Lawrence Martin Nysschens
I wish it were straightforward…but no! Here I am out in black space again, but this is not your average every day lost and adrift in endless black space thing.
It’s ten times now that I’ve been out here and riding…something.
Ten times and I still have no clue about what’s happening.
Is this all just delusion or illusion, or am I stuck in-between those two? Or is it prescience? Or, am I an alien living amongst strangers and desperate to go home? But how does one go home when one no longer knows where home is?
Wait! What’s that out ahead?
They drift slowly closer. Oh!? But how can there suddenly be stars? And glowing clouds. And terrifying space fires.
I make to turn and flee…but…they fade away. I sigh and ride onward, cautiously. And in less than a blink, everything ahead vanishes, and again there’s nothing but black space surrounding me.
I glance about.
There definitely are no stars now, no planets, no moons to see, nothing but space. I’m not wearing a spacesuit. No ship, no pod, nothing. But despite that I cannot see anything; there is something hard as steel clasped between my knees. My feet rest in stirrups or on footrests. I’m hunched down despite that there’s no wind. The helmet fastened under my chin chafes.
I check ahead again…still nothing but black space.
Will it ever end? This suddenly finding myself out in space. I’m lost, alone with no sense of where I’ve come from nor where I’m going. Yet it seems there’s a purpose to what’s happening.
But I don’t understand what it is. I can only hope it will reveal itself. Oddly, I know I’m dressed in jeans and a T-shirt beneath my spacesuit…that’s weird in itself; and that I’m riding something is weirder. But I can’t recall throwing my leg over anything and mounting it.
But mounted, I am.
I know my physical form is what’s called human. And I sense that I’m not human. Well, not entirely. Something happened to me, and that’s what I must find. I look ahead, and black space rushes by as I wind the throttle open a little more. Streaks of silver and white rush right at me, but before slamming into me, they part in the middle and flash by…and I am safe…and still riding something.
Out there beyond these flashes that dart by on occasion…all is black.
I race onwards into the bitterly cold darkness.
I shiver and shake inside my suit.
My mount shudders as though it too is afraid. I hunch down, but there’s still no wind to shelter from. I close my eyes, and the sense of speed increases. I open them and out ahead the black space parts as though giving birth and distant stars appear and stare, seeming somewhat bothered by my approach.
I wind the throttle open fully and hurtle onwards into the black of space, pointed at a new cluster of stars and planets for ahead. Wait! Where did they come from…no…appear from? Isn’t that impossible? There’s nothing out there, then suddenly there’s stars and planets blinking out ahead? Unlikely common sense says.
They seem familiar despite that I’ve never seen them before. Faster and faster, I go until I want to scream. So, I scream. And then I bite my tongue, killing another scream. And it bleeds…my tongue…and the taste of blood is metallic-like in my mouth. But I can’t spit it out until I stop.
Wait, something is missing. What? Yes. Where are those roads? The ones I’d raced along before…out here in space. And the highways and tunnels of light? Those golden, almost deep orange tunnels and roads. They should all be here. Each one reaching out and curving into the darkness with me racing along them and riding…something.
I whisper. “How did I get here?”
No one answers. I glance over my padded spacesuit’s shoulder.
Yes, I’m alone. Doing what nobody else knows I can, riding something like a single seat rocket-ship out here amongst the stars. I know it’s natural for me no matter how weird that is. That calms me a little, but suddenly my forward progress at highspeed ends. But I’m still here and seated in a saddle. I listen to its hum as it idles. But what is it? I know it has no wheels.
I glance down at what I’m riding to find that it’s shaped like a translucent teardrop, and I can see right into it. Inside it, curly grey forms swim about much like oil drifting in water. I shudder, and my feet tuck in tighter. The teardrop between my knees hugs my boots and calves—and I’m suddenly smiling and comfortable.
The handlebars shudder and come alive. It bucks and prances as though I’m competing at a rodeo riding a wild bull and steering by the horns. Okay. Enough. I’ve gone crazy…and it happens again…and the thick blackness of space softens into gray and becomes pale sunlight.
My blood feels like it’s boiling, my muscles twitch, and my heart stutters, and breathing is almost impossible. I spit the blood out my mouth and stare at where it lands. Jenny wouldn’t be happy with that.
Which is how every ride out here in space ends.
Suddenly sound rushes in on me, and the noise of downtown traffic hurts for a few moments, and then buildings and streets appear. My boot-clad feet stand upon a sidewalk, and close by, the splash of blood grows darker red. My black leather boots are scuffed and unkept. My heart races, my eyes dart like I’m still speeding. I close them, wait several seconds, open them, and look myself over.
There’s nothing between my knees now, let alone a translucent craft made of…I know not what. My faded blue jeans are perfectly shabby. Hurried footsteps patter behind me, which gives me pause. I glance over my shoulder.
Her pastel green tank-top is snug and revealing. And hiding dainty feet, new white sneakers. Straight black hair hangs like a curtain. Narrow face cut by bones that had once languished beneath a rounder face. Carved on it like the finals words upon a tombstone, I can easily read; courtesy of Bill, who died a while back. That’s Jenny’s facial message. It’s there every day, every week, month, and year. And I know…that I’m that Bill!
