How to Buy Your First Harley

This is another exercise from my Short Story class at UCLA. The assignment was to write a “how to” story in the second person POV. This is a work of fiction, and is not intended to be read as marital advice, and the persons depicted at the dealership are not real, except for that one guy:

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When you married a motorcyclist, you knew this day would come. He didn’t own a bike when you were dating since most his possessions were sold after his divorce. He didn’t even mention motorcycles during the first two years. Now you realize that all those trips to Chaparral Motorsports were not casual, especially when you remember that men don’t window-shop. Instead he lets you draw the conclusion, after he shows you hundreds of pictures on his phone, that he wants a Harley. It’s Christmas Eve, and he says, “Why don’t we go down to the Harley dealership and look around?”

You get there, and your husband has to find a spot to park between all the motorcycles. The huge brick building is swarming with bikes, inside and out, like a Harley anthill. All the workers wear bright orange long sleeve shirts, their arms and necks covered in tattoos. They’re scary but friendly, offering you coffee, and asking you what you’re looking for.

You say, “We’re just looking,” but somehow when you notice the gleam in your husband’s eye you know you’re not. He looks like a four-year old standing in the middle of Toys R Us. You feel a wave of panic, but it quickly passes. Your husband and you always talk first about major purchases. Up to this point.

Of course, there are no prices listed on the motorcycles so you have to find the guy with the long beard who nods to you with a predatory smile. At first, he’s excited that you’re looking at the newest models. Then when your husband gives him a price range, he sighs and quickly leads to their selection of used ones. Rows and row of shiny chrome, bright colors, and black leather. Some of these look even better than the new ones, with extra chrome and custom seats.

Your husband wants to sit on each one, to see how he feels on it. You play along with him, sitting behind him on the bike. Everyone at the dealership seems so excited about the bikes that you start to catch a little of it. Women walk by dressed in leather jackets and chaps, and you think you’d look pretty sexy in one of those outfits. Those women appear secure and confident, the way you’d like to feel. Curiously, your husband doesn’t even look at them. His eyes are only on the bikes. You feel like you made a good decision marrying him.

Then comes the test drive. There’s no way to avoid it because just revving the engine and sitting on the bike doesn’t tell you much about the way it moves. Your husband settles on two different bikes he likes best. One has a windshield and comfortable passenger seat with a backrest. One has ape-hanger handlebars and loud pipes and a seat that looks comfy enough for a trip to the grocery store. You tell your husband that, but he ignores you. You get mad for a moment, but then you remember that he didn’t look at the biker women.

This is the first time you ride on a motorcycle, so you don’t have the right shoes. You climb up on the back of the tall Road King, carefully placing your sandaled feet on the passenger floorboards. The backrest seems a mile behind you, so you cling to your husband with all your strength. You wish you had a jacket and gloves. The beard guy is riding a small loud Sportster, and his smile tells you he enjoys the opportunity to ride during work hours. Or maybe he’s already thinking about how he’s going to spend his commission on new grips and floorboards.

No one tells a passenger what to do, so when your husband goes through his gears to get the bike up to speed, you clunk your borrowed helmet, which doesn’t really fit you and smells like greasy sweat, into the back of your husband’s helmet. After several times, you realize you can brace your feet on the floorboards to prevent this.

As you and your husband follow the dealer guy down the road, you realize that there is nothing between you and the surrounding cars. Your unprotected leg is right next to their passenger door. You can look into cars and see drivers texting and talking on their phones, eating and drinking, and basically not paying attention to you at all. You’re holding your breath, and every muscle in your body stiffens. But no one rams your bike, and after a few blocks, you begin to relax.

The wind wiggles in through the bottom of your helmet, and you finally stop holding your breath. Orange blossoms, coffee shops, and restaurants create a bouquet of fragrance, interrupted occasionally by car exhaust and moldy leaves. As your husband leads you down a tree-lined street, you have an undiminished 360-degree view of everything around you. You remember the dealer guy called cars “cages” and now you understand why.

