It was the fight of the century... And nothing would be the same at its conclusion. The woman was older than me by two years, and had all the expectations of someone deserving of a home, children, and a man capable of making simple decisions. I wanted to be a writer, eventually, when there was no other way out. In the meantime I wanted to ride my motorcycle, drink, and get laid. I was 23 at the time, and couldn’t find fault with my logic. I was living in a shithouse of an apartment in Jersey City, which my father likened to the kind of place that Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason, in the TV classic “The Honeymooners”) would call home.
The woman had two points that were hard to argue against.
The first was that I was nailing someone on the side. The second was that I was going nowhere. My counter-points were as airtight as cast iron gauze. I stated that at my age, it is perfectly natural for a man to be suspected of nailing someone on the side, and that I could understand her tendency to question my occasional hard-to-explain absences, which were nothing more than research for a novel I planned to write in my late 40’s. As far as going nowhere, I was presently headed out the door for a weekend of solid debauchery, with a riding buddy named “Cretin.” Our agenda would embarrass a Marine drill sergeant. (Cretin had hooked us up with a couple of beauties who were going to dance naked around the campfire. This was one experience I thought any novelist worth his salt should personally witness.)
My girlfriend made the kind of face worn by an arch-villain about to confront Superman with kryptonite, as she produced a pair of panties she’d found under the seat on my Kawasaki H2.
This is generally the scene in a courtroom drama where the defendant breaks down and admits to owning the bloody hatchet. I did nothing of the kind.
“I found them,” I said, wearing my own face of righteous indignation, borrowed from Pontius Pilate.
“Up some stripper’s ass,” she screamed.
There is no point in trying to explain how a severed arm found its way into the trunk of a car... Whatever you say, it’s going to sound stupid. So I tacitly admitted my guilt by pulling on my jacket, kick-starting the Kawasaki, and riding off to meet Cretin. It was my intention to give the woman 20 or 30 years to cool off. The real bad news was finding a seriously inebriated Cretin rolling on the floor of the shithouse that was his apartment, in the arms of some floozie who was 80 percent breasts and 20 percent tattoo. Judging from the atmosphere — a combination of cigarette smoke, stale beer, and sweat — this marathon fertility rite had been going on for three days.
“Can’t make it this weekend, Reep,” said Cretin, who gestured to the babe with a shrug. “Suzie caught her boyfriend cheating on her and came to me for advice.”
This was one of those times when one guy looks at another guy, and that guy instantly understands that the only appropriate answer is the sound of a motorcycle pulling away.
The 1975 Kawasaki H2 was loaded down with my standard weekend gear: a small tent, a seasoned sleeping bag, Svea stove, Rice-aroni, and quart of rum. What it lacked was a destination. I headed north to New York State. Thirty-four years ago, the border between northern New Jersey and southern New York was where concrete suburbia abruptly ended at a tree-line that vanished into little valleys and climbed abrupt rises of 900 feet. The three cylinders of the Kawasaki ran like a tag team of Samoan midget wrestlers, who had some idea of a common objective, but who weren’t in perfect agreement on pulling it off. That engine ran a lot like my mind, in fits and starts, with an occasional backfire.
Just 90 minutes before, I was a happy guy who was slipping away for a weekend of non-stop screwing around with a go-go dancer, on a shit-hot motorcycle, with a friend who could be relied upon for staging mind-bending orgies, without the knowledge of my stunning girlfriend, who would greet me on Sunday night like I was a conquering hero. And now I was among the ranks of the abruptly single, riding off to a weekend of solitude, without a destination, while the best-looking woman ever to take off her clothes in my short life (up till then), was undoubtedly throwing her shit into a pillowcase, or anything handy, prior to walking out the door.
All over a pair of panties she found under my bike’s seat.
I could barely remember the panty donor. But then I sort of did. Hitting the open expanse of the New York State Thruway, I opened the Kawasaki’s throttle in turn and let it run. The steady outboard motor-like droning of the engine seemed to improve my powers of recollection. The panties had belonged to a blond I met at a local watering hole. She was amazed that I was a writer (not quite true at the time), and that I was working on a story (always), and that my primary character was a blond (34b), and that I was looking for someone who had the fierce beauty and savage sense of independence — to use as a model — in my story (Bingo). At some point that night, I’d clutched her panties to my face and told her they were scented with the passion of life — and that every word I’d ever write would be dedicated in some way to that scent. (Well, that’s been largely true too.)
I pulled over an hour later at a campground in Newburgh, NY. Setting up my camp was the work of a half-hour, and I prepared an hors d'œuvre by pouring four ounces of rum into a half-filled can of Coke. This enabled me to drink out in the open, regardless of local policy. Sitting at the picnic table next to the fire ring in my $14 campsite, I started to write a few things down in my notebook. Some of these statements would be useful in future relationships, like an accurate assessment of my short-sighted behavior with regard to my poor girlfriend. Never again would I hide a woman’s panties on my bike. There had to be a much better place.
I was on my third hors d'œuvre when a voice like butter asked, “Is my music botherng you?" The source of the question was a cute tomato sitting at the picnic table in her campsite. She had pulled up in a battered Volkswagen Beetle, set up a cheap nylon tent that was guaranteed to fall down under the insistence of heavy moonlight, and was strumming a guitar by the light of candle stuck in a wine bottle. She appeared to be a senior in college.
Oblivous to the music up until that point, I replied, "Of course not. Will you play some more?"
"I play my best music by candle light. What are you writing?"
“These are notes for my novel,” I said. “Care for an hors d'œuvre?”
Turns out she had just left her cheating boyfriend. Worse, the bastard didn’t take her music seriously. I thought her rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” was quite good enough. I took her music very seriously.
Copyright Jack Riepe 2011