She points at what she calls our transport. I climb inside, and so does Jenny. Seated, she glares at me. I smile. She snuggles in behind the controls, smooths her gray skirt, wipes the soles of her sneakers on the carpet, and presses START with delicate well-shaped fingers.
“I really love this classic,” I say, hoping to melt a millimeter or two’s worth of her icy glare.
“Auto-Glide…,” she mutters, spreading more ice.
“Oh? Yeah!” and I smile, my one that says I can see what’s in her eyes.
What’s in her eyes has me wondering how come she got her fancy job. I’ve heard that her boss at the People’s Safety Monitoring Center really likes watching her fingers glide across a keyboard as she types away.
But it’s more than that, and I know what but won’t say it. Nevertheless, I heard he’s always looking over her shoulder. And I know him. He’s an old acquaintance but hasn’t come by for a long while. Yeah, almost as long as Jenny has worked for him. Makes a man think…it does.
She glances at me. “Bite your tongue, again?” she says.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Do you know why, how, when?” she says.
“No,” I lie.
“If you say so,” she says.
“Let’s do this,” I say.
“We are,” she says.
Our ten-year-old white flattened-egg-shaped Super-Eco hums tiredly as we hover-n-whine our way through downtown traffic. I stare out the window. We’re surrounded by thousands of Super-Eco’s, just like ours. Commuters stare as Jenny does—to destinations too far to wait for.
I sigh, pull my boots off, swing my boney legs up and press my feet to the windshield, hoping for some cool, but there is none. Around my feet, the windshield mists over. Jenny glares, which sets the bad me to grinning outwardly. Inside, the terribly bad me laughs until tears stream down his virtual face.
I’ve tried to tame the terribly bad me but failed; I follow up with a knife to his hearts, which fails to bring on the desired result. Yes. He lives on. What can I do? Nothing. He’s in me, is me, but I don’t accept him.
Jenny glances my way with her disapproving look.
I understand it.
If I were her, I too would disapprove of my tattered blue jeans, white T-shirt, and face that has not visited with a razor for some weeks gone. I try. I really do. I’m sure there’s something left inside me she can like. But what that is, escapes me.
I wink at her and grin to take the edge off. She half-smiles, letting me know, like me, she’s at the end of our road. Weird then. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what’s what, and she just smiled and said, “Well Bill…let’s buy us a home,” and silence.
What good that will do us? I don’t know.
I wind the window down and peer up at the sky. It’s clear in spots, but the smoke of burning trash hides much of it. I sit back and wait. It takes two dreary hours before we finally escape the carefully designed green and brown squares and rectangles towering ten to forty floors high.
Brave new buildings standing amidst clouds of smoke that billow, each thick and suffocating from piles of burning junk strewn down alleyways.
I sweat, Jenny sweats, and our wish for air-con goes unspoken. I wipe sweat out my eyes and look about the featureless interior. I sigh my need for less or perhaps something older, more entertaining, and less safe.
With sweat dripping off the edge of my nose, we pull up in front of the House for Sale sign.
The one that Jenny had picked out from countless others.
The Realtor had sent over a Choose your Happy Home Selector.
Jenny had closed her eyes then hovered her hand over the options. Pointed a finger, moved it slowly downwards, darted left, touched the screen and home-sweet-future-home pulsed, and a pop-up invited us to head on over. We’re heading on over—a couple beyond the point of no return with no U-turn available either.
Something weird about that pop-up message: right after it, Jenny nodded, smiled, and headed for the kitchen closing the door behind her. I had frowned, touched the screen, but there came no pop-up. I did several other homes, no pop-ups. Yeah. Strange. Goosebumps. I’d glanced at the kitchen door, wondering about it.
The pale cream painted kitchen door has been a barrier for many months. One side is for hiding behind, the other barring unwanted partners. Before, it had been the entrance to hugs and kisses land. It had been warm then. Now it’s cold.
Okay. I admit it. I’d built the dead-end we’re walking slowly and carefully towards. That’s about the time I began doing that riding something or the other out there in space…and never mind whether it’s real or not.
After the first time I was away for about a week…riding…Jenny had given me her I’d rather see you dead look for the first time. I’d shuddered in a way that hurt but figured we’d work it out. Now. I must admit, her glare has lost its power to shrivel me—overused I figure.
Before, I’d cave seeing all that beauty hard and cold as the Arctic in deep winter. Before that, I’d been attentive for years. She’d loved for as long. Somehow, she knows I’ve been riding up there in space—as unreal as that is. But, it’s real—which is what I keep telling myself. Well, it’s not real-real yet. Can she see into me? I don’t think so.
Our Super-Eco settles and sighs in anticipation of rest upon the made-from-recyclables road surface. Jenny gives me her don’t you dare look. But it’s too late; I’d already dared, and right-off it gets weird.
