Okay…I'll admit it.
I was feeling sorry for myself. Very unlike me.
It pretty much looked like my trip was shot. All the preparation, all the work, the arranged time off, the anticipation…all of it, for naught.
Oh...yippee...I got to ride in an ambulance.
Paperwork filed, insurance notified, statements stated, I was finally allowed to leave. My 10-minute fuel stop had taken over 5 hours. Even at that, they were reluctant to let me go. "Observation" and all that. The bottom line was that I had no head injury, and the blood-work they had been doing every 15 minutes for the last 4 hours (ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch…dammit OUCH!) showed that my internal organs were not seriously injured and were continuing to function, so they let me go. I am very...durable.
Almost every part of my body had been radiated, probed, and prodded. My entire rear/right side…calf, thigh, buttock, back, shoulder, and part of my arm were kind of a sickly yellow color. Little visible purple bruising, but I just don't bruise easily. The worst visible bruise is on my left buttock, where my wallet had left a dandy purple impression. My back, which I have never had a problem with despite years of abuse, was having minor spasms. The doctor had said that they would (maybe) go away but probably get (lots) worse first. He had prescribed some muscle relaxants, something for inflammation (all the afore mentioned parts were getting stiff and swelling), and some strong painkillers. I filled the prescriptions and left, northbound and flying.
I had to move. Today had been eventful. I needed to outrun the visions in my head, the pain, and hopefully the intense loneliness that had set in.
Damn, I'm a long way from home.
Some time later I gasped in pain and involuntarily cursed as I hit a series of washboard type bumps on the highway. The pain was so intense I couldn't breathe. That was it.
I had ridden as far as I could. Burned the miles until I just could not go anymore. My left hand…the one I made the grab with…the only part they did not x-ray…was swelling also. My first two fingers would hardly bend, and there was a bruise starting to show on the underside of my arm, behind the wrist, and radiating toward the elbow. It was all I could do to pull in the clutch.
My back was hurting…sometimes tensing up to the point I could not breathe or would involuntarily gasp, and when I stopped the bike I was no longer sure I could hold her up if I landed on my right leg.
To make matters worse, it was raining, and though I tried, I could not manage to put on my rain gear. I had made it to northern Wyoming. I turned the bike off the interstate and into town. I got her into a parking lot of a cheap hotel and shut her down. I just couldn't go anymore. There was just no more in me to give. Somehow I felt I had failed.
I showered (at least there was lots of hot water) and lay on the bed for a while hoping to sleep, but just could not get comfortable.
The painkillers were making me sick. Dizzy and nauseous are worse than the pain. I looked at them momentarily and then flushed them down the toilet.
Lying there, I could not see how I could go on. I still had thousands of miles to run. Thousands! And I could not even ride down the street. I could not even see how to get home (at least with my bike), and was deeply regretting the loss of the journey.
At that point there was a knock at the door. I struggled out of bed, tried to put on a shirt and then gave that up as pointless. I really couldn't raise my right arm, and couldn't grip with the left hand. It would take a while.
Heck with it.
I opened the door. A pretty, petite brunette was standing there. I had noticed her across the street at the gas station as I had pulled in to the parking lot. She was wearing a very short flower-print skirt and a string shouldered white top that showed smooth-skinned shoulders and enough cleavage to be interesting. Cute girl. I could only think that she had the wrong room.
She smiled and her eyes twinkled, "You look like you could use some company." She was cheerful and bubbly.
I blinked. WhaHuh?
It took me a moment. I am not naïve, but give me a break. I usually don't stay in the cheapest hotels, and have never had the occasion to deal with "professionals". I am used to imagining them looking a bit used up too, this gal was not. To say the least, I was not at my best anyway.
Professionals. As in hooker. It was some time later before I realized that I had made an assumption here that may not have been entirely warranted. Perception colors the world. You find what you are looking for...
"How old are you girl?" It was all I could think of to say.
She smiled even prettier and cocked her head as she flipped up the front of her short skirt. She was wearing nothing underneath. My heart skipped a beat. "Old enough to use this…" she replied.
Yeah…I had to admit. She was. Sigh.
Tempted? Well, yeah. Even battered, bruised, and barely able to move, I was tempted. I am a guy after-all. I'm hard-wired for such things. But there is a difference between temptation and action.
