"A Heart-Rending Encounter"
or "The Day My Male Redneck Persona Played Villain For A University Female"
or "A Male Redneck Encounter With a 60ís Modeled Girl/Woman"
or "A Trip to the Dentist's Office"
or "An Encounter With a Tricycle With Baskets on a University Street"
or "A Fatale Right Turn on a University Street"
Backdrop: a busy street in a university town. There is an insanely (1) dangerous (2) bike lane on this busy university town street. A redneck-looking guy, ballcap, plaid shirt, in an old, beatup company pick-up truck(3) sees his right turn. At that same moment a university girl/woman on an adult-sized tricycle, with baskets on the back, make a decision to ride into the same right turn lane... a contemporary story of passion, nature, civility, and tragedy. Maybe not history making, but based on a true story; it happened, and I was alive.
[(1) Authorís opinion; (2) now this cannot be denied; (3) I was actually in my little red Hyundai station wagon at the time, not my company Ford pick-up truck, but that would detract from the story;]
Sometimes passion and nature are cruel. With me, it is a given. Here is my turn. I steer my ponderous vehicle towards the right turn lane. This Ford was built tough, meaning no power anything. I see heavy traffic in my rear view mirror. The objects are closer than they seem. I look at the redneck in the mirror in amusement, he looks back at me with a blank, mirrored unintelligent stare. I sigh. I see a traffic problem in the turn lane ahead, however. A university girl/woman on an adult-sized tricycle, with baskets in the back, a 60's anachronism now 40 years later, a living, breathing time capsule, obviously a reflection of her parents, is about to ride right into the turn lane in front of my two-ton pick-up. I see here hesitation, her uncertainty, maybe she will stop, and with a little caution look behind her, and yield to the two-tons of metal in momentum heading in front of her path. No. She proceeds without looking, uninterrupted, uniform, headlong into the afternoon stillness of the lane. (4), either oblivious or purposeful.
Now this could have caused an accident, possible fatal for her, glass would fly, there would be the feel of the concussion, the loud, dull thump, the sprinkling of glass over 4 lanes of roadway, but I wouldn't entirely blame her. The clash between nature and technology is still alive and well long after Emerson and Thoreau died. Besides, the bike lane had obviously been and ill-conceived idea, but to bring further annoyance out of me I see there is a perfectly safe sidewalk the university girl/woman could have been peddling on, if she had any sense, any regard for her personal safety, or wasn't out to make some kind of anti-technology statement to the effect that automobiles pollute and bikes don't.
But I digress. This is a story of passion, nature and the interference of civility.
Now I, behind the wheel of a two-ton automobile, with more tons traveling behind me, which at 35 miles per hour is many tons of force, had several driving options available to me in that fleeting and crucial moment- I slowly* went over them: I could suddenly and unexpectedly stop, in the middle of the road, and get rear-ended by the several tons of metal, fuel, and glass behind me; I could pull in behind the now traffic-offending bicyclist and creep along as if I were stalking her, I could roll down the window and yell at her to get off the road and miss my turn, but nevertheless make my point; but I saw the action I was going to take, though I did not know it would lead to such a trial to come.
As she was not yet in the turn lane, I estimated that considering our relative speeds I could simply turn in front of her, with 10-12 feet to spare. It may startle her, but if she were itching for an enlightened-hippie/techno-moron encounter, this would be her excuse.
So I make my turn, just a shade of being annoyed at the whole situation revealed through my slightly abrupt control of the vehicle.
OK, I tell myself, that went smoothly, and maybe the girl/woman will see the folly of that bike lane and use the sidewalk instead, increasing her chances of reaching old age with some nice, quiet guy.
My destination is several houses down the shady lane, and I slowly roll into a small parking lot behind one of the houses, park, and get out of the car. Who rides up but that very university bicyclist girl/woman in her properly fastened bike helmet.
†Now my mind, suspecting the pretext she was there on, even though unjustified, begins whirring in search of the real reason's) for her astounding feat- that of following a redneck-looking male driving a pickup truck several hundred feet while peddling a tricycle with baskets in the back, and on into a small parking lot which lead behind a house. Has she no sense of safety? I immediately ruled out her being a hooker, she was too proper, refined, well spoken, well dressed, and besides, it just wasn't the right neighborhood or time of day. Crazy, maybe. Hooker, no.