The ancient classic motorcycle on the sidewalk across the road I’d just glanced at shimmers, becomes translucent like a mirage then switches back to a solid in your face classic.
“You give it up, or you sleep on the ironing board,” Jenny said in introduction to married life and motorcycle ownership. I sold it back then. But the one I’m now salivating over is my dream.
I wonder if that’s what’s missing, a dream, a hope.
“Uh-hum!” Jenny says. And I snap back to real-time after giving it a second glance.
She isn’t happy about that. “You do that…go on…buy it…ride the old crock! Go ahead, kill yourself. My father did. I figure you will too. Do you think I don’t know what you’ve been up to? Do you really think that? Well! Listen up! I know what’s in your head. You want to know how?” I remain silent. “It’s all over your face.”
“Didn’t say anything about buying it—just looked….”
“…with your wallet in your mouth and your tail wagging?”
We get out and walk by the House for Sale sign, headed for the front door. Each looking the house over, and I smile with faked enthusiasm. It’s white, square, has a pointed roof, a metallic silver Super-Eco Four-Door—this year’s model, decorates the driveway. Every garden nook, cranny, and cobblestone smiles and is shiny and spotless.
I check the Super-Eco over. This model has no wheels, which equals no road nor engine roar. But the old motorcycle across the street…now we’re talking sound in hard-rock symphonies courtesy of its open exhaust pipe.
I glance over my shoulder again and smile inside. Yes. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a motorcycle resting on a side-stand. That says more for its age than the old black painted engine. And oh my! The rear wheel, spotted with splashes of chain lube, stares at me, all hungry and ready to howl its way down country roads. The tires too stare, and the rear chain sprocket and brake calipers and that huge chain hooking all together. I sigh.
“You still here?” Jenny asks.
I manage a smile that says I was but right now measuring the length of the garden path up which I’m being led. She points one of her cute fingers at me and says, “Mothers believe little boys, but wives know the lies.”
“I’m with you,” I say.
“Let’s do this,” she says.
And we enter paradise to be. And I didn’t even see nor hear a single word spoken; must have been somewhere else, I figure—mentally anyway. But I signed on the line and committed my future income to some faceless Banker, for who knows how long. And we drove home from our new home. But a part of me is still there. Not in our driveway-to-be but across the road touching the metal, fingering the controls.
“Don’t you dare,” Jenny hisses. “Get it out of your head…now!”
“It’s gone,” I lie.
“Liar!” she confirms.
Yes, it’s calling out to me. Telling me to take it home with me. And time rushes by. And we’ve packed all our boxes, piled them up, and there they wait for their new home.
I’m across the road from our new home, that old bike is behind me on the sidewalk. I knock on the owners front door. It opens, and her face sets off the sly voice of divorce as it whispers sweet nothings into my ear.
She steps out into the sunlight, and the semi-see-through she’s almost wearing is like it’s not there. The deep orange-gold of it makes me sigh as her hair voices songs ranging from blonde to gold. But that smile hooks me, and I get the impression my mouth is hanging open. It is. I shut it and manage a grin.
“Hi, I’m Tippi,” she says. “You here about the classic?” And she nods to where it stands behind me leaning on its side-stand. I can barely nod, yes. And she smiles like I own all her attention. “Weren’t you and your wife across the road the other day looking at that house?”
I nod, yes.
“Are you going to buy?”
“We have,” I manage.
She smiles, makes to speak, but…. “Who’s there?” a graveled male voice demands from inside their home.
“Someone interested in your….” And she smiles into my eyes as though we’ve known each other forever.
I gulp as he appears at the door without sound as though he’d arrived without having to walk.
He has faded jeans on, but no shirt…his chest, stomach, and shoulder muscles twist and twitch and snap and strike about like snakes even when he’s standing still. Long gray hair falls to his shoulders, all wavy and aglow in contrasting shades of life. Odd for someone with grey hair.
I can feel his eyes examining me in a way that others can’t—judging by how they drive right on through me. Some Granddad I’m thinking. And so young looking; save for the hair.
“Take a look,” he says.
“I’m Bill,” I say.
“We know,” they chime as one.
I gape. They smile and look deeply into each other’s eyes, slide by me, and head down their garden path. I follow them down it.
He pats the blue and red striped fuel tank. He looks up and runs a finger along the chromed handlebars and snaps the clutch lever back and forth a couple times; pulls a screwdriver and a wrench out a back pocket and adjusts the slack in the brake cable.
He tests it again and seems satisfied.
He waves at the motorcycle and says, “Looking for a classic? None better than this. It was first sold in ’80. New brake rotors, new pads. Extended wear but high grip tires. That’s due to three compounds in one plus whatever magic technology goes with that. Racing pipe courtesy of Racing Ways and fairing picked up at a dumpsite. It could maybe be a replica.”
I figure it’s time to get the asking price down. My voice level and concerned, I say, “It’s more than a hundred years old. Good for a quick nip up the road and standing on the side-stand out front letting others drool over it.”
He slips both hands behind his back with a military-like motion, steps one foot sideways, and stands at ease thinking. “Don’t believe all you see,” he says.
