Driving on the outskirts of the small city where I live, I merged onto the state highway in my pickup. It was a beautiful Friday evening in the early spring. The air was comfortably cool but dry and perfect for a windows-down drive. The tall trees along the roadway cast long shadows, the kind that create a hypnotic sensation as you pass through the continuous flashes of lighting. Maris, tongue wagging, barked playfully out the passenger window as a motorcycle glided past, slowly. His bark caught the ear of the rider who glanced in our direction and gave Maris a wink.
The bike was a beautiful custom Harley Sportster painted a deep shade of yellow. It had an old-school look with stylish ape-hanger handlebars that werenít too tall. A cylindrically-shaped black leather bag hung from the front of the bars along with a tightly rolled rug sack that was held in place by a bungee chord on the back seat. The exhaust pipes purred a deep and throaty rumble as the bike passed to the front of us. The last thing I noticed was that, on that day, the rider had chosen to throw caution to the wind as I saw a glossy black helmet perched on top of the sissy bar, not on her head.
What really caught my eye was the rider. She was slender and appeared to be about 5í4" with somewhat short curly auburn hair that seemed to flow in the breeze without looking windblown. She was wearing tight-fitting black leathers that stretched to show her curvaceously fit body. Her feet were shod with small round-toed boots while her hands were protected by nearly elbow-length gauntlet gloves. As if to add color to her all-black ensemble, she was wearing a stylish pair of turquoise-colored very-squared glasses. She was the proverbial sexy librarian riding a motorbike.
I followed the lady for a few miles mesmerized by her black silhouette. Maris seemed to enjoy the view as well, though I feel certain it was for reasons different from mine. The lady rode in a controlled methodical manner approaching but not exceeding the speed limit. My mind began to ask questions. What was her story? From where had she come? Where was she going? I wanted to know.
As we approached the center of the city, it became increasingly hard to maintain pace with the motorcycle. More stop lights and increased traffic finally ended my quest to do so and she disappeared into the western sunset. The only thing I knew was that she was headed into downtown. Maris and I circled the pubs, the restaurants, and the college campus that shared the streets of downtown. After about an hour I gave up. That Friday evening would have to be chalked up to another great yet unfulfilled sighting. For the next few weeks, I would occasionally think of that splendid sight and wish that I could see the lady again.
Several Fridays later, Maris and I were shopping at the pet store. I enjoy letting him pick favorites from the treat bar. Granted, Maris really only sniffs around but if he seems to hesitate briefly, I consider that a decision. After purchasing a large bag of food and his goodies, we loaded the truck and left the parking lot. As we sat at the first red light, Maris barked. I turned to look his way only to discover a motorcycle stopped beside us. It was the lady with the turquoise glasses! As before, she turned and gave Maris a wink. Looking directly into her face I could see that she was a little older than I had thought, more my age. She wasnít glamorous but she had an all-knowing look of intelligence and experience. Her skin appeared tanned but soft. I wondered if she remembered us from our previous encounter.
This time she wasnít getting away! We were only a few miles from downtown. Past the intersection, the road narrowed to two lanes. I merged in behind the motorcycle and stuck like glue. My mind raced as I followed the bike transfixed on its leather-clad rider. When we reached the east side of downtown, the lady with the turquoise glasses turned into a parking lot. I drove on to circle the block. As I passed a second time, she was approaching the front door of Maclayís, a local pub. Since it was a pleasant evening, I parked, cracked the window a bit, gave Maris a treat, and locked him inside the truck.
I entered the pub to find the usual Friday night crowd. Patrons were packed shoulder to shoulder so I headed to the bar, squeezed in, and ordered a beer. After my eyes adjusted to the dark, I began scanning the room and there she was, tucked into a booth in the back corner. Through the smoke filled air, I could see that there was another lady seated across from her. They were picking chunks from a fried onion placed in the middle of their table. Both were smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. Feeling like a stalker, I observed from a distance for about an hour. It seemed obvious the two ladies were friends and were expecting to be joined by no one. I decided that there was no smooth way to introduce myself so I left. Besides, Maris had been waiting in the truck far too long. At least for now I knew where the lady had gone. And I knew whom she met. But there were still several unanswered questions. What was her story? From where had she come? Now more than ever, I needed to know.
For the next couple of Friday nights, I decided it was best to leave Maris at home where he was safe. I missed having my driving partner in the truck, but it gave me a chance to ride my own motorbike. I was on a mission to find out more about the lady with the turquoise glasses. I had to meet her. Since I had seen her on the highway on the east side of town on both encounters, my plan was to ride back and forth between the pub and the edge of town. I know itís rather simple, but it was the best plan that came to mind. And, it didnít work until the third Friday that I tried it. Heading east I spotted the yellow Harley traveling west. Hoping that she was going where I expected, I quickly turned around and sped towards Maclayís.