After you take the first bike back, you take out the second one. Climbing off the bike is awkward, and you almost fall on your bottom in front of all the bikers coming into the dealership. The next bike is customed out with ghost flames on the tank and skull embellished grips and floorboards. The guy who owned it didn’t like his wife, as the passenger only has skinny pegs for her feet. You feel a little jealous when your husband approaches it with the look he usually reserves for you. On the test ride, your husband finds that the ape-hanger handle bars hurt his neck like you suspected they would. It’s always best to let your husband find these things out for himself, preferably before you buy the bike.

You arrive back at the dealership too soon. You and your husband have to give back your helmets. There is an awkward silence as the dealer guy waits for you to cave in. Your husband looks at you, and you’re surprised when you say, “Let’s get the first one!”

The dealer guy nods like he’s known this all along, and you go to his office to sign the paperwork. That’s how you end up buying your first Harley.

January Reset Button

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I only have a few more days of winter break to procrastinate about my novel revisions before I return to school. With the New Year comes the reset button, the chance to make this year different than the previous. Feels a bit odd, as it actually hits halfway through the school year, where we’re not resetting anything, but chugging along down the tracks of education toward May state testing. (How many weeks until Spring Break?)

During the eight years we’ve been married, my husband and I hold back from giving each other Christmas gifts each year, especially considering we have six grown children and seven grandchildren. Instead we go away for a weekend in January, press the reset button and reflect on our personal, spiritual, financial, and couple goals. We write our goals down in a notebook and then look back to see how well we’re progressing each year. Some things we write down seem trivial a year later, while others become more focused and urgent.

Some of the goals are wishes, and many of those we’ve seen come true as the years roll by. But it’s not so much whether or not we hit our targets. Each of us has to search our hearts and share our dreams with each other. Saying them out loud gives them shape and writing them down gives them weight. Even if we don’t achieve a goal, we still feel validated by sharing it with each other, and holding each other accountable when needed.

When a couple wants each other to grow into the person they were made to be, it provides a nurturing environment for change. No judgment, only understanding. Forgiveness when needed and grace to cover our shortfalls. Our January reset button has helped us grow as individuals and in our marriage.

Elements of a Ride

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Riding Harleys uses alchemy—you can experience the elements of air, earth, water, and fire all in one ride.

The first element we encountered was fire when our planned destination was in doubt when we met at the dealership for a scheduled HOG chapter ride. Coldsprings Tavern was in the mountains east of Santa Barbara which would take us through a newly sprouted wildfire near Malibu. Road closures and smoke warnings forced our road captain to take a different route, one that would ride through the mountain community of Ojai. There were only four bikes and six riders, so it would be easy for us to stay together on the freeway portion of the ride, as well as the many different turns we would need to take on the back roads.

Air quickly became the strongest element of this ride. Summer heat squeezed us as we threaded through traffic, crossing the San Gabriel Valley by freeway. Even though I wore a light jacket, I could feel the sweat trickle down my back. Some of the riders had water bottles in cup holders; an accessory my husband and I agreed was a necessity for the next trip. Instead, I balanced a water bottle inside the front of my jacket, passing it forward as requested. Finally we exited and headed into the mountains, giving us some relief. The air carried to us the fragrant spice of pine trees and hot mountain dirt.

The element of earth performed for us with majestic peaks, plunging valleys, and chiseled cliffs. Every turn revealed new vistas of forested ridges and white granite boulders. Sudden L shaped bends in the road caused me to hold my breath as we slowed to a crawl. The mountain led us onward, up and down until we reached Ojai.

Slowly we crawled through the tiny village’s downtown, flocks of tourists on each side. Leaving Ojai’s Spanish style colonnades behind, we headed toward the coast. We were glad to move faster, for even the mountains weren’t cool enough on this summer day. When we reached Ventura, air and water competed for our attention. Our sweat soaked bodies shivered in the cool ocean breeze full of salty tang. The bright blue horizon stretched on forever and we could still hear the crashing breakers over the roar of our motorcycles. The highway hugged the beach for miles, giving us natural air conditioning during this part of our trip. When we arrived at Santa Barbara, it was time to go back up into the mountains once more, returning to the element of earth.