“Will Jenny be okay with you owning this?” Tippi asks, smiling for me, and adds, “Since you’re going to live across the road, it might be a spoiler…relationship wise. Unless…of course….”
“Of course, what?” I ask.
“She’s agreed this is okay. Some of us don’t like two wheels. Some of us don’t like wheels altogether. Right?”
I nod yes, too dumbfounded to say no, for I don’t know how they know Jenny’s name either.
But I figure they must have chatted with the house for sale seller.
Granddad pulls her close and whispers in her ear. She jumps up and down on her toes, stops, and her face changes to severe, and she says, “I don’t know. We should tell him. Warn him. This isn’t the latest, but he’ll be fooled. Maybe fail at it and get totally lost.”
He shakes his head and says, “He’ll do okay. It’s getting late for him.”
“Okay. But he’s got to promise.”
“He’ll promise—won’t you?”
A little worried about it’s getting late for me, I nod like I get it, but I’m lost about how I’d fail. I have no answer and about to ask myself the questions again when something inside stops me.
I swallow and look the two of them over.
They shift closer to each other and wait arm in arm. And without warning and nothing further said, he hands the keys to me. I look him in the eye, thinking he’s kidding, and he’ll pull them away as soon as I reach for them.
I reach out—a blur of motion. I look down, and the keys are in my hand. I frown up at him. He’s staring into her eyes as hers smile up at him. He turns back to me and says, “It’ll cost you five dollars and a couple of…three promises.”
Before he changes his mind, I hand him five dollars thinking: This is wild. This is far gone enough, even Jenny will approve. She’ll get the value. The profit we can make by reselling it. I look up from the mists of greed.
He checks the watermark, and my five-dollar bill vanishes into a back pocket and glancing at her, he says, “Right then…?”
“I don’t know, Pocket…he looks like someone…” and she turns to me “…will you keep your word?”
I try getting a handle on his name being Pocket and her question simultaneously and lose both ways. She snuggles up to him, reaches over and touches the fuel tank as though it’s me she’s touching—which is where her eyes are; bold and inviting. I swallow hard and glance at Pocket.
He smiles as winners do and again, I don’t get it.
But I smile anyway, look long and hard into her eyes, those ones that want, no need an answer. “That depends,” I say, ducking, diving, buying time to figure these two and myself as well.
But I need more time.
I assume a thoughtful face and glance around. It’s still an average neighborhood—but has aged since last I looked it over. There are the small lawns, stone garden paths, pointed roofs, houses like floor mats—all the same size, three different front facades, same layout behind. It’s a sunny day, and to be honest, I woke up here, knocking on their door.
Yes. Between heading up the garden path and passing the House for Sale sign, I hadn’t even thought of the motorcycle—too weird, I figure. Also, and stranger, I have no clue what happened between those two points in time.
I could have died, been reborn, grown-up, gone to school, gained and lost several jobs, and then turned up here who knows how many days, weeks, months, or centuries later. I check my wrist, and my watch tells me it’s been four days. All I do know is that I’d decided to cross the road.
And so, here I am.
That shakes me inside. Have I been to work?
Jenny would not be happy if I lose my job.
Which reminds me that several customers trust me alone with their Eco.
Has someone dropped off an Eco at the shop and then asked for me? If yes, I’ve about had it with that job, one of too many, as Jenny likes to remind me. But Joe, my best buddy, is the foreman at work. He’ll cover for me, I suppose. Motion catches my eye.
Pocket raises a finger and says, “The first one is you promise to never open the engine, not even remove the cam cover. Okay?”
“How do I fix…?” but he cuts me off.
“Okay?!” He growls.
“No,” Tippi says. “Say…I promise to never open the engine.”
“I promise to never open the engine.” I obediently reply.
“Good,” they chime as one.
“See here?” Pocket says and points to the rev-counter.
I nod yes, letting him know that I’m knowledgeable when it comes to classics.
He plays with his chin and says, “Let’s be sure about that…note the regular white face as the numbers climb higher and how it then gets solid red. You know that the rev-counter needle swings around like that. Right?”
“Right,” I say.
Pocket stares off into space, turns his back on me, and runs his finger over the rev-counter. “Okay, then. Now see how the numbers keep climbing, but the red begins as bars of red and white, and then it becomes solid red. Right?”
“Right,” I say.
“You must promise to never rev it into the solid red. Never do that!”
Being a quick learner, I say, “I’ll never rev it into the solid red.”
“Okay. And last promise. You promise to never open the gas tank.”
“So, when it’s out of gas…what do I do?” I ask.
“You promise to never open the gas tank,” he repeats coldly.
“I promise to never open the gas tank,” I reply coldly.
He smiles and says, “Other than that. You can ride it as much as you want. Be careful. Age can be misleading.” And he looks at Tippi, and their eyes share a joke I don’t get, and I wish my father and grandfather had been like him, Pocket that is.
He slaps my shoulder but keeps looking at her. She looks at me, all the way in, and touches my heart and mind in a way that I have never even faintly experienced.
