowed handfuls of pills that I didn’t even know the names of. I slept drug induced sleeps, and when awake walked around groggily telling anyone who’d listen that my mother and boyfriend had disappeared together. Even through the muted chemical haze, I felt raw and exposed, and lost. So lost.
Then the call came from my roommate ,she called over to the house she knew I was at and told me he was home. She said “calm down, there’s an explanation, don’t freak out”.
I walked past the bikes parked in front of the house, his amongst them, and angrily threw the door open. Before I could do little else, he was holding me, leading me into our room. Those beautiful brown eyes, filled with shame and regret.
He told me nothing happened between them, to get that thought right out of my head. He said it was just a relapse on drugs. A poorly timed crack binge, and nothing else. We could move past it, we could start over. And then he said “I love you”.
That’s all he had to say. If he hadn’t said a single other thing, that would have been enough. I believed that he loved me. I had to. I didn’t care if somewhere in me I knew he was lying about my mother. The fact that he cared enough to want me to believe it hadn’t happened was enough.
The fact that he was standing in front of me, shoulders slumped, eyes sad, speaking softly, and professing love, was all more than enough to make everything in my world ok again.
Maybe I had been wrong, maybe this wasn’t a defining moment in time. Perhaps this was nothing more than a blip, a barely remembered rough three days, that would hardly stand out amongst a lifetime of adventures with this beautiful man standing before me.
I suppose it could have gone like that, but nope…not if my mother had her way, and she of course did.
He told me my mother couldn’t go home and was riding with one of the other guys now, and that was fine by me. He said he and his friends had some business to take care of and they would be back shortly to pick us up.
After a lingering kiss goodbye on the lawn, I walked over to the curb my mother was sitting on, and took the spot next to her. The happiness in my heart matched by the rumble felt in my chest from the four or five nearby Harley’s starting up and roaring down the street.
I turned toward my mother, I was smiling, I felt light, but then I recognized the contempt she held for me in her eyes.
It all happened so quickly. Had her words been fists there would have been no time to shield the blows, she verbally lashed out with a devastating speed, and it fell on me as painfully as any physical attack could have been…”are you stupid? Of course we slept together, we fucked the whole time”…
Stunned, I was crushed by the weight of what she was saying, she continued “the plan was to come back here and get his stuff, leave together, but then he hits with me that he loves you and wants to stay, tells me to ride with this other guy, fuck him”.
In the moments that followed I felt the familiar disconnect that had always been between us. I was not her daughter, just another player in her story, someone who did her wrong, as so many had in her twisted mind. Once again the world had been unfair to her, denied her, her due share.
She looked old, she was bitter, unwanted, and it stole her beauty right before my eyes. Had I been a stronger woman, I could have felt pity for her, but I wasn’t. I was a 17 year old child, trying to make my way in a grown ups world, completely untethered, and desperate to belong somewhere. I hated her. I’d always hated her for her rejection, she was at the root of every fear I had.
I completely succumbed to the rage rising up inside me, and now before she could shield the blows, I was on top of her, swinging wildly. Telling her with every hit, how pathetic she was.
That evening there was the usual traffic that came with a party house, and either some passerby or perhaps even one of my housemates, was promptly dragging me off of her.
Given the opportunity, she ran for the house, I broke away from the arms struggling to restrain me, and chased her. As more people stepped in, in an attempt to gain control over the situation, she was somewhat shielded behind bodies. I wildly grabbed anything within my reach and threw it in her direction. I didn’t care what I broke, or who I hit. I wanted to hurt her. I desperately wanted her pain to match mine.
Somebody was shouting to “please stop, we don’t need the cops here”, and then somebody was screaming at me to take the phone.
It was him on the phone. I don’t know if someone knew where to call him, or if he had just happened to call during that time, but I took the phone, and calmly told him “come pick up your shit, it’ll be on the lawn”. He said “don’t do that, go wait for me in our room, now put your mother on”.
Without saying a word, I turned toward the corner of the kitchen where she stood protected by strangers and extended the phone in her direction. She took it, put it up to her ear, and before she could get more than a word out, he told her to sit at the kitchen table and not say anything else. He hung up. We both listened.
I laid motionless on the bed we shared. The house remained eerily silent. Eventually I heard the bikes pull up, the front door open, and then there he was, standing in the doorway of our room.
We looked at each other sadly for a moment, he shut the door, and took his place beside me. He held me while I sobbed.
I never wanted to move beyond this room. There in his arms I found the safety I had been looking for. The protection from her that I needed. And he understood.
We eventually spoke, and the only explanation he offered was that she had money to pay for the drugs if he’d take her, so off to Brooklyn they went. His official justification for sleeping with her …”it was like something I’d read about in Easy Rider”.
He asked me what he should do about her now, did I want him to go out there and tell her to leave?
I thought about it for a second, looked up at him, and said “she rides with your friend, let’s go tell her”.