I was correct. Parked on the street in front of the pub was the beautiful yellow Sportster. I backed my bike against the curb next to hers and walked in. As before, I squeezed into the bar, ordered cranberry juice and tonic, and scanned the pub squinting into the dark and smoky air. There she was sitting in the same booth but this time she was alone. Iím too old to waste time so I took a deep breath, grabbed my glass, and walked towards the booth. Using my personally patented method of smooth approach, I asked if I could buy her a drink. She looked up, smiled, and replied, "Youíre the guy with the golden retriever! Heís beautiful. Whatís his name?"
"Maris" I replied.
"Join me." she demanded and motioned to the seat across from her. Surprised by her request, I sat. "Iím waiting for a friend but she wonít be here for hours. Maris, now thatís an interesting name. Is there a story?"
"Roger Maris . . . he was my favorite baseball player. I wore his number 9 when I played little league", I explained. The waitress arrived while I was talking. I nodded towards my new friend who ordered a coffee. "Iíll take a coffee, too." I added. When the waitress left I looked across the table and said, "Iím buying. Feel free to order a drink if you want."
"I donít drink when Iím riding", she replied. Good girl, I thought. "I indulge myself with these." she explained as she lit a cigarette. "My name is Dana."
For the next several hours we conversed almost without taking a breath. She seemed far more interested in me than I would have expected. I had never spoken to a woman that was so engaging. She was incredibly intelligent, and yet so common at the same time. Known to her students as Dr. Peters, she was a professor of English Literature at the big state university that was located eighty miles to the south. Her friend, also an English professor, taught at the smaller university a few blocks away. They had been roommates in their senior year at Northwestern and attended grad school together. After suffering failed marriages, they had renewed their friendship recently. They had gotten into the habit of alternating trips to visit every few weeks. It was a pleasant diversion for each of them to get out of town. They enjoyed "talking shop" and exchanging ideas with a colleague that worked at a different institution.
As Dana chain-smoked throughout the evening, I learned her story. Her mother had died of leukemia when she was eight and her father never remarried. He worked hard to raise Dana alone but received a fair amount of assistance from her aunts who were always willing to keep her after school, in the evenings, and on Saturdays. That allowed her dad to work extra hours when needed as a motorcycle mechanic. Listening to her talk, it was obvious who the hero was in her life. Her dad championed everything she ever did including paying for her entire college career. Dana knew that could not have been easy on a mechanicís wages.
Her two great passions were literature and motorcycles. It was obvious from where her interest in motorbikes came but I was intent on learning where she gained such zeal for literature. Her mom, even in her final days, had spent hours reading with Dana. It was a memory Dana held close with great fondness. Feeling somewhat abandoned by the untimely death of her mom, she had little interest in the typical activities of young children. Reading was something she could do anywhere at almost anytime and feel as though her mother was still with her. But at age nine she was found to be myopic and needed a moderately strong prescription to correct her vision. She began wearing glasses fulltime at once and withdrew even more from sports and playtime activities. But wearing glasses never slowed her ability to read. As Dana grew older, she became a star pupil to her teachers. By the time she attended college, there was never any doubt where her aptitudes would lie.
As she spoke, I could see that the lenses in her glasses were quite strong and minimized her green eyes considerably. It only focused intensity on beautiful eyes that expressed such enthusiasm for life. Danaís beauty was much deeper than her pleasantly tanned skin. Donít get me wrong. Even without makeup, she was easy on the eyes. Freckles, splashed across her nose and cheeks, corresponded with her dark eyebrows but contrasted rather pleasantly with her auburn hair. Her naturally red lips moved gracefully between smiling and speaking. But everything was pulled together by the color of her incredibly sexy turquoise glasses.
I learned that in recent years, she had begun to hike actively. It was an outdoor activity she could enjoy year round with the many trails that were within easy proximity of the small city where she lived. That explained the fitness level she seemed to enjoy despite the fact that she was a chain-smoker. I pointed out as politically as possible that it seemed a bit odd that she smoked so much considering the early death of her mother. Dana felt that her motherís demise proved that death came no matter how hard one tried to avoid it. One might as well enjoy all passions and activities without restraint. I had no reason to argue.
Late in the evening, Dana received a call on her cell phone. Her friend was still tied up with activities at the university. She told Dana to go to her condo and they could meet there after she wrapped things up. Dana closed her flip-phone then looked at me and said, "Can we go meet Maris? I love retrievers. I can hook up with my friend later." I couldnít refuse a pretty ladyís request to get to know my dog. Since my house was nearby, I paid our bill and we left. Out on the street, we fired up our bikes, and Dana followed me home.