I then considered if it was my animal magnetism that attracted her. Ha, I could only entertain myself; she was beautiful and delicate to a degree beyond my aching grasp. I began deducing that she was either a student, or a teacher's aid, or an old professor's daughter, or a young professor herself, most likely a liberal, maybe not, on her way to teach psychology or sociology or some other soft science, nothing like the manly physics, chemistry, calculus, and computer science I had. So, there I was considering my animal magnetism and felt a strange desire to speak, thought I didn't, and I had to restrain my mind from going back to that fantasy, continually. It was true mental exertion. This struggle would continue to plague me during the encounter. But I too was proper, so I held my tongue, boxed my mind in, and did not reveal my inner leanings.
I further mulled in that instant- was this her long-awaited opportunity to confront a stupid redneck? I didn't want to wholly disappoint her, thought I wasn't a true stupid redneck*- and the current motto of my job was- "Science at Work"- but then again my current job was the reason for my redneck attire and vehicle, and maybe the impetus to her whole purpose here.
[*raised in suburbia, took engineering in college, held a science-oriented job. This job did however take me to farm fields, hence the redneck vehicle and attire.]
Was she simple a spoiled brat used to having her abusive way with people? Possibly. That would require some stern retort on my part- an unpleasant duty to society, of course, which would begin with "I don't know what kind of people you're used to having your abusive way with, but I'm not one of them..." and then go on to make my points to the "young lady".
So there I was, on my way to the Dentist, and a beautiful young university girl/woman on a tricycle with baskets pulls up to me. Was it nature, in its ever-unexplainable ways, torturing and teasing me once again with a romance that can never be? Her full, round lips began to move... I steel myself for the blow...
"You almost ran me off the road back there."
There it was, a knockout punch to the chin! This half snapped me out of my trance, but not enough. I was still in la-la land, 25 years younger, managing to find a way to ask her out, she says "yes", and even her parents like me,† we were successful partners in life... I don't know what the look on my face was, maybe a cross between pleasant revelry and painful contortion. Sometimes things just don't fall into place, and this, I feared, was going to be one of those times of ill-fit and dashed passions.
I almost gave in to my natural urge to step toward her, but what if she stepped back? Yes, of course she would, I was forgetting, we were still strangers; maybe I would have been too swift for her, or too slow... like an old lion chasing a young, sleek gazelle; yet a passion awoke in me that I could not reveal, since it could never be pursued. Not here. Not now. Alas! Looking back I fear I was too successful.
Knowing that I did not almost run her off the road- she may have been startled, yes, but I gave her plenty of room- that was not the reason for this encounter, just a mere pretence, so my mind continued to whirl in search of the subliminal, possibly instinctive, maybe animalistic reasons she was now standing, still straddling her 'trike, before me, baskets behind her, helmet on head, waiting for a response; and maybe that response will define the rest of her life, justify her being, give her purpose, confirm every assumption that she's made concerning life;† I had to rise to the occasion, but time was not on my side. All that came out from me was a mumble, a squeak, and not particularly a tough, redneck mumble, no, and not a particularly intelligent, knowing squeak.
"What were you doing in the street?"
Suddenly the 60's rained down on me with all it's flowery, rainbowy, incensed fervor. This was what she was waiting for, this was her MOMENT to change the world, to spur mankind to progress into the enlightened future. She said, "I was in a BIKE LANE!"
Now I was no longer uncertain. No doubts about it. It was crystal clear. Bells were ringing. Yes. My being had a strong attraction to her. If it was mutual I dared not test. Oh, why is nature, and life, so cruel, toying with pains like passion and love? This of course was not the time to reveal such things, or was it? No! Yes! No! Yes! My mind was engaged in a deadly battle with my primordial instincts, instincts long outlawed by civilized societies and proved unwise by holy wise men. I was in a turmoil far beyond what this properly raised girl/woman standing now, after my personal space expanded, all too close to me, could have imagined, or endured! I would burst asunder! Besides, it could still be that there was no spark here on her part, that it was all simply about a badly planned bike lane, my annoyance, her embarrassment, her mission. Yet I know I am on fire, somewhere deep inside, and it was growing. I would soon not be able to contain it.
My voice raised slightly as I turned toward the Dentist office door, and I responded "There WAS a sidewalk!"
That was it. In real life, it was over; somehow tragic, rending, tearing, but simply over.