Soon we turned off onto Stagecoach Road, a small side road that connected with our highway. Although we couldn’t see the wildfire, smoke tickled our noses and made our eyes water. Elements of air and fire worked together to torment us. Suddenly around one of the bends, a small group of buildings appeared nestled in the trees. We had arrived at Coldsprings Tavern. The aroma of grilled steak cut through the smoke. It was time for lunch.

After we devoured our tri tip sandwiches and drank heavily from the local spring water, it was time to head back to the desert. Most of us decided to forgo safety and shed our jackets before jumping back on the bikes. We headed back down to Santa Barbara and took a different route home.

Our road captain had pity on us as he kept us on the coast highway as long as he could. Again the ocean air gave us strength for the furnace that we knew lie ahead. Finally the traffic slowed down, and he led us through the strawberry fields into Simi Valley.

While crossing through the fields, the element of air teased us with the sweet smell of ripening strawberries. In the summer heat, the strong smell reminded me of cotton candy at the fair. I wanted to stop and buy some berries at the farmers’ stands, but the heat forced us onward, our leader seeking to escape the force of the blazing sun.

Finally we met the freeway, and we placed ourselves in the jigsaw puzzle of traffic once more. The hot air pushed down on us, adding weight and causing floods of perspiration. In the maze of cars, two of our group got ahead of us. My husband and I followed the remaining couple back through the San Gabriel Valley. Our water bottle tasted hot enough to make tea so we suffered our thirst for the remainder of the trip.

When we arrived back home, we parked the bike, and quickly changed into swim suits. The element of water welcomed us as we jumped into our pool.

As we stood immersed in the cool water, we talked about the air, earth, water, and fire; the magical elements of a motorcycle adventure.

 

 

 

Why We Ride- Part Two

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Completely exposed. That is your situation when you ride motorcycles, and you must accept it.

Safety is another reason my friends consider my husband and I crazy to spend half our weekends riding our Harley. There are many features built into our bike that contribute to our safety- LED lights, anti-lock brakes, and so many more that if I ever get a chance to read the Bible sized owner’s manual I could list them. Motorcycles built now are much safer than the ones your father rode. However when it actually comes down to it, there’s nothing between you and the pavement (or the other cars).

Everyone has to decide in their own heart where their comfort level is with safety. The decision to ride is accepting the fact that no matter how great a motorcycle rider you are, something might happen to you. Fear can be a deciding factor. You can spend your life striving to make everything in your life safe, never taking any chances. Afraid to drive your car because you might get in an accident, you could barricade yourself in your child-proofed home to watch sports on TV (going to a sports event is dangerous as well as actually playing sports yourself). However you could walk outside to take down your trash cans and a car might careen down your street, jump the curb and kill you. Nothing in life is totally safe, and there is a 100% chance that you will die someday. Motorcycle riders look at life as time to be fully experienced, not packed away to somehow save it.

In addition to your own risk, riding with a group takes on a deeper meaning when danger rides along. The ride captain plans the route in advance and is the first one to scout the road as we ride. In the rear, the sweep makes sure no one gets left behind. The group enters into an unspoken agreement that if the unspeakable happens, the rest will be there to lift both you and your bike (if possible) back up. Your riding group becomes your family, your squad, your protection.

So why do we ride? Hard to explain, as the answer is different for everyone. It could be the thrill, the adventure, the fellowship, the technical achievement, even romance. Riders come in all sizes and ages- young and reckless to old enough to know better. One thing is certain; it separates us from the ones who must be safe. Those who ride in air bag covered cages will never understand the huge smiles after a long twisty mountain road. They will never almost get tagged by a hawk or be blasted with sand on a lonely desert road. And they will never ride through pummeling wind and pouring rain to reach a tiny motel at the end of the day, eternally grateful for hot water.