Upon arriving, Maris cheerfully met us at the front door. He was wild to greet a new visitor and wagged his tail endlessly. Danaís attention caused Maris to pull out all stops and demonstrate his entire repertoire of tricks and stunts. When he finally settled down, I offered Dana a beer but she settled for a diet cola. As I sat beside her on the sofa, Dana pushed her glasses on top of her head, grabbed my arms, and began kissing me. There was no reason for small talk. We had been doing that for hours. After a few minutes she whispered, "Letís move to the bedroom."
She led me by the hand somehow knowing the door that led to the appropriate darkened room. Once there, she turned to face me beside the bed and began unbuttoning my shirt and unzipping my jeans. I reciprocated by removing her leathers. She laid her glasses on the bedside stand and joined me in the bed. She smelled of rich leather as I kissed her body. Her breath was smoky but pleasing. We made love slowly until both of us were satisfied. I slept comfortably that night.
In the morning, I awoke to the rumbling sound of Danaís Sportster. I jumped out of bed in time to see her riding up the street and out of sight. On the bedside table where she had laid her turquoise glasses the night before was a note. It read, "Joe, got to run. I never called my friend last night and sheís probably worried. I enjoyed last night like no other but please respect my distance. Iíll be back in three weeks on Friday night. Meet me a Maclayís. Love, Dana."
Those next three weeks seemed like years. I wanted to try to make contact with Dana; call her, find out where she lived, find her at work, anything. But, I knew it was the wrong thing to do. She was not the kind of lady to be pushed. During those three weeks I thought so much about her. Could we be together? Would we be happy in a real relationship? I began to think of her in ways I shouldnít. Weíd only had one evening, one night . . . . . but, what a night. I began to think of the things Iíd do to change her like help her stop smoking. But then Iíd remember, perhaps thatís the very reason she wanted to maintain a certain distance? She didnít want to be changed.
On the third Friday, I gave Maris a rub on the head and told him to be good. I locked the door, got on my bike and fired it up. I rode to Maclayís bursting with anticipation. I had been looking forward to that night far too much. I backed my bike to the curb, walked in hoping to find the preferred booth in the back. Having arrived early, I was in luck and sat on the side with my back to the wall. That would give me a clear view to watch the front entrance while I waited for Dana. As the waitress began serving me Cranberry juice and tonics, I waited. Later, I switched to coffee and waited some more. I waited all evening. Dana never arrived and neither did her friend. I was beginning to want a real drink but knew I shouldnít, having ridden the motorbike. Around midnight I gave up and went home. At least Maris was glad to see me.
Perhaps I got the night wrong? I knew I hadnít. But for the next few Fridays, I went through the same routine. Finally on the Friday that I had decided would be the last, I entered Maclayís and there was Danaís friend, sitting in the booth in the back. This called for a manís drink. I squeezed into the bar and ordered a beer. I downed about half the bottle and headed for the booth. It was time to find out what had been going on.
As I approached the booth, I could see that Danaís friend was crying. I interrupted quietly, "Uh, maam? My name is Joe. I was supposed to meet Dana here a few weeks ago but she never showed." She looked up and gasped, "Itís you! I didnít think Iíd ever be able to find you! Sit down, Joe. Please sit down." As I took a seat on the opposite side of the booth, she sobbed a bit more. When she finally composed herself, she reached across the table and clasped my right hand in both of hers. "Bear with me, Joe. This is going to be hard," she continued, "Dana was killed by a drunk driver that week." I began to feel my eyes fill with tears. "She was walking to a restaurant with a colleague and the two of them were hit while crossing the street. The paradox was that they were hit by a student who had just left a bar. Dana was probably the lucky one. The other professor is paralyzed from the neck down. I wanted to contact you but I only knew your first name. Dana didnít tell me where you lived or give me your phone number. Friends gave her a beautiful memorial service on the campus. Hundreds of students, friends, and university employees attended. I wish you could have been there."
We continued to have a lengthy conversation but, to be honest, I remember little of what we discussed. I was unable to focus. I did catch that Dana didnít have any close relatives left. Her father and aunts had passed away years before. She had a few cousins but none lived nearby and they had not been on speaking terms for a long time. After we exchanged phone numbers and addresses, Danaís friend said, "There is something important that I need to tell you. Dana wanted you to have her motorcycle. The last time we spoke, she told me that you were the only person she knew that would appreciate it. Its one of the many possessions that she left to me in her will. I can transfer ownership to you.
I often ride the yellow Sportster on the same stretch of highway where I first saw Dana. Iíve ridden it a few times to place flowers on her grave. On one of those trips, I met a couple of guys at a gas station near the cemetery that were familiar with the bike. They commended me for the way that I was taking care of it. They said that would have pleased Dana. Itís difficult for me not to think about what could have been. Was she the one? Maris and I still take rides in the truck, often. Both of us continue our quest in search of new lady friends. But I donít expect to see another rider like Dana. I know I will never find another lady like her . . . wearing turquoise glasses.