I should tell you about the trip I took on my motorcycle a few summers back. You know I don’t like to work too much if I don’t have to, and at the time, I’d set enough money aside from helping assemble those modular homes for about a year. I stuck with the guy until his business folded, which I thought it was gonna do, and made a lot of good money doing that work. That’s the nice thing about working really long hours—you don’t end up having much time to spend the money. Usually the women I’m with help spend it for me, but being married to a woman who works changes that, too. Lori sure wasn’t the type of woman I usually got involved with, but our relationship was much more practical than any that I’d been in before. And she knew that it’s good for couples to spend some time apart now and then to keep from getting sick of each other. So when I’d been out of work for a month or two, not only did she not mind that I wanted to take a trip on my bike, she encouraged it. Maybe she just didn’t like cooking for me every night after she got back from work. So I set out on the new Harley with about a thousand in cash and some camping gear. No map, no plan. I had enough pipe tobacco to last me about two weeks; I’d probably turn around after the first week to head back.
I take the back-roads when it’s possible, taking part in the scenery. I must’ve picked the perfect time of summer for my trip, because the weather was beautiful. The sky was bright blue with sparse fluffy white clouds and the plains and woods were thick and green. The wind was nice against my face, not too cool, and the sun warmed me, but not too hot. I enjoyed the ride, feeling all the while like a part of the world around me. I popped onto the interstate in Colorado somewhere after about five days of aimless riding, wanting to speed the trip up a bit so I could go through Taos. I’d been through a number of times in the first years that I was riding bikes, so I didn’t want to miss out on it this time. Maybe I was just feeling nostalgic.
I got on the interstate near a city, and apparently there was some kind of accident or construction slowing things down. Traffic was merging from the left lane to the right, but there was a whole lot more traffic than there was road. I was on a westbound road and looking for the southbound connection, so I’d already been in the right lane for a while. As I got closer to the bottleneck, I ran into more and more people who weren’t looking out for me, trying to roll into my lane because they didn’t see me. Nothing pisses me off like people in cars who aren’t looking out for motorcyclists. The sun beat down a little harder when the wind wasn’t blowing through my hair, and I must’ve avoided half dozen collisions in the space of a half mile. I was getting close to my exit, so hope was in sight. Then I saw that the left lane ended just where the exit began. People were still squeezing in, showing no regard for those of us who were already in the right lane. When I came within ten or fifteen yards of the exit, I could see that a jeep on my left side was going to try to edge into my lane. They pulled ahead of me by a bumper and then I pulled ahead of them by a fender, and we took turns being ahead until right when we got to the bottleneck. The last of the cars ahead of the jeep merged into my lane ahead of me. It was down to the two of us and I was clearly ahead of their front bumper by a full front tire. I looked over at the driver for the first time; he was looking back at me. His girlfriend looked at me, then at him. She rolled her eyes at him and folded her arms over her chest. He accelerated, edging into my lane. I pulled forward to keep him from getting in front, but he wasn’t stopping. He tried to get around and I continued rolling forward, and soon his bumper was within a foot of my bike. I stopped and looked over at him. He looked pissed off and threw his hands up as if to say that I should have let him in. He started to creep forward, getting even closer, so I reached into my vest for the gun I keep in a shoulder holster. As soon as he saw me reaching for it, his eyes got really big. He cranked the steering wheel to the left and hit the gas, driving over road cones into the closed lane. I could hear his passenger screaming as they headed down the closed lane of the highway, probably looking for a spot where they might be able to try again to merge. I edged forward in my lane until I was clear to exit to the right.
Aside from that little moment of excitement, the trip to Taos was pretty relaxing. The heat got worse as I continued south from Colorado and became unbearable in the last stretch before Taos. I stopped under an overpass at one point and sat in the shade, no breeze to cool me off, and drank some water. I took off my shirt and put it into my saddlebag, content to drive down the highway with only my vest on. When I rolled into Taos, I stopped at the first little bar I passed. I had quit drinking years before, but I am usually more apt to run into my types of people in little bars like that. Even if there weren’t any people to talk shit with, I could get a burger and a coke and enjoy the air conditioning. There was only a car and a bike in front of the place, and I looked forward to some peaceful relaxation, not always possible at seven o’clock in a bar.
The cool air hit me like a city bus when I opened the door. The sweat on my face and arms felt like it froze on contact. I went in and found myself a comfortable seat, tossing my vest on the booth before pulling on my t-shirt. I walked up to the bar and ordered my coke and asked for an ashtray. I glanced over at the three people sitting at a table on the other side of the bar, a man and a woman sitting close to each other with their back to me and a woman opposite them who smiled at me when I looked over. Right after smiling at me, she looked down at her drink, which she was stirring slowly with a straw. I recognized that quick smile; I’d seen it hundreds of times before. When I’d been a drinker, those looks were sure signs that I’d be going home with someone that night, or fighting someone’s boyfriend or husband, anyway. I didn’t seen that look nearly as often when I stopped drinking, and it felt good to see it again. Some of my tension and frustration from the heat and the highway wore off, my shoulders loosened up and I walked back to my seat with a newspaper I’d found on the bar. I sat and smoked my pipe, reading through the paper to see what was going on in the world. Every once in a while I’d look up when I went for a drink of my coke and meet eyes with the girl on the other side of the room. She smiled every time. I did my best to smile back without giving her the “I’m gonna take you home” look. After half an hour or so, I walked back up to the counter and asked what kind of food they offered. The bartender let me look at a menu and I picked out a sandwich. I went back to my seat to wait for the food.