In fact the more I talk about it, the more ridiculous it appears to non-riders. Yet since the passion of the open road burns in me, I will try to explain it so that they might have a glimpse of the excitement that waits outside their locked door.

Why We Ride- Part One

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When I got back to work on Monday, my eyes sparkled with the residual excitement from the weekend. Even though my neck and back protested, I smiled at my co-workers in the teacher’s lounge. One of my teacher friends squinted suspiciously at me and asked, “How was your weekend?”

“Frank and I rode with the HOGs through the mountains to Borrego Springs, around the edge of the Salton Sea, and back over the badlands. 300 miles! It was awesome!” I gushed, overwhelming her sleepiness with my pent up energy.

After taking another sip from her tall cup of coffee, she waited for my wave of conversation to pass. “Wow, isn’t that really dangerous? Just last week, I heard about a deadly motorcycle accident on the freeway.” She shook her head, and then saw that the copier was open, so she ran over to it with her stack of papers.

There it was. The great divide between those who love to ride Harleys and those who think we are crazy.

When Frank and I first married, he had ridden many different types of motorcycles over the course of his life. Not always safely. It was his release from all responsibility, and therefore in the stage of life in which we met, he didn’t own a bike. But as we grew to know each other’s dreams, I realized that one of his was to own a Harley.

At first he just wanted to find out whether or not I would enjoy riding behind him. My only experience on a motorcycle was as an eleven year old, hanging on behind my father on a vacation in the Bahama Islands. (More like an amusement park ride than a real motorcycle ride.) Therefore, we started with a scooter- fun but not very fast. Frank had grown into a responsible rider, and he made it easy for me to trust him. My skiing experience had already given me an appreciation for the wind rushing in my face, and I adapted well. Then we moved up to a small motorcycle, even more fun, but my bottom didn’t appreciate the skinny pad they called a seat. The full dresser motorcycles that rumbled by with their full seats and passenger backrest looked so comfortable.

Finally, we did it. We bought a Harley, and even my husband, with all his experience, wasn’t prepared for how our lives changed. For you see, buying a Harley doesn’t just gain you a mode of transportation. It initiates you into a club whose members live all over the world. Every Harley you pass on the street greets you with a solemn wave. With the purchase of our Road King, we were allowed to wear Harley Davidson jackets, hats, and tee shirts. The orange and black emblem started conversations with the most unlikely people we met. The dealership, not merely a place where we purchased and serviced our bike, became our club house, complete with donuts and coffee on the weekends and bike shows and other events.

As we rode, we saw groups of Harleys pass us with their patches on their jackets and their determined sense of purpose. Riding was fun, but riding with a bunch of snarling bikes sounded more fun. But we were cautious, as not all motorcycle groups were the same. We wanted to ride with other responsible people who wanted to have fun and live to get there. So we joined the HOGs, the Harley Owners Group. It’s a national as well as local riding group, with meetings and planned rides.

But the HOGs are more than that. We have found friends that share our love of braving the heat, cold, wind, and loose gravel to ride on forgotten roads. Roads that take us through avocado groves, vineyards, and boulder strewn sculptures. Roads that lead to famous road house diners and more of our kind. You know, the crazy people who love adventure and desire to face it on two wheels, just like us.

 

Ready to Ride

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I awoke to the persistent rustling of my husband next to me. The room was still dark, and for a moment I thought it was time to get up for work. Then I remembered it was Saturday.

“Honey, we don’t have to get up until 7:30,” I mumbled.

“I know, but I’ve got to get up. I’ve been lying here awake for hours,” my husband said as he jumped out of bed. “You know how I am—just like a kid—when there’s a ride!”

“But maybe I could just lie here a little longer,” I protested to an empty bedroom, as I heard Frank turn on the coffee maker in the kitchen, and start making breakfast. It was no use. We were riding our motorcycle with the HOGs this morning, and I needed to get up and get my gear together. With a sigh, I shrugged aside the mounds of warm quilt and wrapped my long sweater over my tee shirt and yoga pants.

