Bye Bye Bike

I bought a motorcycle as a gesture of newfound freedom. Then it came time to sell it.

I’m stupid with my money, but that’s pretty obvious about me considering I went to law school. Not only that, I also just buy stupid stuff. The award for stupidest purchase likely belongs to the brand-new motorcycle I bought in 2018.

This purchase was deemed medically stupid by an actual doctor. That year, before beginning my annual lady-bits exam, my gynecologist asked if I had made any lifestyle changes since we’d last spoken. I told her I bought a motorcycle.

She was not impressed. She told me to get rid of it, then narrowed her eyes and warned, “You wouldn’t believe the damage I’ve seen.” I was horrified. Who crashes a motorcycle vagina-first? Not me, that’s for sure. Namely because I ride side saddle like a lady.

Despite the constant threat to my female reproductive organs, having a motorcycle has been great. As long as it’s not raining or hot or windy or cold or too perfect of a day where you just want to lay outside and read in the hammock. I’ve found the best reason to get a motorcycle is if you have a spot in your garage that needs occupying.

If you ask anybody who doesn’t ride — and, honestly, you don’t even have to ask, they’ll just tell you — they’ll say the only reason to get a motorcycle is if you have some nice organs you’re looking to get rid of. Trust me. The instant you get a motorcycle, you’ll be inundated with people telling you, “I hope you filled out your organ donor card!”

Yeah, Margaret, I did fill out my organ donor card. I did it years ago when I first got my driver’s license and was purposefully bursting through orange construction barrels in a ’95 Oldsmobile. Donor cards or not, no one wants what I’m carrying anyway. The way I’ve been living, these babies are single use organs. I have been exhausting them to their maximum capacity. They are not packaged for resale. If my organs were listed on eBay, they’d be described as out-of-the-box, played-with, and no-longer-mint-condition.

The organ donor comments aren’t surprising. People just let their opinions fly when you have a motorcycle. It’s the same thing when you have a kid. I don’t have a kid, but plenty of my friends do. While they were pregnant, everybody loved giving them unsolicited advice. Have a natural birth. Take ginger for the heartburn. Don’t go on so many rollercoasters. Don’t buy a motorcycle.

They may have a point on that last one, given that I broke a bone in my wrist and a couple of ribs falling off my bike. The crash really wasn’t so bad at the time. In fact, my last thought before the pavement collided with my head and body was, “Hey I think I’m getting the hang of this.”

Crash sounds more dramatic than what happened. I’d like to think I just involuntarily skidded to a stop in the alleyway that leads out onto my street. On the ground. Underneath the bike.

I had only moved into the house a few weeks prior and didn’t yet know my neighbors (still don’t — whoops!). The guy next door was out front tossing tennis balls at his kid. When I say it like that, it sounds like he was playing fetch with his 12-year-old, but that’s because he basically was. Unbothered by the sound of metal on concrete or my groaning, neighbor man simply looked over his shoulder, saw me crushed beneath a 500-some-odd pound motorcycle, and continued his game of kid fetch.

It was January at the time and cold. I worked myself out from under the giant hunk of metal and stood beside it. Determined and probably in too much shock to know I’d broken my wrist or ribs, I hoisted it up using leg strength. Then I drove 30 miles to the Harley dealership for a routine maintenance appointment, stopping to meet up with my brother-in-law, Aaron, along the way.

At the dealership, I don’t particularly remember any pain in my hand or chest. That could have been from either the cold or the shock. It also could have been sheer denial, knowing I’d have to turn around and ride 30 miles right back home. That’s the real downside of a motorcycle. If it’s a pain in the ass getting somewhere, you’ve got to undertake that same pain in the ass to get back home.

That night I was scheduled to perform two comedy shows. Before I left for the theater, Aaron stuck around my house and helped me with a few things. This included helping me lift a solid wood dining table, which I did with a broken wrist. As for my ribs, I told him it only really hurt when I breathed or coughed or laughed. He suggested I visit the urgent care.

