Monday, March 4, 2002

U.S.A., California, Redwood City

I want never to be married. I want to remain free. I want to stand always in the wind on the deck of a ship, unfettered to anything in my past and to anything in the world. I want to live alone and die alone. But, there exist women. And women like you make me forget the wind. I love the chill and the rain, the sting and harshness of dissolute life. But women are warm and soft and joyful -- women are beauty -- and I love them as well.

But the thought of marrying killed me -- because, if married, every day I would love and it would be a happy life, but I would never be a man alone in the night facing the wind, and that is who I want to be tonight and every night until I die and after I’ve died, forever roaming hilltops, moving between the trees, my knuckles icy, my feet bleeding, hungry, always hungry, and alone, and free.

Last night I rode my motorcycle to a small bar called Henfling’s in a small mountain town called Ben Lomond in the California mountains just south of Silicon Valley to listen to a bluegrass band called Railroad Earth from New Jersey. It amazed me that genuine small mountain towns like that exist so close to Silicon Valley; it was like being back in Colorado. Riding up from the valley into the mountains, the air got steadily colder. There were a lot of motorcycles on the road, as there have been for many days because the weather has been warm and sunny. I listened to the band with a friend from work and some other guys. I recalled that I got into bluegrass music in 1999 in Moscow, listening to a friend’s cassette tape and realizing that the music was making me homesick for Appalachia, a place I’d never been. While riding the metro (subway) under the Russian snow and sitting wrapped in blankets in an eleventh-floor apartment in Moscow, I developed a plan to someday buy a small house in Missouri and spend an autumn sitting on the front porch by day and driving around to small mountain bars by night to listen to bluegrass bands. But yesterday, I was in a small mountain bar in California listening to a bluegrass band from New Jersey. I never could have expected that.

When I left the bar, it was late and dark and very cold. There was still traffic, but there were no other motorcycles on the winding two-lane mountain roads. It was serious motorcycling. The moon was bright to the south, but the tall trees along the roads blackened the roads. I put trust in my headlight and powered through the curves. But often enough I would look at the shallow, rocky ditches of the highway and imagine how cold I would become if I were forced to lie bleeding in one of those ditches for an amount of time. In an instant, I could go from being independent and alone and free, to hurt and helpless and dependent on the kindness of other humans for my life. And so then I would slow for the curves... because I did not want to be forced to ask my fellow humans for anything.

The total ride was over an hour one-way. Back in the valley, riding the freeway, I opened up the machine and passed the cars. I leaned over far, and the bike drifted across lanes. But as I moved over the raised reflectors in the paint between the lanes, the front wheel jerked the handlebars in my hands. I was tired, and my hands were weak with pain from the cold and from holding on for so long. So I stopped to rest and eat.

In the restaurant, I sat facing a group of people -- a couple and two young women and four children. They spoke with each other in American English and in a language unknown to me. Their dress and their appearance and their stature suggested they were connected to a nation of the South Pacific. The women were tall, thick-bodied, with strong, lovely faces and long kinked hair. I unzipped my leather and sat and put a booted foot up on a chair and rubbed heat back into my reddened hands and looked one young woman in the eyes and smiled. She smiled and then looked straight down. Then I looked at the man. He was looking at me. I smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back. His was the family, and I was the threat. His is the life of love and laughter, but I have only chaos and pain to bring into others’ lives. I can witness the familial life -- I can sit right before it -- but I cannot know it, I cannot understand it, and I do not even believe in it. I can only give daughters secret thrills, and then return to my friend, the darkness.

I fear I’d do anything -- I don’t understand why -- I’d fight God and his Devil and the deities and the spirits and the fire and our other gods and the saints and the earth, to have you. And if I had you, I fear, after time, I’d give up the wind and the night, I’d give it up for warmth and tenderness and the treasure of a woman’s heart. But I do not think it is your place to save me from the night; I do not think that you remain alive to be my savior. I know that if your life has a purpose, it has nothing to do with me. And I know that if my life has a purpose, it has nothing to do with anyone.

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