Smiling as I saw the steaming bowl-sized mug of coffee waiting for me, I sat down at the breakfast counter and squinted at the alarming awake-ness of my spouse. He respected my “No talking before the first cup of coffee” rule, and hummed to himself as he prepared our oatmeal in the microwave.

One and a half cups later, and after my brown sugar crusted oatmeal, I was ready to receive my instructions. Frank uncovered Dean, our Road King, and dusted off each painted and chromed surface with a microfiber cloth. I pulled out our jackets, leather chaps, hats, and helmets out of the bedroom closet and staged them in the living room. Then I joined him on the back porch, providing verbal reassurance as he backed the motorcycle out through the narrow passage on the side of the house.

After some colorful language when he hit one of the side mirrors on the wooden gate, my husband parked Dean in the front driveway. The gleaming black and chrome bike seemed to plead with us to take him on the road like our cocker spaniel yearns for a walk.

We dashed back in the house and began layering our gear. Not for the first time did I wish for a squire to assist us as we zipped  and tied up our leather boots, buckled and zipped on heavy leather chaps, added layer after layer of long sleeve shirts, snapped close our vests, and wrestled on our leather jackets. By then we were sweating from the exertion and the warmer temperature in the house, so we exited quickly.

Because you can never have too many jackets and warm clothing, we stuffed extra clothes into the saddle bags. I went through my mental pre-ride checklist.

“Oops! I forgot our waters,” I said, and I waddled back into the house to grab a few bottles. When I returned, Frank was seated on the bike, goggles and helmet on, his body tense with eagerness. Dean was growling as his engine warmed up. I tucked the waters in between the clothes and locked the saddle bag.

“Get on,” my husband said. I put in my earphones and set up my phone for my Flyleaf mix. Then I pulled on my helmet, buckled it, and climbed up on the back on the bike. I slipped on my gloves and gave Frank a thumbs up.
Dean roared with enthusiasm as we drove down the street.

Looking Back at 2015

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Part of being a good teacher is the ability to reflect and respond. After the kids leave, and you’re sitting in a mess of broken crayons, glue-crusted desks, and overflowing trash cans, it’s time to go over all the lessons that day. “I’ll never do that again!” and “Wow! I can’t believe that worked!” are the thoughts that guide me for future instruction.

But I can’t help being that lifelong learner when I go home. And now it’s New Year’s Eve, and time to clean up the mess and plan for next year.

My husband and I have been going on a planning weekend in January for the past seven years we’ve been married. Besides spending quality alone time together, we have a notebook that we use every year. We go over the goals from the past few years and evaluate our progress toward them. Some ideas make us laugh as they aren’t even concerns anymore. Others make us groan as we realize we didn’t do anything about them.

At the end of December, I have enough free time to start thinking about what I will add to our notebook this year. And to prepare my defense for those goals I didn’t reach.

Financial goals always make me cringe, but this year I want to save more money. I really bombed on this one last year, but my attitude toward spending has evolved. It’s amazing how much stuff you don’t need as you get older. Well, maybe except my phone and computer. And wifi.

In the category of personal goals, 2015 was going to be the year I reached out with my writing. A writing friend suggested joining The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. When I finally did, I had the opportunity to meet with an agent and have professional editing at a writing conference. In addition, I met some great creatives and listened to their stories of being published in the traditional way. But this group doesn’t meet often, so I found The California Writers Club online. The Inland Empire Branch meets monthly in Ontario so I could quench my thirst for literary conversation and learn more about self-publishing and promotion. Both groups helped me communicate my stories in a more confident and professional manner.

Still questing for additional critique of my almost completed book The College of the Crones, I decided to go back to college—University of California Riverside Extension Program. In September I started working on my Fiction Writing Certificate, a 20 unit program to shore up the structure of my writing. Writing definitely stays on the list for 2016.