“You will keep all your promises?” she asks.
I nod yes mechanically, mind a blank.
Again, she examines me in-depth. And I can feel she’s inside me walking around, leaving footprints across my heart and mind—prints of orangey-gold light. And he knows she is. And he smiles so much love to her, I’m downright jealous that anyone loves another that much.
And pictures of Jenny and ironing boards mixed into expressions of disapproval vault to mind and dance a devil’s samba. But the look of trust on Tippi’s and Pocket’s faces leaves me feeling as though I’m doing a deal with those who have no clue about the value of classics.
She touches my elbow, and fireworks from every Fourth of July ever explode across the sky. I watch the display transfixed as though I’m at each one of them. When the show ends, I blink and looking around, find myself standing alone upon Tippi’s and Pocket’s garden path. But the lawn is overgrown, and the flower beds had welcomed weeds where before there were none.
Time has passed and I don’t know how much.
Instinctively, I glance up at the sky, and strange thoughts pass through me. Yes, and once again, I suspect I’ve been riding out there in space searching for those orange-gold roads and tunnels, but I don’t know why I search for them.
And! Jenny must know when I’m gone, but she hasn’t mentioned it—far as I can recall.
Makes me wonder why she remains silent about it…now. Why now? That’s new.
Has she found someone else?
Well! It wouldn’t surprise me. Not with what’s happening to me and what I’ve been up to out in space…oh…wait…her new job! There’s something about her career and someone else seems to be involved, but I can’t figure why nor what nor whom.
I look over my last ride out in space and search for those roads and tunnels, but strangely my thoughts are empty as though when I’m out there, my memories belong to someone else, and I, Bill, cannot find them once I’m back here yet I’m aware of being out in space. But this is a first; thoughts of being out there riding when my feet are grounded on Earth.
Pushing away those empty spaces where memories should live, I note the motorcycle is no longer standing on its side-stand on Tippi’s driveway. But the keys are in my hand. I rattle them, wondering how long I’ve had them.
And turning, I find that across the road, our new garage door is open, and the motorcycle waits there on its side-stand in the evergreen lighting.
And Jenny stands at the front door of our new home, silhouetted by the light from inside. She has her hands-on-hips in condemnation. And it flows across the road like a raging river and smashes into me. Her chin is up, and with feet splayed apart waits like an assassin to deliver a final blow.
And I check my watch and it tells me we have lived here eight months. That shocks me. Once again, I look for Pocket and Tippi, but their house is dark, and I stand on their garden path up, which I had been led.
“She’s been gone two days,” Jenny shouts across the chasm, usually a road. “Come home before you get to live alone. Ride the damn thing if you must.”
I walk across the road, pondering on how come I was at their front door. “Where are those missing memories?” I ask myself. But there’s no answer.
Looking up, I groan within at the sight of our happy-home-for-future-children.
Midway up our garden path, I realize that I know what Tippi’s home looks like inside.
And I’ve known this for some time now.
Their home sends images into my head of each room and passage, and a feeling that says it’s my home too. And looking it over I find Tippi and Pocket seated on the couch, smiling at me, and nodding yes. But I’m entranced by the interior, it’s so different.
Where ours is simple, handy, and usable—theirs is aesthetic; rooms and halls filled with lines and curves of furniture leading one to another. Strange lighting comes from hidden places and glows softly as though not wanting to disturb the living. Most of the kitchen looks unused, and the cupboards are empty—I’ve peeked. There’s no one about, and their only method of travel was the motorcycle—now living in my garage. Do they walk everywhere they go?
“Are you coming in or staying out?” Jenny asks in that distracting fashion that leaves me with a twister in my head. And then, thinking becomes taffy stretching in a blender until I want to scream but screaming is not allowed in Jenny’s house.
You see, whatever it was that made Jenny glow with life, but a short while back never came to fruition. I suspect she’s left me…and suspicion is all I have. Her face is now older than then, more rigid, and petulantly unsmiling. I head inside to face another day.
It’s been months since I bought the classic motorcycle.
I pull on an old leather fighter-pilot jacket along with a racing helmet. Throw a leg over and stand the old classic upright. I insert the key, turn it, and the headlight turns on. I check it’s in neutral, pull the clutch lever in anyways, and hit the start button…and she’s dead.
I remove the seat, then the battery from under it, and charge it overnight. The next morning, I hit the start button after putting all back together…and deader than dead. I wind the throttle back and forth and sniff at the intake trumpets attached to each carburetor, and not a whiff of gas.
“I promise to never open the gas tank,” I’d said, and now I know why…never going to ride this one. About to push it back into the garage when something causes me to glance over my shoulder.
Across the road, the front door opens, Tippi steps out onto the single front doorstep and stands there looking at me. She steps back inside, hesitates, waves to me, and her hand motion blurs her fingers, making it appear as though she has none.
The door closes and opens again just as I throw a leg across the classic. Her hair plays with the wind more than the wind does with it as she crosses the street bouncing on the heels of the boots she’d just put on.
