You get into your headspace riding a motorcycle long distances. It can be meditative, just you, the highway, the helmet noise. The sound of the bike and the roar of the road under the tyres. The cramp in your hand or tiredness in your fingers that comes with city riding and goes with a shake of the hand. You see a flower or dog that you pass in extreme detail, or trends of kilometres roll past and you couldn't say for sure what you saw. Was i paying attention, or was i dreaming in the saddle? Wake up, the stakes are high! But I'm sure I noticed the important things, the traffic, the crazed overtaking manoeuvres. At any rate, I made it alive, so i can't have been dreaming that much?
It's a warm sunny day and I'm riding down a highway in Russia, not far from a town called Venera. Theresa is following me and I'm listening to music. She to her audio book. It's hot and there are mirages on the road, shimmering light breaking the horizon.I'm getting away from Theresa a bit but she normally catches up pretty quickly, her bike is much faster than mine. I look in the mirror and see her headlight dropping back quickly. Another look, it doesn't look right, there are cars stopped near her, is the light to close too the ground? I can see the flashing yellow of hazard lights. No, fuck no.
Shit, my mirrors vibrate too much to make it out, but it's not right. My breath chokes and my heart pounds. No. No, fuck no. My neck tenses up and i make myself slow down: two stacked bikes is not an option. I want to turn around, get back. but i slow down. Check the verge, it looks stable. Pull over and roll to a stop. I make myself check both directions,this is a Russian highway! I need to be in control, but my breath comes in shallow gasps in my throat. I look again and chuck a U turn. The road looks different facing the other way. i want to boot it, i need to get back fast. Every second counts, and time is decompressing in my head; it's shooting past too fast, or else moving impossibly slowly, like an insect in honey. I make myself do 40 km/h, eyes on the speedo and the scene ahead. 50, 50 is ok. The panic is rising in waves, and my throat is dry. I can see things up ahead, but the colour is fading out of the scene, and all i can smell is acrid sweat. In my mind I see it so clearly, luggage on the ground, fluids leaking, hot engine oil spreading quickly over the hot asphalt. The life-blood of the bike, and in monochrome, it looks like-oh-Christ. Don't think of blood or twisted limbs. Or the lifeless body we saw outside st petersburg, surrounded by police who knew the futility of CPR. Or the jaw bone of the smashed dog you saw in Samara in such vivid detail to make you near sick in your helmet. No, not that, but you can't choose your mind's eye sometimes. The last of my breath is stolen from my lungs. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth so i can't swallow. i feel like i can't breathe. Tears well into my eyes. No. No no no. I can't say it enough, fast enough to undo this shit. Oh shit. Oh Theresa. There is a soundless wail in my head. My arms are jelly and my knees shake. My neck is so stiff that my head is shaking like a bobble-head dog.
I come close enough for the mirage to clear. And the scene is so real.
There are no cars near her. The bike is upright. A pressure valve gives somewhere in my spine and the nightmare flees. The relief flows up my spine and squeezes my tear ducts. I can breathe but i just let out a nervous high pitched whimper. Pe-Heh! A trembling breath and I'm snapped into a new reality, the real reality. The smell of hot summer grass floods back into my helmet, i can see her and she's sitting on her bike holding the camera, and her eyes are blue and she's smiling. She stopped for a photo. What a glorious photo.
Its the best photo i ever knew anyone taking.
Time for another u-turn. And the road looks clearer in this direction, and the white line leads the way to the shimmering horizon.