In the category of shared goals, my husband and I joined the Harley Owners Group in November, after agonizing about it for over a year. Originally we had wanted to start our own motorcycle riding group, but after wise counsel, we decided to see how it was done first. It has been a great adventure, riding the back roads and starting new friendships. We also started riding with The Black Sheep, a Christian motorcycle ministry. Much to our surprise, the HOGs were much tamer than the Black Sheep. But that’s another blog. It will be interesting to see how the miles will add up this year.

As the hours tick down to 2016, I find myself at peace. There were some events I regret, but mostly it has been a year of growth. Each day is a learning experience, and as long as I remain teachable, the coming year will provide many opportunities to shape my life.

 

 

 

well enough alone

“When will you leave well enough alone?” I could hear the ghost of my long passed mother as I stood smothered by a thick wool full length coat and a fleece running jacket. The air was stale with traces of rotten gym socks as I delicately balanced in the pile of shoes. Hangers kept me pinned to the back wall. I desperately wanted to burst out into the room and breathe cool clean air. But my shame kept me hidden in my former bedroom closet as I strained to hear the conversation from the living room.

“All I wanted was my iPhone speakers,” I answered my mother in my head. I still had my key to the apartment so I stopped by after work. Peter never got home earlier than seven on a weekday night so I didn’t feel obligated to text him that I might stop by. After searching the living room and our bedroom, I dove into our closet, thinking that maybe my ex-husband had boxed up the remnants I’d left behind in the aftermath of our stormy breakup.

That’s when I heard the key in the front door bolt. I pulled myself out of the crammed contents of the closet, and prepared myself for the confrontation.

“I don’t care. Whatever you want to eat,” a familiar female voice answered a question started in the hallway. My entire body tensed as I realized who had accompanied Peter into our apartment. It was Susan, my best friend since the fourth grade and the maid of honor at our wedding. What was she doing with my ex-husband?

I know I should have walked out of the bedroom and confessed. But my morbid curiosity tossed me back into the closet. Closing the door behind me I waited in the darkness, listening.

“Come on, Sue. I always pick the restaurant,” my former husband said. In my mind, I could see his sneering smile that he thought was amusing.

“But you spoil me,” my friend replied. “We’ve gone out to white tablecloth restaurants every night for the past month. Don’t you ever cook?”
Heat started rising in my face. When we were married, my husband kept us to a strict budget, which didn’t include eating out. We barely even got fast food once a month. Where was he getting all this money from? Maybe there was an oil well in this closet.

“I hate to cook,” said Peter. “When Jenny and I were married, she insisted on cooking every night. Now it’s just easier to go out.”

I distinctly heard a low giggle. Really? He’s making her giggle. Not once in our marriage, except for when Peter ran into the bedroom door in the middle of the night, did he ever make me giggle. I tried to take slow calming breaths without making noise or inhaling fluff from my dusty hideout.

“Honey, you know I want to,” her husky voice managed to say.

“Then what, darling? I’ve waited patiently all these years.”

All these years? My husband and my best friend cheating on me for years? I quietly removed an empty wire hanger and started shaping it into a noose. Were there still skiing gloves buried in the bottom of the closet?

“I’m just an old fashioned girl,” Sue said. “I want to see the wedding ring on this finger first.”

“”This little finger?” my ex-husband purred. More giggling ensued from both of them.

Then a sigh that reminded me of a waiting locomotive. “Alright then. Let’s get some dinner.”

The front door opened and closed, the key clicking in the bolt. Alone once more, I emerged from my prison, sweating like a factory worker. Throwing down the hanger I still clutched in my hands, I fell into the soft tangles of blankets on the bed I had shared with my husband for ten years. I wanted to scream. I wanted to text both of them, scathing, searing curses that would burn into their hearts like acid. Instead I threw one of our heavy goose down pillows at the nightstand, where it struck a picture of Peter with his Harley group. The ceramic frame fell to the wood floor and dashed into pieces.

Encouraged by that action, I got up to find the baseball bat Peter always kept in the closet.

“Should have left well enough alone,” my mother said in my head as I started to swing the bat.

