Two days on the road, two thousand miles on my motorcycle. Hard miles; my ass so sore that every bump in the road brings biting pains up my back and down my legs.
I’m riding alone. No highways. No hotels. Camping in fields and eating in greasy diners. Seeing the America not available to the Interstate. The real America. I’m rough riding across the continent and this isn’t a mid-life crisis. I’m on a mission.
There’s been a ghost haunting me for five years. And yesterday, somewhere on the back roads of Nebraska, I left that ghost, the ghost of my cancer, behind. The specter of death that lingered on me, over me, and around me after excision of the tumors is finally gone.
Contrary to opinion, ghosts are heavy. With mine gone, I ride through the night – the stars and my newfound peace my sole companions. I stop only when the false dawn begins to turn into the real thing.
curves into the sun;
my throttle opens
The country diner I find myself in front of welcomes both me and the morning sun. I’m tired, sweaty in my leathers, and covered in road dust as I enter. And I’m deaf, the roar of the road is still loud in my ears.
I tell the waitress I take my coffee black – as black as my soul. My joke falls flat; what comes from my mouth is a rough growl, thanks to a dry throat. It earns me dark looks from the other diners. The dirty biker with no manners.
I have a moment of tired reflection and then I get a visitor to my table. An old lady, dressed in her Sunday best, moves with slow deliberation and takes an unexpected seat across from me. Her frail hands wrap my grimy ones in a cool and gentle grip.
Her eyes, framed by a wrinkled face that smooths as she smiles, capture mine before she bows her head and prays loud enough for all to hear. “Lord, please help this young man find his way. He’s lost, alone, and needs your guidance to help cleanse his heart and his soul.”
She kisses my hand and, without another word, stands again. There’s a reverent silence as we all watch her sit back down at her table and take a bite of her breakfast as if nothing exceptional had just occurred.
I look out the window as the rising sun reflects off of my bike, thinking that, here, maybe it wasn’t really that exceptional at all. And thinking; lady – I’m not lost; I’m finally finding myself again.
alights upon my bike –
This is based on a true story, and the events above actually happened. I took my “spirit quest” when I was declared “cured” five yeas after my initial cancer diagnosis. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation took the cancer, but left behind a lot of scars, both visible and not. The invisible scars, my ghost, were the hardest to recover from and, after five years, I had to let it go. That was the entire purpose of my cross-country trip. The old lady at the diner was so sweet, and so brave, to walk up to a total stranger and offer comfort.