Several evenings ago I was riding to the local grocery store to buy a little something for dinner. I remember back years ago when my daughter would eat just about anything. Now at the old age of seventeen years, she can be rather picky. If not served too often, roast chicken is good and her complaints only start after three days or so. So, I am on a chicken run.
I pull my bike up and park next to the bicycle rack. Instead of human powered cycles using the slots, a small herd of scooters rest there in the 30-something degree temps. Several look sad, abused and not well maintained. The small scoot on the opposite end of the rack from my bike was a well ridden but clean older white scooter of unknown make.
An attractive woman comes out of the store and turns toward the herd. She looks at me while I take off my helmet and gloves and places her purchases on her scoot.
“Do you have a smoke?” she asks.
I am unsure whether smokers have a 'look,' or maybe there is some assumption that if a person rides a cruiser, they have a higher likelihood of smoking. It is something worthy of some research somewhere or contemplation by someone else. Or... Maybe she was just making conversation... Breaking the ice, so to speak.
“Sure, regular lights OK?” I remove a pack of my 'cheapest generic smokes anywhere' and hand her one.
“Oh, thanks! I left my Marlboros at home and just wanted one before going back there.”
“Do you need a light?”
“No thank you. I have plenty of matches.” Quite polite.
I noticed her eyes first. Deep dark blue with wide pupils. Perhaps my age or even younger, mid or late 30s. Her hair short, maybe shoulder length and somewhat curly, a dark blond.
“You want another for the ride home?”
“Oh really? Sure! Thank you SO much!” She takes it, touching her warm, soft but well labored hand to mine, and places it in the storage compartment under the seat. I notice the typical items there... Matches, tissues, screwdriver, crescent wrench, tire gage and a book. A thick paperback book. What was it? Damn. She closes it too quickly. Grisham? Shoot! Looked like some sort of spy thriller or maybe a science fiction by the looks of the cover artwork.
“Well, ride safely,” I say, waving and walking off, into the store.
Why did I leave like that? Why didn't I ask her out for coffee or continue the conversation? She obviously wanted to talk. What's the harm in talking with someone new? I am restless in the store, somewhat glad to have some separation from a situation of potential verbal intercourse. But, I wondered. Why not ask her over for a quick cup of coffee?
I hurriedly buy my roast chicken and walked out to where the herd rest, hoping for the opportunity to just say “Hi, would you like a cup of coffee?”
She and her white scoot were both gone, to where I may never know. And, that's OK. I really want no one involved with me right now... A recently divorced middle aged man with a seventeen year old daughter, still cohabitating with his ex-wife for financial reasons.
Maybe it's better I wear this leather jacket. Minor, and even some not-so minor abrasions never touch my skin, and I am protected from certain elements of this harsh world. And it helps protect others from me.
Roast chicken strapped to the rear of my bike, I roar singularly off into the night.