I let out a long sigh. "Thank you, but no." and gently closed the door.
Then I had a thought, and opened it again. I'd an idea about my pain and back spasms. Hell, it worked when I was younger!
She was still standing there smiling prettily. She'd known I'd be back.
"There's twenty bucks in it for you if you go get me a small bottle of whisky." There were several liquor stores around us.
She looked at me mischievously. "Only twenty? It'll cost more than that!" She had pretty eyes.
Wincing, I turned for my wallet and fished out the bill. I held out the twenty and said, "Bring me an unopened bottle and a receipt, and I'll pay for the difference."
As I turned, she had spotted the discoloration down my back, leg, and arm and gasped. She touched my left arm as she took the bill. The light touch sent shivers down my spine, but at least, caused no pain. Soothing. Crap.
Damn, I'm a long way from home.
"You're hurt!" she seemed upset.
I thought about time, and distance…of life…of living…of provocative silhouettes in a tent…and of my wife, thousands of miles away.
Thump-thump. The beat of a human heart.
Thump-thump. Two fingers and a thumb.
"I can't talk about it." I grimaced as my back jerked again. "The whiskey…Please." I smiled and gently closed the door.
After I closed the door I figured I would never see her or my twenty again…or ever get my whisky…but it would probably be worth it to get her petite, curvaceous, cute, sexy, bubbly self far, far away from me. Damn the male brain anyway.
I leaned my head against the doorframe, feeling the cool-rain filled air drifting through the crack.
Ten minutes went by, then twenty. Yep, she was gone. I took another hot shower. I had a harder time stepping in and out of the tub this time. This was going to be a long night.
I had been lying on the bed, but had to get up again. I seemed to have my best luck leaning against a wall. There was a gentle knock on the door.
Well, what do you know?
I opened it and she was there, smiling prettily, kind of bouncing on her heels, and holding something with both her hands behind her back. Her cheerfulness was infectious. The bouncing was inducing mind-boggling motions.
"I'm back!" She almost sang it.
I laughed, "Yes, you are."
One hand came out from behind her back holding a plastic bag. "Here's your whiskey. I got you a hamburger too. I think you could use it." She frowned a bit, pursing her lips. "Sorry it took me so long. A lot of the stores are closed. I had to find some of that stuff."
I opened the bag and looked up at her in surprise. My entire day had been a bit surreal…well, not a bit surreal…a LOT surreal…even for me…and this was just topping it off nicely. The bag contained a small bottle of whiskey, a cheeseburger, a couple bottles of Diet Coke, and a candy-bar. The whiskey was my brand. I don't drink much, but it was my brand. So was the candy-bar. In short, the bag contained exactly what I would have gone and gotten had I been able at the moment.
Her other hand came out from behind her back, holding another bag.
"I brought me one too. Can I come in and eat?"
I blinked. Damn.
Three reactions were immediate:
The male: "Oh hell yeah!"
The logical brain: "Run! It's a trap!"
The Texan: "Be polite to the Lady..."
I swung the door open and leaned against the opposite wall, "Sure."
We ate our burgers in silence, her sitting on the small chair, and me standing and leaning against the wall. I did not think I could sit at the moment, and if I did I was sure I would not be able to get up again.
I finished first, and watched her daintily finish hers.
To break the silence I asked, "Why do you do it?" She did not seem the type to me. Of course, all I have is a preconceived notion…mostly learned from the media.
Finished, she looked up at me. "Do what?" There was playfulness behind the eyes. Did I mention she had pretty eyes?
I could not quite bring myself to say it. Prostitute. It just didn't seem to fit. Struggling with the concept I said, "Well, this." I waved one arm to indicate the cramped hotel room. I guess I have seen worse. At least it was clean.
She smiled again. She simply radiated nice.
"It's my job, silly." She looked at me as if that was obvious, or at least that I should have known. "I love it! I love helping people and I love sex. What's the problem?" She frowned her cute frown again. "The two are often amazingly intertwined...especially where men are concerned." She smiled, looked at me again, and nodded wisely, "There's a lot of people out here that need help you know."
Damn. "Yes, I know…" I blinked in surprise. It had never occurred to me that someone would choose this path. I guess I've never really thought about it.