As the bartender was getting my plate together, the woman from across the room walked up to the bar. She spoke briefly with the bartender, turning to look in my direction after a few words. The bartender looked at me too, and then nodded to her before she walked back over to her seat. He brought me my sandwich and asked me if I wanted something to drink, “on the lady.” I told him that I was okay with the coke and looked over at her, holding up my drink and nodding as the bartender walked away. She smiled. When I’d finished my sandwich, she walked over to my table.
“Hey there,” she said. “You didn’t want a drink?”
“No, but thank you,” I said, “I just don’t drink anymore, is all. I appreciate the gesture.”
“You seem like you’re a long way from home. You need somewhere to stay tonight?”
“Well…I appreciate that offer, too,” I said, showing her the backside of my left hand, wiggling my ring finger, “but I’m married.”
“If you change your mind, handsome, this is where you can find me.” She placed a napkin on the table before walking away. “Have a good night, either way.”
She and her friends left the bar, but business had started to pick up while I was eating, so there were a few handfuls of people for me to sit and watch as I smoked another pipe. I looked at the address written on the napkin a few times, contemplating the whole thing. As it was right now, I’d have to go find a spot somewhere and set up the tent. I usually didn’t have a problem finding places to set up where I wouldn’t be bothered, it was just a little one-man pup tent that fit into my saddlebag when it was all wrapped up. I stayed in the bar for the rest of the night, sipping coke and occasionally talking with people about the weather and my trip and bikes. When the bar closed at one in the morning, I walked out the front door and thought about what I’d do with myself. I decided to at least go see what the woman’s house looked like.
I pulled up in front of the house, which hadn’t been too hard to find, and looked it over. It was a small ranch-style home and the porch light seemed to be the only light in the place that was on. I sat on my bike for a few minutes, thinking about my wife and our marriage. I couldn’t ask for a better wife. I thought about the little tent and sleeping alone, and I thought about the woman who’d been so bold as to invite me to stay in her house. I got off my bike and walked up to the door.
After a few sharp knocks at the door, I heard stirring inside. She pulled open the main door slowly, peeking out at me with sleepy eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“No, no, it’s okay,” she said. “I told you to come if you changed your mind.” She closed the door and undid the security chain. She opened it again and opened the screen door. “Come on in,” she said, “the bedroom’s this way.”
“Uh, before we go there,” I said, “I want to let you know, I don’t want to take advantage of this situation.”
She gave me a funny look and then motioned to the seats in the living room. I took a seat as she wandered off. I thought she might be telling me to sleep on the couch, but soon she came out with a can of coke and a glass of water.
“You’re probably one of the strangest guys I’ve ever met,” she said, taking a seat next to me as she handed me the coke. “You want to just talk?”
“Sure,” I said, not sure where to begin. She started, though, telling me that she didn’t usually ask random guys to come stay the night at her house. She explained that she’d been divorced for about three months and knew most of the guys that lived in the area, especially the ones who went to that bar. She didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. The loneliness of the divorce really began to set in during the last week or so, and when she saw me walk into the bar, she knew that it might be her only chance for an indefinite amount of time to meet a new guy. I talked to her about my marriage and what my life had been like before, when I was still drinking. I told her that she might’ve had me for a lover if she’d met me three or four years before. She laughed and said it was nice just having some good conversation. We talked about other things, sitting up together for at least an hour or two before it was obvious that both of us were growing tired.
“You can still sleep with me,” she said after I yawned in the middle of something I was saying, my yawn causing me to forget what I was talking about. “I think you’re about ready to get some sleep, and I am too.” I looked at her, amazed that I was at the same time more and less inclined to sleep with her then than I had been when I first arrived. I’d gotten to know her and cared about her feelings, so I didn’t want to sleep with her, but I’d also grown to like her and felt reassured that she wasn’t crazy or clingy, and felt more attraction because of that.
“I don’t know. . .” I said.
“I don’t mean have sex, either,” she said. “Lay in my bed; hold me; sleep. That’s it. Even if I wasn’t too tired for sex, your wife sounds too cool. I would kick your ass for her if you cheated on her,” she said, laughing. I smiled and she led me to the bedroom. We got into bed, she in pajamas and me with nothing but jeans. It felt good to hold her, new and exciting, and I could imagine how easy it would be to start having sex. It’s so natural; it was a conscious effort to keep myself from going there. I did, though, and soon I found myself dripping into a soft, relaxing sleep.
In the morning, I woke to the smell of bacon and pancakes. Soon the woman, I’d rather not say her name just to be safe, came into the bedroom.
“Rise and shine,” she said in a harmonious voice. “I’ve made some breakfast for you!” I smiled at her and sat up in bed. She went back out to the dining room, where I joined her after splashing some water on my face in the bathroom. We ate a nice breakfast and drank some coffee. I smoked a pipe and we talked a bit more. Soon it would be ten in the morning, and I wanted to get on the road before it started to get too hot outside.
“Meeting you has been interesting,” I told her as we walked to the front door together. “I’m really glad that we didn’t do anything stupid.”
“Me too,” she smiled. “I think that I liked sleeping with you more than anyone else I’ve ever slept with!” We laughed for a moment, but soon fell silent, smiling as we looked into each other’s eyes. She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. “Drive safely,” she said, letting the screen door close in between us. I stood and looked at her for a minute before turning to walk out to my bike. I climbed on and started it, looking back up at the door one last time. The main door was closed; she was nowhere to be seen. I rode off, eager to make it back to my beautiful wife.