A young boy, dressed in clean but threadbare jeans and a shirt that might have once been red, took in my leathers and my road-weary black Harley. He then shot me a look that was older than he was. “Mister? What’s it like to ride a motorcycle?”
I decided to tell him the truth. “Kid. It’s so hot your knuckles fry. It’s so cold you want your fingers to fall off because they hurt so bad. But it’s wide high freedom with a joy that transcends to something beyond the howl of the wind and the throb of the motor that becomes so close to the beating of your heart you can’t separate them. It’s a gratitude beyond the food in your belly—beyond the roof under which you live; it’s a paroxysm of elation that sings a song in your heart and you love every note without knowing how it ends. You just can’t describe it exactly, Kid. You just can’t. But you want to keep riding, just in case you find the words that might shine a light on what it’s like so someone else might have a clue. It’s almost a prayer. If I could really share it with everybody, I surely would.”
He pursed his lips, looking for a moment like the old man he would someday be. He nodded. “Thanks.” He stopped at the doorway and looked back at the Harley and me. He nodded again and went inside, probably to look for his mom.
I stood there in the fitful breeze cinching my denim jacket into its windy shape. Time to throw a leg and go. As the motor kicked over I nursed it to a smooth potato-potato and wondered if I’d ever see that kid again. The story didn’t feel done. I filed my shrug to the we’ll see pile.