Lately, I’ve just been slipping out at night. Even if it rains, I’ll wait. I’ve lived here long enough to know an afternoon downpour in Austin can dry up by nightfall. I’ll wait till everyone’s asleep, turn off the lights, one-by-one, and go and get dressed. The garage door travels down, rollers rattling down the track, clunking and popping on the hinges. I haven’t washed my bike in weeks. The dust on the fairings sparkles under the haze of an orange porchlight.
The neighbors’ windows flicker with blue and purple lights like silent fireworks being set off indoors. 42...42... the PSI is just right. Air is my ultimate concern if I do any 120 mph-plus runs tonight. No flat spots, no wobble. No turbulence when I’m tucked in like a bobsled racer, the moths criss-crossing the beams, sucked into my funnel of air flying past like sparks, tapping my helmet with a pitter-patter.
Everyone makes fun of these big exhaust pipes, but I like them. “What big cans you have!” But they’re quiet when I sneak out of the suburbs at night. They won’t wake up baby, irritate Karen, or startle the dogs across the street. 200 horses, and this thing is quiet. Ha. A stock sleeper that clears this middle-aged mind, and keeps me from letting the old man in...
I glide past my neighbors down our dark street. A squad car passes by at the stop sign. He turns his head to look at me. To profile me? His dark navy shirt with a silver pin, patches, and a badge, is on too tight.
My shifts always start off premature, my bike lunging, until I calm myself down. If the horse is skittish, they say, don’t blame the ride. Blame the rider. This is about timing, I tell myself. Sweet spots. Being present... Countersteer delicately. Everything is one move, at the right time. Wish I knew that when I was younger.
But my back isn’t hurting, and the grips feel good like a good grip on a baseball bat. It’s 77 degrees and the Ram Air will like that. One more pass and I’ll be on my secret stretch. A runway of yellow lines and dotted stripes. I pass two grey SUVs under a light pole with the bulb out: two deputies hiding in the parking lot where they always are, parked side-by-side, talking to each other with their windows down.
The long curve here is by the construction site. Clumps of dirt spread across the lanes like street acne, left in the rain, hardening into bumps. I’m hoping for a green light but don’t get one. She doesn’t like to sit. 200 degrees comes on real quick.
I get three straight green lights and make micro-adjustments to my ergos in my seat, pegs, and handle grips. A sniper cracking his gloved knuckles before the shot. I hug the bumps on the tankpad with my knees, and the leather creaks, almost tearing my pants.
I lean to the right before I drop in, like a surfer who drops his hand to run his fingers across the water, and rev it up to 6 grand, the powerband, and take off. The nose rises, my helmet buffets in the wind, and those quiet pipes gorge like rockets with thrust, and everything goes silent. All of my worries fall off, and the dotted stripes stretch, growing longer, until they’re one line, shaking, in a blur.