The other night I stepped into brisk darkness beneath the faded light of a few tenacious stars and rode unknowingly into the mechanical revelation of my past selves.
As of late the night sky has become a map that, patiently and with reference to tech, I can decode. It means much less to gaze into that infinity alone, but like a fool I have been looking. The light of the city is a damper on the sky so I have been searching for distant darkness in the midst of an open tree line. So it goes and so it went the other night.
I slid on the fast jacket and eased a warming engine out of the carport, over the crunch of fallen acorns, onto the subtle camber of the street. As soon as I hit motion, a cool humid breeze sifted around leather and plastic and brought goosebumps to my skin. I chilled at a series of red lights, listening to my breath, until finally the road opened up enough for me to drown everything under an open throttle.
Open, but not flat out. This is the dark we’re talking about. A loss of visibility is also, strangely, a loss of feel. Anticipation is a crucial element of sensation. If my horizon is brought up short, those opaque corners are shaded by fear, or at least by possibilities into which I cannot rush headlong. I have seen those fools rush in. But the cats I ride with know the pace. We lean to the side don’t fall.
The road unfolded. I passed the park and came to the slight curve where the street lights had ended and the dark could finally reach out. My high beams cut the path all the way down to the corner named for the Green Ninja. A hazardous left turn. On the exit I twisted throttle all serious. A steady climb in rpm, gearing and road speed. The front end went light. The world became a narrow, short tunnel and everything on the periphery was simply forbidden. And that was when it happened.
I hadn’t traveled the road at that time of night in a long time. But I know the road well. I travelled its path on my first bike and every bike since, in joy and anguish and that feeling that can’t be named without it being destroyed. Tucked behind the pitiful windscreen of the Pharmacon Atlas, I felt every bike I had ever ridden. Felt also the person that rode them. Boys and men who resemble me only in the memories that they hold in common. They put wheel to road in wonder, in anger, in despair. Most knew nothing about the bikes they straddled. They didn’t know the extent of their longing, their capacity to suffer or the love they could have for a child. Perhaps the Oracle would say so much of me now, but I didn’t have that third to give me perspective. This existential familiarity stripped away the leather and in that moment I was laid bare before the road.
Up ahead I stopped in what passed for a clearing and dismounted. I was shook and felt the eyes of imagined ghosts in the woods surrounding. In the sky, past the thin slow clouds, I could see only the Swan. I didn’t matter. The tuning forks revealed for me a more crucial constellation.
The Great Pessimist says that “To live is to lose ground.” He speaks truth. And yet in the chill of night, my own lostness was brought into view in one summary moment of perspective. I can’t call its meaning. But I think the picture will be completed by the next bike that travels with me in darkness.