I got my money’s worth out of my insurance that night. The doc at the urgent care performed x-rays on both my wrist and ribs and sent me on my way with a brace and a wrap and some ultra-strong IB Proufen. Rather than go home like a normal person, I drove myself (in a car, I’m not that much of a masochist) to the comedy theater and did two shows, braced and wrapped.

Broken bones aside, I got the bike in the first place back in 2018 for a good reason. It was after I broke off my engagement. I was tired of feeling trapped, feeling like I was being told what I could and could not do. I also got a fancy law firm job that paid a stupid amount of money, a dangerous thing to couple with my lack of self-control.

Weeks earlier, I had completed half of my grand plan of freedom in a three-day motorcycle training course. Held in the parking lot of a now-defunct shopping mall, each day of class was scheduled to be eight hours long. That schedule didn’t mean much to our instructor. He would peter out just after lunch, leaving us to “take the day” for ourselves. Super cool if you’re a kid in high school or working a job you don’t much care for. Kind of dangerous for a class meant to keep us from propelling our unshielded sacks of meat and bones down a highway at 70 miles per hour.

So with no adult supervision and a newly issued Class M motorcycle license temporarily printed on paper in my pocket, I marched myself into a Harley-Davidson dealership and bought a brand new Harley. It was a 2018 Sportster Forty-Eight Special. It had a black body, chrome pipes to make it rumble real loud, and a white peanut tank with a throwback vintage Harley logo.

Come on, this is cool as hell

It was low enough to the ground that I could comfortably put my feet out beside me but fast enough that I was terrified as I rode it through the adjacent shopping center parking lots for a test drive.

I was terrified for a good reason. Crashing bikes is genetic in my family. My daddy rode a Honda, though he would’ve loved a Harley. I think it was no coincidence that I got mine a couple weeks to the day of the first anniversary of his passing. The rumble of the motor and the whoosh of force when I hit the accelerator made me feel close to him in a way I hadn’t for a whole year.

Daddy wrecked his bike back before me or my sister were born. He missed a curve in the road and was thrown face-first into the pavement. His face shield cracked, knocking out some of his teeth and leaving him with an upper lip scar he covered with a mustache for the rest of his life.

I didn’t crash in the test drive. Instead, I waited about six months after getting started. Luckily, the crashing was where the family resemblance ended. I kept all my teeth and suffered no scars. Any mustache I may have grown since is likely hormonal.

The months after the crash, I didn’t ride as often. I was struck with a nervousness and hesitation that makes riding a bad idea. Recently, as the weather has been getting nicer, I realized I hadn’t ridden in more than a year.

It’s easy to write off riding as silly and frivolous. It’s dangerous and reckless and bad ass in a way that lots of folks will never experience. But seeing things you don’t normally see from behind a set of handlebars is what I miss the most.

Before I finally sold it this weekend, I sat on it one last time. I put the key in and cranked on the engine. I shut my eyes. The sound of the rumble and the smell of the exhaust took me back to one of those experiences you only get on a bike.

It’s one of my clearest memories of riding, from a sunset ride out in East Texas. I saw how the sun moved at its own pace out there. The orange glow hung stubborn and stuck around much longer than it should have. The dark had to shove its way down toward the horizon while the daylight languished there, refusing to move, screaming from between the tall thin trunks of East Texas pine trees.

I remember seeing a water tower hoisted on a hill, backlit by the fight between day and night. It stood outlined, looming over the land like a referee. The shorter oak trees, which in November had already given up their leaves, stretched their bare branches wildly in every direction, lined up along the highway like black pencil sketches scratched on a bright orange canvas.

I can still feel how the fresh air forced its way through the bandana covering my face and into my nose. It smelled outdoorsy, like wood and grass and occasionally skunk, but also delicious like bonfire. It hit me almost at the exact moment I saw some smoke curl up into the dark, taking the night’s side while the sun still refused to set.

