It was Honda XR80 dirt bike. Cherry red. I got it from my dad. It was my birthday present. I ran out the door and into the driveway and it was there all glowing and perfect. I was eleven years old and we lived on many acres of country land and it was like a young adult book in the making. I was a tomboy with only a handful of friends because we lived so deep in the country and I was in love with this bike. I rode deep grooves into the grass of a football field large green space. I made a perfect circle that edged right up against a full creek bed. I rode over small hills that made me fly through the air and land like the boys in my motor cross magazines of the 1980's.
I would think all of my deep thoughts as I rode around and around the circle, sometimes up in the woods like a daredevil. I would throw my helmet off when my mother could not see me from the tiny kitchen window where she lived. I would let my long hair fly like squirrel tales, like flags. I learned that I could think all of my strange thoughts, all of the weird stuff out there on the bike. I could be fine with being different from my parents out there. I could be me. Sometimes I would let the few neighbor kids come over and ride with me. They would wrap their arms around my soft belly and squeeze me and scream and scream over and over. I would ride faster just to show off. My friend H and I would ride and scream out obscenities that we had heard from our fathers or the older boys in the back of the school bus. She had a mother who was dying slowly and as much as I thought I understood her I realize now that I had no idea how much power was inside of those dirty words we screamed throughout the Southeastern Ohio woods. Her dark thick hair flew like demons trying to catch us. We rode faster.
I burned my leg on the tailpipe one spring afternoon when I was out riding. It was the most pain that I had ever known. I limped towards my mother who was in the garden eating warm tomatoes with a salt shaker in her lap. She dropped everything and held me in the soft old dirt while I cried.
My dad sold the bike to his friend who had a boy. A boy who would not be afraid of a little burn. I didn't fucking care. I had tasted the danger and moreover, I realized that I could just go walking in those woods to think anyways. The wind would come sometimes. My hair would blow. People would want to be with me because I was dangerous. Even without a motorcycle.
And about a hundred years later I would lose a loved one to a motorcycle accident. And even inside of all the knotted grief of that time I kept thinking about how dangerous motorcycles were and how very scared of them I had become. I kept imagining his body so soft and the steel and metal so hard. I heard tires screech inside of my mind for weeks.
And my dad stopped riding his silver Honda too. Later, years later. I just stopped hearing the noise of it at night. I noticed that the helmets were gone from the kitchen linoleum. My mother had placed her tiny feet on the floor and told him no more. My father would not die on a bike out in a tiny hamlet somewhere cold. He would grow old with her. He would not be reckless with her heart.
And as scared as I am of the wheels that run the pavement, I miss the feeling of being behind him. I miss the feeling of holding on to his tight body wrapped in vintage jackets. My arms were like concrete on him. I would compulsively whisper to myself that if I let go of my arms, I would die.
You will die on this road and your brains will bounce like balls.
You will die if you let go.
I said it over and over until it became a song that I still sing.
But for one day I would give anything to wrap my arms around my father and have him run the roads of my youth. We would fly past trailer parks and farmhouses. We would speed like dangerous hillbillies. We would see the blur of our life. I would bury my head into his back and scream all the bad words of the world.