She glides up our driveway and stops next to me, places her hand on my forearm, and her eyes on mine. She shakes her head no, kicks the side-stand out, and pulls on my forearm, forcing the classic to lean and rest. She keeps tugging at me until I step off and stand next to her.
“Just ride it,” she says, kisses my cheek and heads back home.
Stunned, I yet feel the heat of Jenny’s eyes boring into the back of my head. I turn slowly to find her standing at our front door, soup-ladle in hand, multiple ladles filled with rage in her eyes.
“Just what are you two getting up to?” she asks her voice cold.
“Nothing. She just came on over and did that. She’s friendly.”
“So! That’s what they’re calling it now. Friendly, eh?!”
And the front door slams loudly behind her.
Six weeks have gone by now and it still won’t start.
Across the road, the door hasn’t opened in all that time. Neither have any lights turned on inside. I sense something or someone is missing. Gone perhaps, but I don’t know what or who nor where to.
I sweat over the classic bike in the shade of our garage, hidden from the direct glare of a summer sun but not in any way free of its heat. “You notice anything about them?” Jenny asks from behind me.
It’s a trick question I right off figure and wonder how she came up behind me without me having heard her approach. I turn to her. “What kind of thing? Who? Which one? Both?”
“Pocket!” she says. “His eyes…so young. His hair…so old. The way he moves as though young but old.”
“No,” I reply emphatically.
“Figures,” and she leaves adding, “Liar,” over her shoulder.
I continue polishing, and when I look up, the sky hides behind black clouds and sirens wail off in the distance. I glance about, and the lawn is uncut, and our home’s exterior paint is peeling in places. Peeling from age and abuse. I look around and catch a glimpse of Jenny’s back as she enters our front door.
At the same time, an old friend I haven’t seen in donkey’s years walks down our garden path headed for his Super-Eco parked at our curb. He waves. I wave back. I check my watch.
t’s been some months since I last checked it. I head for our front door. But I check again and note the change of year I’d first missed. That about shuts me down. I stagger, fall, skin my knees on the concrete tiles of our garden path, turn onto my back, and stare upwards.
The black clouds rush by, the pale sky reappears, the front door opens with a loud bang. “You want supper while it’s hot?” Jenny growls.
“Hot works for me,” and I stand up and head indoors; my knees hurting something awful.
There’s the smell of baking in the kitchen. I look inside the oven and find it’s turned on, hot as Hell but with nothing inside it. I look at Jenny, and she shrugs, one of those I don’t care if you’ve guessed, kind of shrug.
I walk by her, and the slight breeze my motion stirs brushes by her.
It carries her perfume mingled with the thick, musty smell of an old acquaintance of mine. I smile inwardly at this, surprised that I don’t care and about to toss an offhand comment when the phone rings. I answer, “Yeah, Bill speaking.” And I go cold when I hear his voice.
It’s Joe the foreman’s voice. My friend. The one who covers for me down at the Eco shop.
“I’m sorry, Bill,” he says. “But you don’t turn up often enough for me to cover for you anymore. They fired you weeks ago…old man Higgins would wait no longer for you to work on his Eco…you know he always demands you work on it…anyway…I only just got around to calling you. I know I should have done so earlier but…there you have it.”
“Well! Okay, thanks.” I cut off the connection.
“You get fired?” And Jenny’s voice is strangely triumphant.
“Okay! Get out of here as well. You’ve been a bum bumming here far too long now.”
“You with him?” and I nod towards the curb where an old acquaintance had parked.
“Yes, I am. It’s been a long time—years, and you’ve just noticed. She’s in your head Bill and—”
“And that’s all!” I snarl.
Jenny follows me to the bathroom and watches as I wash my face and hands and wet my hair. “Still no sign of gray Bill…it’s all you have going for you…that eternal youth. It fooled me into believing you had something matching it inside. And strangely, you sure do…but it’s nothing more than an empty drum that on occasions tosses out an echo or two. Totally nothing!”
“I told you way up-front collecting possessions to me is the same as dying. You never got that.”
“So, being a bum is freedom?”
“You’ll never understand.”
“Oh, I do. Because there’s nothing to understand! My father and mother warned me—don’t marry him! I was too dumb in love to listen.”
“Well, I hope you’ll be happy with—”
“I already am!”
“Nothing here is yours,” she says. “Oh?! Other than that stupid classic piece of junk, you polish and never ride. Take it and get out and have fun pushing it down the road. And don’t think you’ve ever been anything other than tolerated…these last few years.”
I turn to her in total astonishment at myself; it’s the first time she’s made me good and mad. My whole-body shakes from the effort of wanting to crush her. I manage to hold it back. I dare not speak, for my mouth mustn’t open; that would set free my rage.
She tilts her chin up. “Got to you this time. Didn’t I? And she pounds her fists into my chest. I stagger backward, stunned by the animal in her eyes. Where had that been all this time?
“I hate you!” she screams, and a delicate finger catches me in the eye.
I turn away, head for the door with a hand over one eye. A flashlight battery zooms by my head. A snap-glance, and she’s reaching for another. I hasten out the door and turn left just as it hits the passage wall right in line with where my head had been.
