By the Side of the Road

This story was read aloud at Story Salon in 2007.

By The Side of the Road

This was about a month ago.

I awoke early on Saturday, at about six, and showered and dressed in my leathers.

The sun was just arriving and the fog lightly filled the air.

Despite the early time, I was in a good mood and my motorcycle started quickly.

The streets were quiet and I was able to ride through green traffic lights.

Heading south from West Hollywood the freeways were clear of traffic, and the mist diffused life.

The mist blurred reality, diffused like a 50’s starlet photograph.

It was not pea soup, but clear ocean water.

I could see the curves ahead on the freeway, and the overpasses in the distance, the world was softened.

I pulled on the throttle, crouched over the handlebars and sped along the freeway at 85 weaving back and forth holding on against the rush of the wind.

This is why I ride a motorcycle, why I put up with stories about how dangerous it is, this feeling of speed and freedom and wind and cold and inner warmth and an indescribable joy of being alive, of knowing that you are here at this moment, that this is all there is, and it is beautiful.

I arrived at the journalism conference buzzing, I could feel the electric blood flowing through my hands and I walked back and forth through the parking lot enjoying this feeling before finally talking to people and joining the conference.

That day I went to meetings, and heard talks and learnt some things.

But in a Photoshop class late in the afternoon my stomach started to roll.

I thought it was the afternoon vending machine coffee, but it got worse and worse.

When the class ended I found a quiet bathroom upstairs with no one around and cleared out what was in my intestines.

It was not good.

I thought I would feel better.

So I went back down to the conference and the closing ceremony.

By the time the ceremony started I was standing at the back of the hall, as close to the bathroom as possible.

I survived the ceremony.

It was now time to go home, and I went to the bathroom of the Marriott to change back into my leathers.

In the bathroom I threw up, what I thought was everything I had eaten that day.

I guess they call it praying to the porcelain god, but I refused to get on my knees.

Upon leaving the bathroom my legs were shaky and I stood next to my motorcycle cursing the day I ever bought it.   It is cold and miserable and dangerous and impractical and I never wanted to ride it again.   I was shivering and knew that I had to ride that damn thing from Fullerton back home.

I took a deep breath, concentrated my mind, climbed on and headed onto the freeway.

On normal days when the traffic is slow, like it was, I split lanes, but this evening I sat in the slow lane and plodded along with the trucks.

Somewhere near where the 101 peals off from the five, I realized that all the contents of my stomach had not been removed at the Marriott.

I also realized that at that moment was definitely nothing worse than puking in my helmet on the freeway.

I contemplated exits of the freeway, but I was not happy with the neighborhood and even more unhappy with being sick on the side of the road in one.

I held it down, swallowing repeatedly, and finally arrived a Vignes, just before Alameda and Union Station.   At the exit was a Denny’s, I thought about being sick next to the Denny’s, but kept moving.

At the next corner was a small patch of green next to the road.   I parked my bike, took off my gloves and helmet and sat on the little curb and shivered and waited.

It took about a minute before it came up, and it came up without any help.

I made a disgusting little puddle in the grass.

I looked around and watched the people cross the street, and did some more dry heaves, and realized that the prison is right across the way.

And I hoped someone was watching me.

The Brewery, where many of my friends live, was close, and I considered going there, but I wanted my own bed, my own place, and I did not want to bother them with what was coming out of my body. Logically I deduced that I was more than half way home, and could make it before puking again.

I did make it home without any further distractions.

And I curled up in bed and after a few minutes finally stopped shivering.

And drank some water and fell asleep.

Only to be woken up at one am to have my stomach forcibly remove the water.

Then I could not sleep and it was two in the morning and I felt beaten.

Worn out, destroyed, broken.

My legs ached, like they did when I grew six inches during a high school summer.

But I wrote this, and that helped a little.

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