Most roads out there are two lanes, and you can go miles before you come across another vehicle. The best road curls out of Palestine, a smooth black top that snakes between the swatches of East Texas pines. We passed a big fat hog along the way, the biggest I’d ever seen, slumped lazy on his side, unconcerned with the growl of our bikes’ pipes.

I remember an old man in a straw hat with black cracked skin and a Hawaiian shirt waving to the line of bikes sliding along the turn beside him. He wasn’t excited because he thought we’d stop to buy some of his yams. He was just overwhelmed by the noise and the glow of the lights, a parade of leather and steel, ripping past an otherwise quiet vista.

As we roared on back toward Dallas, the curtain of pines started to pull back, replaced by more cars, erratic turns, and stops. We bumped over chug holes so deep it looked like someone dropped bowling balls from the sky. The sun had given up by then, retreated under the horizon so that the only light left was the round glow of the headlights and the neon promise of Dallas 100 miles ahead.

I opened my eyes, still in my garage. I killed the engine, knowing I’d never ride this bike again. The deal was done. I’d already sold it to a dealership online. Their guy was on his way to pick it up. I stepped off and patted the seat one last time.

In short order, a handsome man with a biker’s tan arrived at my house with a truck and trailer. He had arms full of tattoos, a tight powder blue t-shirt, and jeans that fit like they were made just for him. He handed me a check and some paperwork to sign. While I scribbled my signature, he asked why I was selling. I told him about the accident.

“Ahh and you got scared?” he asked with a laugh. “That’s ok. You’ll miss it. You’ll be back.” I didn’t tell him about the parade of mangled vaginas my gynecologist had warned me about.

Before he took it away, I asked him to remove my gremlin bell. The little charm bell zip-tied beneath my handlebars meant to keep me safe was a gift from Aaron. I also removed the key from its keychain, a round leather fake FBI badge I’d gotten as a souvenir in DC on a tenth-grade field trip.

The man backed my bike out of the garage, kicking the engine into gear with this snakeskin boots. I held it together while the bike’s engine ripped through my quiet alley. I watched as he disappeared around the bend.

When I turned back around to head inside, I caught sight of the Harley-sized hole in my garage. A 3x6 foot space, aptly about the size of a coffin. Without warning, my face crinkled up, and I began to cry. Hard. I headed through the house to the front windows so I could watch the man load my bike into the trailer parked out front. He pulled around and came to a stop. Its engine still running, he put the kickstand down and parked my bike to prep the space inside the trailer. Then he rode it up a ramp, and they were both gone.

Paris had taken his car around the block so we could get the bike out. By the time the trailer pulled off our street, he was back in the garage. He entered the house to find me inside, a sobbing mess, squeezing the gremlin bell in my left hand and the FBI keychain in my right.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said, hugging me. “It’s ok to be sad.”

We walked out into the garage to see how the space looked with his car parked back inside.

“There’s so much room,” I said, standing in the negative space, moving around, stretching my arms out around me. He attempted to do the splits to demonstrate our newly expanded area, but probably more so to make me laugh. It worked. I stopped crying and started laughing. Then I picked up my helmet and put it on. It’s a full-face helmet, white with orange and black stripes. It looks like what Neil Armstrong wore on the first moonwalk.

I smiled at Paris through the clear plastic shield. He pulled out his phone to take a photo. The resulting image showed my face red, eyes puffy and wet. When I lifted up the shield, he tried coming in for a kiss. We awkwardly tilted our heads trying to make it work through the crescent-shaped hole.

“That’s it,” I said. “If I can’t kiss you with this thing on, I’ve just got to get rid of the bike.” A pause. “Oh wait.”

We went back inside, laughing, leaving our newfound garage hole empty as we dreamed of what may go there next. Boxes full of wedding decorations? A baby stroller? A Sea Doo GTX 300 jet ski? Who knows. Like I said, I am awful with money.

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