Fall, 2005
Shoal Creek Falls, NC

A Biker's Tale

It all started with a phone call that never happened. Like so many things that simply didn't occur, it's an event that's hard to forget because of the hole it leaves in an otherwise seamless history.

I was involved with, a euphemism for stumbling-blind-in-love-with, a woman who lived not twenty minutes from my house. Not exactly the girl next door, but no one is when you live as far out in the woods as I do. She rides bicycles competitively, much like I fly, which is to say that we both run in small, insular groups with little overlap. Without the Internet we'd never have met, and we managed to Not Meet for the better part of a decade in a small town of less than twenty thousand people.

How many single, attractive, physically active, mostly-vegetarian, thinking, activist people are there in a small mountain town? The number is Vanishingly Small, as we mathematicians say, and we were both thrilled and astounded to have found each other. You'd be surprised how easy it is to miss someone who's standing right next you.

Some months later:

Still shell-shocked from my then-very-recent divorce, I wasn't quite ready for the kind of relationship I was rapidly becoming involved in: living together and slowly redecorating what had become Our House. Oh my ... There absolutely is such a thing a being commitment-phobic. There is also such a thing as being just plain scared. This was the latter.

Then:

Time passes. A dog howls in the distance. A tumbleweed blows by. The snow comes, and leaves. Spring comes to the mountains.

She's gone.

Just as a serious injury stops hurting as the patient goes into shock, after the soul-trauma of divorce I came to find that I didn't trust my own emotions. When finally did come to understand them, and learned to trust myself again, I wondered what it was I could possibly have been thinking. My God, what had I done? I looked through the letters we'd written each other, among the gifts she left in my home. I listened to the wind. I talked to the trees. Eventually I got smart and picked up the phone:

"It was just too much, too fast. I was scared, but wrong. I still miss you. Do you still want to see me?"

Never wear your heart on your sleeve when you can keep it where it belongs.

"Yes."

We meet once or twice, and things heat up very quickly. We laugh, and talk and wander in the woods. Things? Things are Good and accelerating to Very Good. Sometimes, I think, Things work out if you let them. Our days together turn into weeks, and the weeks blur is blissful, sunny wonderment.

Then, one day:

No return phone calls.
No return emails.
No reply on IM

Radio Gaga became Radio Silence. So I climb on the bike, roll to her house and ...

"Greg, this is David."

A hand is outstretched. "Hey bro'."

Time stops. A dog howls inside me. A tumbleweed catches fire. The snow comes quickly, and I shiver in the cold.

"Good to meet you, man."

I have just spoken the second largest lie ever told. I bear you no ill will, my brother, but I do so wish one of us wasn't here right now. You see, My Love has omitted one small detail: despite our conversations to the contrary, she's also rather involved with someone else and has been taking me on an extended version of the Pepsi Challenge.

I just met Coke.

The Moto Guzzi starts on the first try and I ride back to the mountain, tears streaming from dark sunglasses. Two guys with bike chains got a beef? Bring it. I'm Cool Hand Luke. Give a woman a piece of your soul and she scraps you for parts? There's nowhere you can ride that's far enough, no gear that's fast enough to outrun what's burning inside. It's one reason we bikers wear all the leather and dark, dark glasses. Open face helmets make your eyes tear up, and no one's likely to ask a big, tall, power-lifting dude in full leather if he's been crying. The softest things may come in the hardest shells, but it damn sure doesn't pay to poke them and see.

Summer turns to fall, air show season comes and goes, and Life does what Life does best. With or without you, Life keeps moving, keeps riding for the horizon knowing she's going to be there when I finally catch the sun, finally ride the rainbow to the ground, hoping to recognize her from the photograph in my heart. Life has a plan, I'm sure. She just doesn't tell me about it until much later; well after I've got it mostly figured out. Life, as they say, can be a bit of a Bitch.

Some weeks later:

The telephone on my desk rings, which isn't unusual at all, but you've heard this tale before so you know who it is.

"Greg, that wasn't what it looked like. I really miss you. Can I come by?"

There's a dance that asks and answers the questions we're afraid to speak, asks and answers in the old southern gospel Call and Response: Do you? Yes. And do you still? Yes. Will you always? Yes. Shall we dance? Yes. Words can defuse, devalue and disenfranchise other words in much the same way that it takes a thief to catch one. There's no denying the dance, though: Can you catch me? Yes I can.

She rides up to my factory in full Suzuki leathers, looking so beautiful, so happy, so hopeful. So we ride. We ride through the mountains, we ride along the river, we ride through our thoughts of being together. Eventually we ride to her house and ...

There's a red motorcycle in the driveway. Not hers, you see. The music stops. The dancers wait.

"He's not here. It's over and it has been for a while. Like I said, it's not what it looks like."

We talk and we laugh, and she kisses me like she means it. She says she'll call me tonight, that we'll Talk and that we'll See.

That was, as I'd mentioned earlier, The Call That Never Happened.

The email that came a week later said she was Confused, that it was Complicated. She also asked me to call, so I picked up the phone that evening with intent to commit telecommunications. You can always count on good old AT&T to connect you with the ones you love -- and to supply Caller ID when It's Over and everyone knows but you. Bastards.

"Hello?"

I ask for her, and get a weird silence.

"She's in the shower."

I ask if I am speaking to her oldest son whose voice has changed a bit

"No ... this is David. I live here too, you know?"

In contrast to the vivid color of being in love, the black and white of simply being replaced like a light bulb gone dim comes with a coldness and a silence that one would expect in a churchyard at midnight. Stone and steel replace song and flower. If you're not very, very careful, you can actually get some of that cold stuck inside you. I've heard it's really hard to get it back out.

Who are you, my love? Blonde or Brunette? Lawyer or Mechanic? I'll ride to the ends of the earth to find you. In fact, I'm already doing it. Somewhere behind the airspeed indicator, next to the tachometer, just over the horizon or around the next curve, I'll find you because I know you're out there and I know you're looking for me too.

An old legend says there's a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow provided, of course, that you never go looking for it.

Fools that we are we look, because today it might be. If not, it will be tomorrow. Or maybe the time after that.

... and one day, my love, I'll meet you there.

Copyright 2006 Greg Richter / IFR Music