“You think I’m so dumb—I don’t know!” she screams with grievous hurt and pain and comes after me. I swing a leg over the classic as she slaps the back of my head and screams, “You freak. You freaking-freak!”
The side-stand snaps in, and I turn the key, and lights turn on. In my haste to escape, I set both feet on the foot-pegs simultaneously, tuck my elbows in against the fuel tank, and twist the throttle fully open. She roars down the driveway like a lightning bolt escaping the clutches of Hell.
And it hits me. “Just ride it,” Tippi had said.
I’m too stunned to steer. It’s so fast I’m suddenly in the middle of the road with traffic buzzing around me. As lifeless as Super-Eco’s are, they can run you down hard enough to never get up again.
I hit the rear brake locking the rear wheel, turn full lock on the handlebars, and swing it ninety-degrees, and I glance across at Jenny. She’s looking over my shoulder and across the road.
I glance there, and a light turns on in Tippi’s home for the first time in months. But I don’t care anymore for the classic is alive beneath me and pointed down the road, and I twist the throttle full open.
Amazed faces line the sidewalks as I race by, grinning from ear to ear at the unholy howl from the exhaust pipes. And the revs sniff at the red and white, and I don’t care, and I hold it open until we hit solid red, and suddenly everything stretches out and blurs.
The houses change into grayed streaks of speed while beneath the wheels, the road comes alive and glows like an orangey-gold fluorescent light. Out ahead, all is total darkness cut only by the road of light itself. In the distance, silver spots flash on and off, revealing the Milky-Way. I hunch down tighter and hug her fuel tank.
Yet, I still can’t believe it.
I snap-glance about trying to figure it.
How can this be?
Moments ago, I stood upon the boulevard of broken promises.
Wait! Was there something more?
Yes. The light turned on across the road. And Tippi waved.
Her hands had no fingers yet still looked like hands. And her eyes—probably the lighting. No! There was joy, life, and relief in her eyes.
Inside my head, something flares alive—something like a lighthouse beam that points the way ahead, but which feels as though it’s made of solid steel. I give the old classic more throttle.
The handlebars shudder in my grip.
A snap-glance down, and the speedo reads; LIGHT 000.78.
I hold her steady until only darkness surrounds me. And the classic feels like a mirage beneath me. My body feels light. I glance at it and watch as it changes into the color spectrum of light.
And I become a rainbow; one that’s rushing onward at breakneck speed towards a destination.
I seep into each color of the rainbow and reaching out to the road of light, I become its orangey gold as well. When I blink, silver beams flash before me alternating with flat black ones, and I open the throttle a little more, but not all the way…yet.
And I know, sense that this is me…but not all that I am…as yet.
And acceleration stretches me into a single rainbow streaking away into the universe.
And I pulse, switching on and off from a rainbow to purely orangey gold.
But when I’m a rainbow, the colors and other wavelengths of light streak by faster than your everyday, garden variety white light. And beams fire out my eyes and touch destinations near enough to reach and thinking becomes so slow I don’t…I simply watch…what’s out there beyond the stars.
And the speedo says LIGHT 000.88.
I ease back, afraid of what’s coming where the road of orangey light curves strangely. Not a left or right turn—it’s left and up to curl over itself and heads back the way I’ve come. I’ll be hanging upside down if there’s…if such a thing as up and down exits out here.
“I’m not ready,” I shout.
But the rev-counter is already halfway into the red and white. And we curve left and up. And up I go holding the throttle steady but still far from full open. Quarter way up, she stutters, and the front end falls away. I yank the throttle open. She coughs once, and the front wheel drops further. I hold on tight as we plunge downwards into complete darkness.
We hit the made-from-recycled road hard, bounce a couple of times, she shakes herself as though clearing her throat, and the ancient howl wailing out the exhaust pipe comes alive and attracts attention. Windows open; blank faces stare. Pedestrians stop up to watch, and kids run into the road, waving and whistling.
“Back here at Jenny’s home again,” I muse and then whisper, “Where to now?”
But I already know where and want where and a blur passes by, and I’m there.
I kick the side-stand out and lean her over onto Tippi’s driveway, and the front door opens. Her eyes beam, and that glow around her which had somehow, sometime, or somewhere vanished is back again. Yes. Back when Pocket went away, it had left her eyes. But it’s back now.
And so am I.
She throws her arms wide as I rush up and wraps them around me and whispers, “I knew you could. I knew you could. Welcome back. Soon, you, too, will go home.”
“I will?” I ask. Home? How? Where?”
“Be patient. You will. Now listen to me.” And she pauses. “You’re inside this,” and she pats my body in several places. I shake my head no. “No. Really,” she insists. “You’re inside this body called Bill. But you will be free. Free to be with me…with us again.”
“What?” I say, mouth hanging open.
“Shush now. You’re still half lost. Give it time.”
“Like Pocket did?” I ask.
“My, it’s already began. Yes. Just like Pocket.”
