A while back I wrote about Joel and I racing his Honda motorcycle against my (event winning) BMX. I mentioned there was only one other time when I’d ridden that fast. Now is the time when we take the time to look at that time. I hope you have time…
Many years after my astonishing victory against Joel, during my high school internment, classmate Chris and I used to borrow his crazy uncle’s rusty old mountain bikes and cycle around the city. He wasn’t crazy ‘ha ha’ but crazy like ACTUAL crazy. He called the dog over one time and it didn’t come. So he figured it must have forgotten it’s name and taught it a lesson by spray-painting the name down the side of the dog in purple paint. Ergo, the dog couldn’t remember his name, but could read Spanish at an acute angle fine I guess. And Uncle heard a burglar downstairs once and came down the stairs guns blazing only to discover that the burglar was Grandpa in the kitchen and that the blazing pistol was (thankfully) empty and clicking impotently over and over again. Phew. But he let us ride his bikes so that was nice and never tried firing at me or spray painting my name on my torso, so I’ll give him a second chance. Obviously, bike riding in Bolivia was fatal 90% of the time anyway, so maybe he was just a schemer with a lot of patience. I enjoyed those rides. They were fun at the beginning; before our lives became endangered and we joined the Most Wanted list. Perched atop a highway overpass once, Chris decided life wasn’t challenging enough and spat over the edge into the oncoming traffic below. Note of interest to our foreign listeners: Bolivians don’t wear helmets on motorcycles. Mouths agape, we watched in horror as the spit wad sailed downward, narrowly missing the head of a motorcyclist below, and thankfully smashing into his girlfriend’s face instead, who was sitting behind. They disappeared under the bridge beneath us and never came out the other side. Fearing an accident, we ran across the bridge and peered over. Nothing. Had the guy lost control and crashed under the bridge? I’m not sure how Chris was feeling at this point, but I was pretty worried. Looking down towards the exit ramp I became REAL worried. The sneaky rider had turned underneath the bridge and had come onto the ramp, straight towards us! I thanked God in heaven for whatever engineer had decided to put a barrier down the middle of the bridge. The rider and his viscous female companion would have to ride the length of the overpass, do a U-turn, and come back up on our side. We were momentarily saved as we leapt over the barrier and back to our bikes. A second later I cursed Chris’ uncle and his shoddy bicycle that was stuck in 3rd gear all of a sudden in the very moment I needed it running at peak performance. As I roared along at a brisk walking pace, flames coming off my chafing buttocks, I looked back at the rapidly gaining cloud of pain that was coming our way, as well as metaphorically looking back on my life and the mistakes my parents had made that had led me to this point. It was a long list and I didn’t have time to dwell, since incensed boyfriend and the creature from the black lagoon were swiftly catching up, better prepared for such a chase situation, since they had an engine and fuel and weren’t relying on skinny chicken-like legs as their sole means of propulsion. Once I got the gears fixed by jamming my hand into the sprocket in an act of desperation, we were up to full speed and flying along the cobblestones. The comfort level was not unlike that of riding a jackhammer down a mountainside. Made of steel and hard things like steel. But impending doom will do that to a man. We lost him on a side street and then jumped the curb and crossed one of the city’s many grassed plazas. It was then that our pursuer realised his fatal mistake: he’d left his girlfriend on the back of the bike during the chase. He should have dumped her once he realised she was covered in another man’s phlegm and couldn’t possibly ever be pretty again. You can’t erase those kinds of memories. Even with shock therapy. There was no way he could jump the curb without bouncing her violently off the back, and to stop and let her off would mean he’d lose us for good. After a few more trips around the plaza he gave up, shaking his fist in the air and screaming obscenities. His girlfriend actually didn’t look all that mad really, features blurred somewhat by the mucus. So in the end, we stuck to the parks, got home exhausted some time later, gingerly laughed it off and changed our underwear. I recall now that it was also my birthday since we went out for dinner later. Chris had a knack for ruining my birthdays.
Seems to me that Chris also had a knack for running from something that wanted to kill him. At one point he dated the girl who lived in the unfinished concrete castle across the road from our house. She had a face like a pizza so the time she contracted chicken pox things got even worse. After ignoring her for a week or more, she chased him around the neighbourhood before he jumped through our gate and hid behind a tree. As she arrived on his heels I explained to Pizza Face (I didn’t actually call her that at the time, but my dry-reaching may have belied my polite demeanour) that she was obviously high on meds and it obviously wasn’t Chris she’d seen dart through our gate but a Chris-Like apparition of some sort. Thankfully she declined my offer to inspect the yard for herself, which I’d suggested quite loudly for the sole purpose of letting Chris squirm a little from his deciduous place of concealment. Of course, it’s every young man’s dream to be chased by girls. Just attractive ones. As my uncle would say, “Looks aren’t important but are you prepared to wake up next to that every day for the rest of your life?” I bet the motorbike rider is wishing he had advice like that back then.