Riding it Out

I can still hear her voice, just as powerful over a tinny phone line as it is in person. It cuts through the line and into my ear, making me shudder. I am no longer able to keep my composure as she hisses, “You have always been so ungrateful. This is just another example. Always thinking about yourself. It’s ‘me, me, me’...and not once have you shown any appreciation for…”

Fill in the blank. It has been so long, I’ve forgotten whatever the hell we were arguing about. This was blow-up number 101,656.

I used to be able to slam the phone down, when we had a land line. Not anymore. It felt much less satisfying to scream back and have no way to cut her off other than touching my phone screen. So unsatisfying. Maybe, in fact, I started yelling out of frustration that I couldn’t hurt her back by hanging up the way I used to. Some weapon.

Feeling helpless and still stinging from her venomous words, I remembered the box of framed pictures, stuffed animals, and cards and gifts I had made for her in my childhood. It had shown up on my doorstep the week before, along with a newspaper article about the lingering, lifelong impacts of teenage depression. She had highlighted certain sentences and written some note in the margin with her elegant cursive, something about me being a sociopath.

I turned to the bike.

It gleamed in the sunlight, a subtle gleam that beckoned me. I was so proud of it...candy wine red. I will always remember I chose that machine like I choose bottles of wine - for the look and the label, which in this case was the color of the engine cover.

I straddled it, black leather pants squeaking against the black naugahyde seat. We melded together. I was made for this. Grasping the clutch, I turned the key and heard the familiar putter. I put it in neutral and backed out. Once on the street I rolled through first and then second. Turning at the intersection, I felt tears well up inside of me, along with the sick excitement of acceleration, throwing caution to the wind as I advanced from first to second to third and fourth within a matter of seconds. The wind blocked everything out. It held any remaining peace I had inside me, between my ears. I felt a twisted sense of revenge and sinfulness, getting back at my mother by doing something she didn’t approve of, even at my age, when I should have been old enough to be reckless - even to the point of wrecking myself - without her “OK."

I sliced through the evening air on the horse that replaced the one I always wanted as a child. Slowly, painfully, my sanity returned.


Glen Allen, VA