We’re talking by the coat rack when she passes us on the tile floor, barefoot with red-painted toenails, a sweater on one arm and a drink in her hand. She must have recognized our motorcycle references because she pauses and says, “Do you guys ride Harleys?”
It’s a wedding reception for good friends of ours, and Linda and I have escaped the loud music of the dining room/dance floor to talk with another couple who also ride. It’s better than having to shout.
We pause and exchange glances all around – is this a friend of yours? is the unasked question – and say no. I have a Yamaha and a BMW and the nice folks we’re talking to have a Suzuki and something else I can’t remember.
“Well, would you be interested in buying my husband’s Harley?” she asks, and waits expectantly, as though we catch left-field questions like this all the time.
“Your husband’s selling his Harley?” I say. “Why’s that?”
“He got it in some sort of mid-life crisis or something,” she says, and it comes out they have their own business and their kids are grown and gone.
“But he hasn’t ridden it in two years. It’s just been sitting in the garage. I think he should sell it.”
“Why doesn’t he ride it?” someone asks.
“He did, for a while,” she says. “He’d get up real early, while it was still dark sometimes, and go on these long rides. But now he doesn’t.
“And he doesn’t want to get rid of it. So it’s just sitting there.”
“Do you go riding with him?” Linda asks.
“I did, a few times,” the woman says, shifting her glass to her other hand. “But I really didn’t like it.”
“Well, I’ve seen some of those Harley passenger saddles,” Linda says. “Some of them look really uncomfortable.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that,” the woman says. “He got me a nice seat. But the rides were boring, and I’d rather be out in the garden or even reading a book or something.
“So it’s just sitting there.”
I’m tempted to say that maybe her husband thought riding a motorcycle together would be adventuresome and he wanted to share that with her. I’m tempted to say no wonder he’s letting his Harley sit in the garage because she’s made clear her contempt for it. And I’m tempted to find her husband and say don’t give it up.
And though I marvel at her effrontery to practically sell his bike out from underneath him, I keep my own counsel. I don’t know the whole story, and I certainly don’t know this woman and her husband, and I’m not going anywhere near that minefield.
Motorcycles aren’t for everyone, I know. And even with effort from the pilot, riding as a passenger can be dull. We’ve talked about that here.
But even though I’m projecting, I can imagine him at the Harley dealership, looking for the perfect bike. I see him ordering the special saddle and bolting it to the rear fender and I can almost feel his anticipation at the wonderful rides ahead.
I can see that because I’ve done it myself. And maybe that’s why I find their story so sad, because it was so close to my own, which had a much better ending and didn’t, didn’t, thank God, wither away and collect dust in a garage.