Sunday, December 26, 2010

Riders in the Storm: Chapter Three

The Story of a Lost Love. Part Two

A great calm came over the sky. The rain ended more abruptly than it began and a careful gaze at the clouds would reveal traces of desperate moonlight.  Some bar goers took the break from rain as a chance to get settled for the night. They shuffled off to damp motel rooms and homely RVs. Those who remained at their tables stretched out into much needed space and the stormy revel of the roadhouse turned tranquil. The serenity of the weather would not last long. This was the eye of the storm and it would soon pass. 

In the corner, the riders listened on as the rider with the green helmet described the most important ride of his life. 

“I rode beyond my knowledge and skill. The fear of crashing and dying didn’t count for much in light of everything else that I could lose. So I pushed harder than anyone on the road could understand. I passed a motorcycle cop with a speed gun, but he didn’t follow. He knew I would be across state lines by the time he caught up with me. I wouldn’t have stopped for him anyway.”

He was suspended in his panic. All of the anxiety of his life was in his throttle hand, until the man himself ceased to exist and the only remainder was the bike on its harrowing trajectory. There were no cars, no cops, no roads. Just one person in one place and the brutish necessity of finding her before she disappeared. He could scarcely recognize it when it came upon him, but as he tread the exit for the airport he realized that he had been riding with hope. The sun was only just starting to set, but across the horizon he could already see the moon creeping beyond the clouds.

He made a parking space where there was none and shuffled through a moderate crowd to the departure terminal. He searched frantically from person to person, unsure if her hair was the same, if she still wore the clothing that he knew to be her style. He saw only a river of meaningless faces. 

Then a voice called his name. 

For a moment he was afraid to turn to face her, as though she were Eurydice and he Orpheus. As though turning back would forever banish them apart. But he turned and their eyes met and he breathed deep and exhaled every bad thing that had ever happened to him in his life. They embraced and he felt the surprise and joy in her body. There was little time, but together they walked outside where they could settle their lives in the nakedness between heaven and earth.

He told her that he knew that she was headed into something new and that he was happy she chose to make those moves. But he wanted to have a place again in her life. He wanted to reclaim the connection, to be a team again. He said that his bike had finally led him down the right road and that he didn’t want to ride another mile unless he could travel it once again in love. 

She saw in him everything she had ever wanted. She remembered all that he hoped for and knew the weight of the promises they made to each other long ago. Tears were falling before she opened her mouth to speak. 

As the riders listened to this final unfolding, the first of a million rain drops fell upon the roof of the tavern. Lit candles flickered as people came in from outside, seeking shelter yet again. While the commotion returned, the rider with the green helmet was transfixed upon the past, as though he were still there and simply relaying that which he could see plainly. 

“What did she say?” asked one of the riders. The rider with the green helmet cleared his throat and took a breath deeper than a fathom. 

“She looked down for a long while and arose with a face of sorrow. Then she told me that this moment was a testament to the world’s cruelty.”

She told him that her movement to a new place untold miles away was a reflection of her internal transition. She had developed new concerns and new dreams. She was prepared to face greater difficulty than she had previously known and the defining mark of this transformation was her finally letting go of the hope of their reunion.

She said that she had sailed through her whole life with him as an anchor, deep beneath the surface but always steadying and secure. He was one of the many anchors she had put down over the course of her life and she had felt no need to remove them. But like all people who have aged closer to dusk than to dawn, she was eventually confronted by the weight of her past. She saw the contingency of the responsibilities she had claimed. She saw the futility of her fantasies and the bitterness beneath promises that she had made. She had allowed life to confine her and one day she decided to shed it and grow a new skin. So, with great anguish and difficulty, she sloughed him off as well. She still loved him. She would always love him. But she could no longer allow herself to think that the way things might have been was a way that they still could be. 

It was in that moment that he understood the emptiness at the heart of all promises. The man who commits a crime reforms himself and becomes something different, so that he no longer deserves the sentence he is serving. The woman who promises forever can also become someone different. Her promise could have had the weight of the world when  she spoke it but now it is a vestige of a self long past. As the ground fell away beneath him, he understood that promises were the weapon of the insecure. 

“I had been holding her in place, reducing her to the past, unable to see that she was just like me, a person who needed to change, to grow into something else. My desire for her was a desire to recover so many things that I have lost over the years. I had to realize that it was too late. It was the hardest thing that I had ever done.” 

The rider with the green helmet left his beloved and the thought of her at the airport. He walked out to his bike and donned his gear. He rode away quickly, so that he would be forced to look at the road ahead and unable to look back. 

“It began to rain as I left the airport. A cold drizzle that brought the oil to the surface of the road and put a chill in my bones that has been there ever since. I must have ridden for weeks after that. I didn’t want to stop until I had found something else, something to ground me, to keep me in place. That thing ended up being the bike itself.”

The riders sat quietly at the end of this tale, as had become their habit. The rider with the green helmet wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and looked down into his drink as though it were a drowning pool for his grief. Then he took a drink, for that is exactly what it was.

Outside, there was no thunder. But the clouds rained on.


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