I stagger backward as a sudden rush of time speeds by and the world around blurs and changes.
She takes my hand, and the world settles down. With Tippi leading the way, we go inside while on the back of my head, Jenny’s eyes bore holes into it.
I smile and wave to Jenny, and she jolts as though struck and Tippi tugs on my hand, and I follow her inside and notice she has no hands nor fingers and is lither than I’d thought.
Lithe like a mirage of pure light dancing across space.
Headed down the hallway, I glance into a hanging mirror, and there’s a small spot of gray hair at my temple. It makes me smile for yes, I now understand what the grey means for Tippi, for Pocket, for time, for riding, for me.
Months later and more of my hair has grayed by now.
I look up. The sun is high, and the cemetery is dead quiet—gravel crunches beneath our shoes. We stop at a plain gravestone. POCKET and birthdate are all that’s craved on it. Tippi kneels and places fresh flowers at the foot of the headstone.
I stare at Pocket’s date of birth, a mere one year older than myself.
Tippi smiles up at me and says, “I’ve always loved our own men who are older than I am. It’s the best way to find you…all of you.”
I nod. Tippi reaches up and cups my face with those hands that glow as her fingers fade away. “You have a long way to go to finish the ride, the separation,” she says.
“I see. Ah? Looking forward to it…I think.”
Her face changes, becomes anxious, she hesitates, but says, “Do you mind if I call you Pocket?”
Without thinking, I say, “No. Not at all.”
“Good,” and she smiles all orangey gold.
But I ask my question. “What do you expect of me? What is this all?”
“Just separation, Bill…Pocket. Separating you from this.” And she presses her hands to my chest.
And curiosity plays havoc with my tongue. “Do you know how I…we got here?” I ask. “You know? Caught inside this? I don’t.”
Her face turns solemn, she glances to the heavens above, then her voice grave, she says, “We thought we’d found a playground here. A place of fun, and we figured we could all join with this other species—Jenny’s kind. Told each other we’d just enjoy life with them, but it soon became within them. Oh. Did we make a mistake back then? Being inside them, I mean. And the longer we stayed inside, the harder it was to get out.”
“Why? Why did we get stuck like that?”
“All I can imagine is that it began when we touched them. At first, we merely draped yourselves over their shoulders. But somehow, we slipped inside them…into them. Perhaps when they got hurt, that happened to us…somehow. Something like an accident, and they were unconscious. We tried to help them when they hurt…a lot. Tried to pull them back from the pain. But I don’t really know. Once inside them, we…we melded with them, perhaps hoping to prevent other injuries. I’m just guessing, and that’s all I can think of.”
“So, I’m stuck inside this Bill, and somehow riding will free me?”
“Yes. Pocket and others are free now and have headed back home. And that’s why those like me who didn’t come here to play are searching for you. To find you…one at a time.”
“And guide us home?” I ask.
She nods, smiles, slides her hands down my arms, takes my hand and around us the house…mine now too…flashes and pulses. Her front door appears. We step inside. I glance into the lounge and stepping inside, I sit down looking out the front window to where Jenny exits hand in hand with an old friend of mine and their two toddlers.
She looks happy now. I smile for her happiness. Yes, Jenny has that separation she wanted. And I wanted it too. But what I’d needed was the separation still to come. And I cross my fingers and smile…that’s what Jenny does at times like this.
“That’s how it is, Jenny,” I whisper and add, “Tippi and I.”
And Tippi curls up in my lap all warm and comfortable in a way I’ve not known for a long time. And I feel her searching around inside me as though it too is a playground. And she touches my heart and then slips into my head and whispers to me, “Now you know how I knew your names. I told Pocket.”
“I’ve wondered about that—but I thought you’d spoken with the seller. Thank you for telling me. But I’m Pocket now. Will you tell me things too?”
“Yes. That’s another reason why I’m here…and searching.”
“I see. One day my hair will all turn grey.”
“It will. And you’ll be ready to leave. I’m always sad when a Pocket leaves.”
“I keep my hopes and dreams in my pocket and in all the Pockets I find.”
“And the motorcycle?” I ask.
“It’s what we came here with dressed up to look like it belongs here.”
I smile. “Clever.”
And I close my eyes and grin in anticipation of riding again. Riding out where there is only black space carved by roads of orangey gold. Out there where aliens like us live. Out there where there is no air. And the longing for my second separation throbs deep inside me.
I am a rainbow streaking across space. But I am not merely the colors that compose white light. That much, I know. Around me, all is black and empty space. The throttle is fully open. The orangey gold road I’m on curves upwards as before, but this time there’s no backward curve—no U-turn in the sky.
Ahead a bright star beckons. Near it hangs a cluster of dark planets.
I hunch down, and the speedo reads LIGHT 1.0.
And the rainbow that I am evolves into a beam of white light and wraps himself around that orangey-gold highway. I look down at myself and then around, and yes…Bill is gone.
I am like a nothing yet aglow with life.
And I rocket onwards.
Home. Here I come. Wait for me.
Copyright (c) 2020 Lawrence Martin Nysschens