So long dear friend

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I can’t believe I’m standing here in front of all of you. You know much I hate doing this, but the dull ache in my chest compels me to say something. Especially after I only found out that you were leaving through Facebook. Your husband received a job promotion, and you’re leaving all your relatives and friends to move to a new state.

When you and your husband crossed my threshold six years prior, I noticed your clenched jaw and skittering eye contact. A bulging purse hung from your shoulder and your arms were burdened with a thick spiral notebook, a calendar, and your zipped up leather covered Bible. Not once did you glance toward your husband’s eyes, and then I saw the grey cloud that had settled over your marriage.

You chose a chair that sat by itself so that your husband would have to sit across the room. Refusing my hospitality, you brought in your own sealed plastic cup with a hard plastic straw. From time to time you sipped from it, through habit instead of refreshment. You sat rigidly on the edge of the soft cushioned chair, ready to flee if necessary.

Not once during the Bible study did you break your sullen silence. When your husband spoke, your eyes rolled toward the ceiling and your lips pursed into a thin line. I felt as helpless as an actor who enters in the middle of a play without a script. Several times I thought to say something to you, to somehow put you at ease, but I had no remedy for your unspoken malaise.

Over several months, I sought out opportunities after the study to speak with you and peek behind your heavy curtain. The cautious inquiries I sent your way were returned with one or two words. Every week you came with your hat of storm clouds, plodding your way through the marriage muck. I admit I held little hope for you and your husband. But of course against that grim backdrop miracles often happen.

Admitting his lack of knowledge, your husband apprenticed himself to successful husbands. Doggedly he followed them, soaking up truth to replace the rotten lies. He sat reading his Bible for hours, fashioning a sword to saw through his chains. Laying his failures before trusted men, he managed to sort them out and put them away. You were dumbfounded by the changes.

I remember that May evening, fragrant with gardenia and orange blossoms. Hearing a hearty laugh behind my front door, I rushed to admit our guests. Your curving smile looked strange on your face as your glowing husband allowed you to enter first, your arms empty. His strong arms held your books as well as his own. His eyes followed your every movement, shining with new light.

You accepted my offer of coffee and settled down on the smaller couch where your husband nestled close to you. The two of you formed one organism that pulsed with life. We basked in the warmth of your rekindled fire, hoping that it would spread to all of us.

When I first met you, you wouldn’t have followed your husband into a grocery store, and now you’re packing up your life and your dreams to follow him across the country into a new life.

Flying with Superman

Riding as a passenger on a Harley is a unique experience. When my husband and I purchased the bike, he had years of riding dirt bikes and street bikes compared to my one experience of riding with my father in Nassau. I did not expect to discover a superhero.

When we took off down the road, I suddenly felt like I was in a car with all its windows down and doors taken off. The bumpier-than-I-remember street and closer-than-I-remember cars were our intimate companions on this adventure. Every car that passed us seemed sinister as it wooshed by our fragile machine. Pedestrians at the street corners were unpredictable, often stepping out in front of us with no apparent concern for their lives. A whole new world of peril opened before me.

But as the wind buffeted the top of my helmet and tickled me under my chin, I started to relax and enjoy the movie unfolding beside us- the proud mountains, meandering canyons, and the expanse of valleys. This was much more than glancing out of the “Lexus cages” that Jon Foreman sings about. On the Harley, you don’t travel to a place, you travel through a place. Complete with road bumps and fragrant wildflowers. Bikers talk about the freedom of riding, and suddenly I understood.

And as a passenger, there was more than just freedom. I had to trust my husband who drove us on and on along the winding road. For a moment, I was Lois Lane rescued by Superman, just in the nick of time. I was not in control of my situation, but that loss of control gave me the freedom to enjoy the ride. My husband’s helmet partially blocked my view of where we were going as much as Lois couldn’t know exactly where she would land. But I know my husband, and so I can trust him to get us there.

I had known I was going for a ride but I had no idea I would be flying with Superman.