Orpheus has to put foot to trail on his exit from the underworld. He has been granted his lover if only he passes the trial. To not look back as he walks back to the world of the living. But he hears her voice. Eurydice. How sweet it must have sounded. The exhilaration seizes his heart. He looks back and she is banished to the darkness. The man who made the devil cry has still not the power to withhold his gaze.
Out on the streets I twist throttle as I leave the ramp and hit the highway. It is night. There used to be lights on this stretch but construction or outage has left the work to my headlights. I turn on the brights and go for the ton thinking, this used to be all that there was. The dial reads 150 before I apply brakes and veer to the next exit.
It can be unbearably lonely on a ride. As if Babel has fallen and I am the only man with this language. Or me and the bike, maybe. The Atlas. It needs work. According to the First Principle, we both do. But repairs are a long way out.
In my jacket, my phone is silent. Still, I put my hand over my pocket hoping for a vibration, that someone has reached out. I think of going to visit friends but the hour is ungodly. They sleep. Were it not for the ride, I too would be motionless in the dark.
Was it even her voice? Or some terrible spell cast by the forces of the underworld? Did she witness the trick played on her beloved as he walked on? Don’t look back. This is the thing he wanted most in the world. In two worlds. How could he have succeeded?
The Empty light. Awash in that sickening halogen. I watch as tiny drops of gas ping off the smudged luster of my tank. A man looks on as I leave the station. The reset trip meter reads zero. Nothing.
In a ride of great anger, one cannot look back. Fellow racers are given by the sound of their engines. There is just too much in the road ahead for one to review the journey so far. It is mostly mistakes back there anyway.
As I start from a light I am forced to recognize the age of my machine. Scratches and rust and uneven power bands. I too am not without scars. Three stitches short of a sausage creature. But alive. Even when I can’t quite find the pulse.
For some, the ride is liberation or freedom or some such garbage. For those who think clearly it is enjoyment or escape. The kind of enjoyment that reveals the horrible boredom of the snail speed of living. The kind of escape that allows one to endure that boredom. The bike reveals the truth of the world and provides the opiate needed to endure it. If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion. The night air is warm. I can barely feel it under my gear.
I don’t know what this story meant to the Greeks. But if it now belongs to us, it is a caution against desperation. I want you more than anything. But if I desire you beyond my limit, if I reach for you too soon, I will lose you. You will turn from me or something will take you away. One never learns how to strike this balance.
There were nights when I would ride until dawn. I have since come to despise the sunrise.