What's the problem? Indeed.
I tried again, "Don't you worry about violence, about disease? There are a lot of bad people out here too you know."
Her eyes had a bit of fire in them this time. "I choose the people I can help. I know who they are. I choose. There's never a problem."
I thought of the bag of stuff she had brought me. About the choices she had made. She had something… I said, "Well…you are very perceptive."
"It's a gift." She flipped her hair back. "It's my gift. It's mine to use. And it's mine to give."
There was little left to say, I already had too much to think about and I needed to lie down again. I also really needed her to be gone. There is a limit to a man's resolve. I moved to the door and opened it. She smiled and stepped out without a fuss.
"Are you sure you don't want some company? I know you need it, and it would help you relax. For you it's free!" She flipped her skirt again and eyed me playfully just so there was no doubt. Once again, my heart skipped a beat as she continued, "You know you need it too…"
Damn, I'm a long way from home.
What could I do? She was pretty, she was willing, and she was young and clean. She smelled nice. I was thousands of miles from home. Nobody knew me here. Hell, nobody even knew I was here. It wasn't a pay thing, so it was even legal (not that I really cared).
Nobody need ever know.
Except me. I would know.
"Thank you, but goodnight." I gently closed the door and once again leaned my head against the cool doorframe. I could still smell her.
Damn damn damn damn damn.
I looked to the side. There was the original twenty dollar bill I had given her sitting in the chair. I pondered that a moment, then opened the door again. The Texan had chimed in. A deal was a deal. The male had chimed in too, but I was ignoring him. At least...I was trying to ignore him. She was down in the parking lot.
She turned around and waved cheerfully. "Hi!"
"I didn't pay you!" I really didn't care who heard...or what they thought.
"Oh that's all right! I don't need money!" She waved again, turned, and walked into the night.
That left me something more to think about.
I started with whiskey in my Diet Coke, and then I switched to a little Diet Coke in my whiskey. Then I was out of Diet Coke. I sipped the rest of the whiskey until it was gone, all the while wondering just what the hell I was doing out here.
I am not used to not having the answers.
I awoke ravenously hungry, which I consider to be a very good sign. I was still quite stiff, but had a full range of motion. I had no trouble getting in or out of the shower/tub, and no problem getting dressed. My back had settled down. I was a tassel of quiet aches, but those I can manage.
I quickly packed and opened to door to a glorious clear sky, fresh air, and an intensely bright sunrise. Wow! What a difference a day can make! Things were looking up.
Hanging on the outside doorknob was a plastic bag. It contained a banana, an apple, a plastic bowl, a plastic spoon, a small box of cereal, and a cold mini-carton of milk. It also contained a note. I read the note and chuckled as I sat down to eat. Yep. Things were looking up.
As I raced the big Valkyrie up the entrance ramp, I thought of the previous day's events and laughed. What a trip!
As the powerful machine settled into her pace I suddenly thought of a poster I had once seen. It was a stylized art piece that had a heavily muscled, bronzed man struggling under a heavy load. He has fallen to one knee and it is obvious by his surroundings that he is in hell, or very close to it. A beautiful, naked, shapely woman with translucent wings just barely apparent is kissing him as she is helping him to stand.
The caption simply said, "Angels are found in unlikely places".
Maybe angels aren't quite what we think…not quite what we've been taught...demons either for that matter.
The note had said:
"Everything happens for a reason..
Good luck on your journey..
I hope you find what you are looking for.
PS: It's really much closer than you think."
I took a deep breath and looked around at the bright sunny day.
Angels are found in unlikely places.
The world is full of checks and balances and we would be impossibly arrogant if we thought we knew all there was to know…thought we had seen all there was to see. I had met my demons in the black hills. Maybe I had met their counterpart too.
Everything happens for a reason.
I flexed my left hand, felt the soreness in the fingers, thumb, and wrist.
I hope you find what you are looking for.
I gunned the big bike again and rejoiced in the sudden acceleration. Man I love this machine! As we far surpassed highway speeds I let out a "whoop!" and grinned. It was good to be back on the road.
It's much closer than you think.
Maybe it is…
I hope I find what I am looking for, too.
Maybe someday I'll even figure out what that is....
I'll see you on the road.