Back seat… rider

by Mary T. Wagner

In all honesty, I was praying for rain. Looked out my office window wistfully, at the little patch of sky not completely blocked off by the building across the alley from the courthouse. A bit overcast, a chance of showers. Another look an hour later. Clear skies and sunshine again. Damn my luck!

Dinner was in the offing, my treat, a thank you and a reward for the hours of sweat and backbreaking labor and music and laughter that had gone into converting a good 300 square feet of gravel and plastic sheeting around my house into an oasis of blooming, bursting flowers and greenery, accented with Arizona sandstone stepping stones the color of a desert sunset. And if the weather cooperated, he was going to leave the pickup truck behind and finally bring the bike.

There are consequences to dating a guy with a Harley. Yes, there’s the whole mystique…the gleaming chrome, the marvelous, primal thump of the engine, the shades and stubble, the black leather pants. But at some point, it’s not just window dressing, not something you stand next to and hope it doesn’t outshine your outfit. At some point, he’s going to want you on the back of the bike with him. And my day of reckoning had finally arrived.

Still, I dressed for a different occasion, hoping that some shred of caution—check the weather, thunderstorms possible later!—would keep the bike in the garage and our transport involving four wheels and a roof. Blue plaid capri pants. Fluttery white see-through shirt over a skinny white tank top. Sandals and bare ankles.

The man and the Harley arrived on time, the bike gleaming in the sunlight, the man grinning and triumphant with anticipation. We sat on lawn chairs in the yard for a while, admiring the new and improved landscape, and I catalogued all the drawbacks I could think of.

I have trust issues. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a control freak. And I play by the rules, virtually all of the time. I never go in the “Exit” door at Wal-Mart, even when it’s closer and it’s standing wide open. Speed scares me to death, unless I’m the one driving. I’m terrified of heights, and I have absolutely no sense of balance. Stiletto heels are all the altitude I need. I like traveling in cars. Especially cars with air conditioning, and CD players, and cup holders for my Starbucks, and air bags, oh yes, with air bags.

He listened patiently, then once again eloquently described his love of riding on that doggone motorcycle. The freedom. The sensation of the wind on your skin and all of nature around you. The magnificent sound. And he promised to keep to the speed limit. Then he reached into a storage compartment and thoughtfully brought out a spare helmet and his good black leather jacket. I tried it on. With the plaid capri pants and sandals, I looked ridiculous. I exited stage left, and returned more suitably attired. Dark jeans, black high-heeled boots. I ditched the foofy white shirt in favor of something snug and knit. Shrugged into the jacket, put on the helmet, got on the back seat. In truth, the battle had been lost before it was even joined. Then with a couple of basic instructions—lean into the turns with him or stay neutral instead of leaning the other way, loosen my death grip just a little so he could both drive and breathe—we took off slowly down the driveway and made it safely and without fanfare or hysteria to the restaurant three miles away.

That was many rides ago, and there are more on the agenda. One even covered just under five hundred miles on a weekend not that long ago. I may start shopping for my own helmet. But I like borrowing the jacket, something so chivalrous and gallant about that gesture that makes me feel protected in ways that have nothing to do with how much leather stands between me and the pavement.

I used to think that sex was the final frontier in human intimacy, measured in hushed and sacred increments of trust, and closeness, and sharing, and vulnerability. I was wrong. You can make a whole lot of whoopee and still hold much of yourself back, hide those private places you don’t want to share, feel like you’re still somehow in control. The much bigger leap of raw faith and reliance is getting on the back of a motorcycle, wrapping your arms around someone’s waist, and with a touch wordlessly conveying, “here’s my life, I’m trusting you to keep me safe.”

Scary, and terrifying, and thrilling, and totally liberating all in one. And yes, to my great surprise, I’ve found I really like the view from the back seat.