I was twelve years old when I got into my last fist-fight and that girl beat the shit out of me so badly it would be years before I’d ever ask another one to be my girlfriend. Her name was Angela, though everyone called her “Chicky.” She was the personification of a Tomboy, with the scrawniest of butts, the boniest knees, and a smattering of freckles across a smudge of a nose. Her hair was a mousey brunette, but my mom said you couldn’t go by that unless you saw it washed. She was the first girl I ever heard use the word “fuck,” and she preceded it with the modifiers “that stupid” when describing a bully who lived on her street.
I thought she was beautiful. We’d pal-ed around as kids for a couple of years, before I started to notice she was a girl. I got the shit beaten out of me for my growing awareness.
Her family moved away shortly thereafter and I asked another girl to the movies three years later. She said, “Yes,” and I was amazed at how painless the process actually was. This is nature’s way of bamboozling the male of the human species into thinking life actually works like this. I would ask many women many things over the course of the next five years (sometimes on the verge of pleading) and there was never a rhyme nor a reason as to why some said “yes” and why others would spit on my shirt and laugh. But it got to the point where I had an outfit made of teflon, so their venom and spittle would run to the floor without sticking.
I thought that riding a motorcycle would recast my image into that of a biker... The kind of guy who rode from place to place, acquiring honeys like bugs on a windshield; yet always moving on solely to prevent them from experiencing the pangs of a broken heart. My friend “Cretin,” who was once married for two weeks, explained to me how women would hate a guy who just left after a couple months, while still wanting him; but would truly despise some simpering wimp who was always trying to kiss their ass in a painfully enduring relationship.
“What is the difference between being hated momentarily and despised in the long run?” I asked.
“Being hated momentarily might give you another shot at it a few months later, if you meet her at a party or something” said Cretin. “Otherwise it’s about the same. But if you’re not there, what do you give a shit?” Cretin could run rings around Plato, Aristotle, and the planet Saturn when it came to irrefutable moto-man logic.
I was going through one of my occasional romantic dry spells (which I used to think could be fatal) and that damn 1975 Kawasaki H2 (which I bought new, earlier that year) was useless in remedying the situation. Real biker chicks scorned it and the only Jap bike that was getting any notice that year was the new Honda 750, which even sounded like real quality. I decided to get out of “Dodge” on the evening in question, and loaded the bike down with the usual camping crap for a couple of nights in the woods. On my way north, I stopped by my college campus, where a raging quad party was in progress. It was the first party of the year and there was a lot of new talent standing around. But my eyes were riveted to a couple hot-dancing to the strains of Led Zeppelin.
Actually, my eyes were riveted to the gyrating ass on the woman.
Her every movement accented denim lines executed in perfect curves. Her hips swung in delicate balance, like a sexual pendulum, offset by long hair that moved from one shoulder to the next. She was modestly endowed, but what she had was flawless. She was wearing a flannel shirt, rolled at the sleeves, and loosely buttoned at the top. She had grabbed a cowboy hat from some asshole, and it just made her look great. Today, I can’t look at Jessica Alba in “Sin City” without thinking of her.
She was dancing with a guy off page three of the Rob Lowe eugenics handbook. The guy was rail thin, tanned, and dressed like he bought his clothes from “Joe Cool.” I couldn’t help thinking, “What must it be like to undress a woman like that?” And, “what must it be like to see her move around like that naked?” While some guys would have been uplifted just to see her dance, the performance left me in the clutches of an acute desire with a jagged edge. In fact, I could feel it pressing against my jugular.
I went over to the keg to grab a fast beer, where a mob of the newer kids were filling cups with foam.
“Not like that,” I snapped. “Do it like this...” I grabbed a cup from the kid’s hand and managed to fill it two-thirds full of amber liquid, with one-third head.
“Thanks,” said the kid, reaching out for the beer.
“No problem,” I smiled. Then I drank it and handed him the empty cup.
To me, beer tastes like liquid bread... And man does not live by bread alone. I had a bottle of Irish whiskey on the bike and I wanted a taste in the worse way. I wanted to feel the bite of the whiskey in my mouth and its burn in my soul. But I knew if I went back to the bike I’d ride off without unpacking it. Two guys on the edge of the crowd were passing a bottle of Scotch and a joint. It was “Fast Eddie” and “Little Joey,” two social lampreys that had the low-down on everything low. One sold really shitty pot and the other sold anything he could get his hands on.
“Yo, Reep,” said Fast Eddie, offering me the joint.
“I’ll take the bottle,” I said.
I love whiskey, but not Scotch. The difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch is that the barley is malted in distilling the latter. And then the fine Scotch single malt is run through fire-blacked oak casks into which three dozen, unwashed jock straps are thrown. To my refined taste, Scotch is the closest thing to unrefined piss. But this was the whiskey of the moment, in my hand. I took a swallow for effect, and another for penance.
“I got some other action on campus,” said Little Joey. “Wanna come with us?”
“The only other action you ever had was with your left hand,” I said, with a laugh. “I’m gonna ride.”
I wanted one more look at the hottie in the jeans. She was gone. Presumably with the eugenic cyborg. I turned to go, and walked right into her.
She looked at me with a half-smile and a half scowl, and said, “The last time you tried this, I beat the shit out of you.”
I was momentarily stunned. Up close, she was far from beautiful. But she was desirable.
“I’m tougher now,” I said.
“I’m looking for something to drink,” she said. “You got anything?”
“I got whiskey on my bike.”
“Better than Jack Daniels...”
“What’s better than Jack Daniels?” she asked.
We settled into the shrubbery about 50 feet from the bike and passed the bottle back and forth for about an hour. She filled me in on the last seven years. She’d met the cyborg in a bar someplace, and he’d brought her here. She was surprised to see me. I was surprised at the dent we’d put in the whiskey.
She put her head up against my shoulder, and I breathed in the scent of her hair. I swear a woman’s hair is the source of the pheromone that helps men find them in the dark, or on foggy nights. Sometimes it becomes the combined elusive scent of their perfume, their conditioner, abnd the natural fragrance that is as unique to a woman as her fingerprints. I had my arm around her and felt the gentle curve of her slight breast. I told her that in my next life, I wanted to be her flannel shirt.
And then I closed my eyes, just for a minute.
The first songbird of the day was just warming up when I opened them again, around 5am. The slightly damp ground was leaching the heat from my body and some part of me ached. I was alone. Both the girl and the whiskey was gone. I stood up and pissed in the bushes that had hidden me from the street all night, and went over to the bike. The rucksack on the sissy bar was slightly askew. When I opened it, her flannel shirt was on top (and one of my tees was missing). I covered my face with it and took a deep breath. The scent of her was strong, but it would fade soon. She hadn’t laid a finger on me this time... And yet I still felt bruised. I imagined her peeling that shirt off in the middle of the dark street, and felt that jagged longing again.
There is something to be said about careening into someone’s life and then leaving while they still want you. But it’s much better to be on the careening end. I fired up the bike and roared out of Rutherford, NJ at first light. The late summer air is almost cold in the morning, and I shivered as I headed to a diner about 30 miles away for coffee. I would never see her again... But I carried her shirt on that bike for a year. I always thought I’d get the chance to re-install it.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011