“Thanks for the ride, mom,” Evan yelled, running to be on time.
“Anytime,” I said. As I pulled away, the latté he’d forgotten slid off the dash, bounced against the seat, and burst all over, soaking my favorite Coach bag, a remnant of better days.
“Dammit, Evan,” I swore.
I had pulled to a stop sign on the always-deserted side street I took going home. I was head-down, hurriedly sopping the mess with old napkins from the glove box, when I heard an abbreviated honk. I was almost done. More insistent honks. Irritation on high, with middle finger blazing, I threw my arm towards the back window at the idiot, sat up, and put the car in gear as blue lights flashed in my rearview mirror.
The honker was a tall, blue-uniformed tank of a man straddling a Harley. It was the popular model for most of the Seattle Police Department’s motorcycle units. The sight of it was exhilarating. I didn’t know if it was that, or fear, but I could hear my heart pounding in my ears.
“Really? He pulled up close to my window with an incredulous look and dismounted.
“You could get stabbed, shot, or worse, around here. What are you thinking?” He railed on about crack dealers, and other horrors, like I didn’t know my own neighborhood. I turned off my engine and took some deep breaths, trying to calm my heart rate. Avoid stress; it’s all I’d heard for months.
He paused, I smiled. He certainly wasn’t the worst thing happening in my days lately. Maybe it was my stoic acceptance of his rant, perhaps it was the sad, threadbare scarf tied loosely over my head.
“Honestly, I’m not normally so rude and obnoxious.”
I handed him my license and registration. Did I smell Eternity? It wasn’t me, it must be him. I smelled like a hospital. Wisps of hair were trailing out from under my scarf. On top I was still trying to hide the fact a couple rather large patches hadn’t filled in yet. Cancer (with no insurance) had taken my house, my car, my savings, and my hair. It could take me, too. I was tired.
“What are you doing here anyway?” He smiled, his tone ratcheted down a notch.
“I’m dropping my son off at work, that homeless shelter right there.” I pointed.
I hadn’t worked since my last round of radiation. When the economy tanked, my bootstraps broke. Pulling myself up by them had become a bad cliché we’d been trying to employ for the last five years. While the officer called in my information, I leaned over to get the wet latte mess and stuffed it in an empty grocery bag. This was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. If I ever got back to normal, and being social again, it would be a great tidbit to tell over cocktails. But wanting what had been was really fucking with my chi. I’d taken up meditation, acupuncture, and several alternative practices in my process of figuring out how to live peacefully in the moment. All that Zen shit hadn’t kept me from flipping this beefy cop the bird.
“Ruby, you’re off with a warning.” His gravelly voice was kind.
“Thank you, officer, I didn’t realize you guys rode Harleys,” I lied, as he swung his leg over the hog and stood it upright. “I’ve told my son since he was a toddler that, one day, I would buy a pink Harley and ride off to see the world.” Christ, was I flirting?
He laughed. “I didn’t know they made pink. Do you ride?”
“No, it’s a pipe dream I keep thinking might eventually come true, along with owning a car made in the same decade I live in, and writing a billion-dollar novel.”
“Want to take a ride? I have a new bike at home I need to break in. Davis Richards, by the way. And, you’re Ruby Swenson: green eyes, brown hair, a wanna be biker, and Evan’s mom.” I shook the hand he held out.
“You know Evan? Did he tell you that?”
“Great kid, yes we’ve talked. Things come up at the shelter. Your name was mentioned a few times.” Davis handed me his card.
“Uh oh.” I sighed.
“It was all good.”
We talked a few more minutes and planned to meet the following weekend. As he pulled away, my heart sank. There was no way I could be pretty by then.
When Evan got home that night I told him I’d met Davis.
“Nice job getting out of a ticket,” he teased.
Davis and I had marathon conversations over the next few days, going without sleep some nights. I felt ready for this.
That Saturday night, after dinner and a shot of Patron, we headed into Davis’s garage.
It took my breath away; the shimmering orange gold aura was hypnotizing. She was a 2009 Dyna known as a “Street Bob.” Harley Davidson did amazing work.
“I’ve just become a believer in love at first sight,” I sighed.
Laughing, Davis feigned a spit shine, and pulled me over to use my shirt cuff to polish the spot. I stumbled, then it was just like in the movies — slow-motion and everything — he caught me, our eyes locked. But, the cancer poster girl look I was sporting made me push away, grabbing at my flimsy scarf that had gone askew.
“Hey, what’s going on under this isn’t going to change what’s happening with us.” Davis’s large hands adjusted the paisley print; then he kissed both my cheeks.
“So, you’re learning to ride. Lesson one: holding on.” In one fluid movement he straddled the bike, hitching me up behind him.
“Now is all there is,” he said, revving the throttle and wrapping my arms around him in a hug. I was close enough to feel his heartbeat caress my cheek, and I definitely smelled Eternity.
After being told by family, friends, teachers and employers that she should be a writer, Kristine Dukes is finally giving it a shot. She was rewarded with a “do-over” which happens sometimes in life when extreme circumstances present themselves. She went back to school to finish her BA and is majoring in English with a writing emphasis. She got some validation for this when she won 1st place with a creative non-fiction essay in the President’s Writing Awards at Boise State University, which made her brave enough to try submitting new stories to other venues. She hopes you hear from her often.