Our eyes fenced, probed, a mix of excitement, mystery, fascination, happiness, disappointment, curiosity, sadness, and finally, to drown it all out, practicality The world engulfed us once again. The sounds of the street came back. The dentist office reappeared. Still, I will never forget that long, drinking moment, that eternal, probing, longing, searching contact, when my soul was bare; it will forever be a fond and tragic memory. Another line of sorrow permanently creased into my face. Perhaps in some other culture, in some other time long past, when fewer people roamed the earth, where there was less competition, less distraction, less direction, we could have had a chance. The spark of love could have ignited. It could have had time to grow. There could have been little me's and her's running around... tugging at my bearskin...
Now, as I do my linear regression curves in the middle of the farm fields of wheat, corn, soybeans, and what-not-thing-a-ma-jigs that I can't identify yet, growing out of the ground toward the sun, not unlike my fantasies, I recall that day I played the part of a stupid redneck for a university girl/woman that I could not touch, and the words that describe that encounter and all the visions that raced through my head now only slowly evolve- and with great effort they run from my heart to my head to my hand here for you to bear witness, all the things I could have said to make my case, all the ways I could have turned it into a heart-pounding, forbidden romantic encounter, all the things that could have been... in another life.
If I argued my case, all romantic fantasies would have been lost, of course. But in any case all the elements of the encounter could not have been verbalized so quickly- the element of the insanely dangerous bike lane on a busy university street; the element of the cyclist placing her life minute by minute in the hands of countless passing drivers, only one of which, just one, inattentively adjusting a dashboard control, and inadvertently turning the wheel only imperceptibly to the right, could have forever taken the life of this reckless angel.
Now the recklessness of the girl/woman was aggravating enough- was her life that bad to risk it in such a way? Was she so distracted with love or genius as to not see her peril? Then there was the element of the sheer cosmic aspect of the chance encounter, the collisions that could have occurred; the sidewalk that safely existed but was not taken; the mysterious confrontation between woman and man that nature has it's mysterious hand in- yes, there was a lot going on in that moment, and I longed, I reached, I desired to grasp it. But could not then, and then not for a long time after.
It was at the time a surreal moment, too much for anyone. What I could have said I didn't, so writing it here, a poor substitute, will also be for the future sakes of this philosophically headstrong, reckless, young, beautiful girl/women who amazingly pursue a stranger in such a quixotic manner on such a quixotic quest. Did she vanquish her windmill?
As for the argument, I should have argued thus: "First, Miss." (And she would not have given me her name), "And a beautiful intelligent Miss, Point Number One- I saw you and gave you plenty of room, and did not almost run you off of the road; Point Number Two- you were no longer on a bike lane, but actually in an automobile right-turn lane; Point Number Three- It is you who could have caused an automobile accident, which could have seriously involved yourself; Point Number Four- You obviously have no regard for your own safety- otherwise you would have been riding on the sidewalk and not in a busy street, placing your life in the hands of inattentive drivers; Point Number Five- Just because there is a poorly planned bike lane on a busy street does not mean you have to use it- you could have used better judgment; and the last and most important Point to me: since you are here on such a false pretense, there must be another reason or reasons why you are now standing here in front of me, and I only wish it were for the romantic reasons that are flooding my senses..."
It is here that the embattlement and the idea of what brought us together would clash... an encounter most sublime, strangely exciting, provocative in ways that nature hides from us until that certain kindled moment... of love? Not my luck! No, with me, that's when that little sarcastic demon inside provokes an ARGUMENT of all things, and against all reason, and in spite of the urges that lie just beneath the birth of our senses, knowing full well it will ruin the moment, and cause knee-jerk reactions of denial, blame-shifting, and accusations that let loose shards of anger before the words that would dull their edges are formed... creating a monstrous scene... ending all hopes, dashing all fantasies, crashing in flaming ruins that which could have been...
Annoyance and attraction; who was it who said, "Methinks, Nature is cruel!" No one? Well let it be said.
So it was, an ill-conceived bike lane, probably created by some unhappy professor, at odds with the world of technology, who had some unmerciful disaster follow fast and follow faster, until that lane he did outpour. (5)
And so it was, tragic, unfulfilling, torturous, and merciless. But all was not at an end. There was a dental hygienist just on the other side of the door...
[(4) Excerpted loosely from "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad]
[(5) Excerpted loosely from "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe]