Monday, October 11, 2010


I was pretty sure that the guy sitting behind me in the classroom of my motorcycle safety course was a crack head. He stuttered and bounced into the room, a little pint sized guy all skin and bones with full-on jiggy energy, he seemed nice enough – he offered me some hand sanitizer, his hand shaking as he extended the plastic bottle my way.

We broke into teams to go over the handbook material that we would be drilled on later. The three girls in the glass teamed up and we aced the Q & A, knowing our stuff, articulating the regurgitated material fairly well. Most of the guys lagged behind us, baffled when asked to basically read back the material, the jiggy man had trouble putting sentences together it would be interesting to see how everyone would do when we hit the practice track the next day.

Up at 5 AM the next morning, I couldn’t wait to get on a bike and see what they had in store for us. I arrived a bit early along with some others. One of the instructors was running simple drills on his gigantor Harley as we watched. Jiggy showed up just in the nick of time before Monty, the stern curmudgeonly head instructor, gave us a drill sergant-esque run down of the rules of the course. We were told to pick a bike, I went for the shiny black 250 that was first in line, the instructor telling me to hold on, I had short legs and should take the diminutive 125, I assured him I could handle it’s 360 lb bulk, and left the junior 125 bike to the lesbian court officer who I swear was a full foot shorter than myself, but with twice the swagger that surely kept the instructor at bay when awarding First Prize in the Shortest Legs Division.

I had been riding my own 250 for 3 months, although still green I knew how to ride in the friction zone, find gears, brake, all the basics. The rest of the students did fairly well, some better than others, but Jiggy seemed to really excel. There is a learning curve, but there are those who you'd call “a natural”, and Jiggy fell squarely into that category. One of the other women dropped her bike, I heard it before I saw it, she must of grabbed the throttle like her life depended on it, I turned around to see her whirling dervish finish, spirally down to her final drop, hand still grabbing the throttle full tilt even as she was on her side on the asphalt. The instructor had to run over and hit the kill switch, which she later bragged about doing herself although we had all seen what really went down. Her boyfriend was an experienced rider, she told us the night before she had already picked out her first bike, some 1700cc cruiser she assured me would be "nooo problem", although it was a good 1500 cc’s over what any newbie should sport. But the instructors gave her another shot, after all – she had gotten right back up on the bike, and had shown up in a 500 dollar Vanson motorcycle jacket, but dropped the bike again not 10 minutes later. It seemed it was catching, another fellow dropped his 250 20 minutes later, his leg caught under the bike, the headlamp cover shooting across the pavement. Both were asked out of the class, the rest of us were bonding based on sheer survival.

Jiggy didn’t really seem to talk to anyone. He wasn’t the most articulate, his pint sized stature made him the weakest link to the other macho boys who paid their $350 to train that weekend. During a break he was off to the side by himself while the other guys were off peeing or trading stories about the sports bikes they were buying on Monday. The only other girl left in the class, that little butch chick was busy texting her significant other on her T-mobile slider, left alone to the side, I took the opportunity to extend some warmth Jiggy’s way.

Turned out the reason he was so slight was because he’d just completed several rounds of chemotherapy. He had been diagnosed with Lymphoma just about a year ago, had been told he wouldn’t make it the year but was one of those against-all-odds percentages, the doctor had been shocked at his progress. He booked the motorcycle course on the phone from his hospital bed, he decided he wanted to get his M class endorsement, buy a small bike, and just travel around, wherever the bike took him. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, he was matter of fact in the way he told his tale - bouncing from foot to foot with that jiggy vibe, I wondered where he got all that energy. I admired his fortitude and could relate to his plan. I hadn’t had a near death experience, but between getting mailings with the big letters “AARP” on the outside, and having the same conversation week after week with my mother who’d been diagnosed with Dementia - I couldn’t get on a bike fast enough.

After our first day on the riding course it was time to take the written exam which couldn’t have been easier. I patted myself on the back and took a huge exhale when I aced a hundred percent, most got at least a 95, Jiggy squeaked by with an 82 - so we were all invited back to complete the road training and to take the final road exam the next day.

We all showed up early, someone brought donuts. It was cold and still dark, there were ten of us left out of the original 12, I was invited into the circle of boys, all of us standing hoods up in a circle. I was one of the strongest on the track the day before, no one had been listening when I explained I had 600 miles under my belt, I used it to my advantage and let everyone think my “first day” riding was off the charts, it gained me access to the boy’s club. Jiggy was off to the side, like a runt left behind by the pack. He lacked the oomph the rest of us had, his face sunken, his body shaking in the cold, I said good morning and scolded myself for not remembering his name.

After the drill sergeant gave us a good morning verbal bitch slap, we all went over to our bikes for the next drill of the day: shifting up into 3rd gear. Seemed everyone improved from yesterday. Guys that had been lagging the day before seemed to hit their stride. The “good cop” instructor told me he wished every student was like me which was a relief to hear after “bad cop” drill sergeant took every opportunity to motivate me with the threat of an imminent FAIL.

Two of the guys were having difficulty finding 3rd gear then downshifting into 2nd. One of them was Jiggy. The other guy was a silent working class guy who looked like he had angry conversations going on inside his flat topped head. Both he and Jigs kept stalling their bikes on the drills. Drill sergeant blew his whistle and sent the rest of us over to the side. He had the good cop instructor spent about 15 minutes with them before they asking the two weak links to leave the group. Flat Top took off without a word in a hurry, I was convinced he was going to get the gun in his glove compartment and take a few of us out before heading out to his mom’s for Sunday dinner. Jiggy walked towards us with a, “that’s it, I’m OUT.” He said it while walking, we all stopped him from going off to get into his car, or going off to the bus stop, we’d never seen how he got to the parking lot in the mornings, he seemed to appear out of thin air.

“Hey, you gonna reschedule, you’re gonna take it again,” all of us lending encouragement to the little guy who had shown such promise the day before.

“Nah, I ain’t paying $350 again, I’m done,” Jiggy said with a final straw.

“Hey, don’t give up, I’ll give you lessons, give me your number,” one of the more macho guys tried to cajole him, I wasn’t the only one with a soft spot for the little corn-rowed guy – the whole gang seemed to care – even without knowing he’d been walking around with Leukemia the whole time.

“Nah, I’m done wit this shit, I had it,” all his jiggy energy went up to his head, it was shaking from left to right with an adamant “no.”

And with that he was off, his slight form quickly getting lost between the parked cars there in the lot next to the gym - his spirit spent, it’s last breaths taken on an old 250.

Six of us passed to get our M class license that day, the other 6 didn’t, some of them were asked to leave – Jiggy was one of them. I didn’t care what happened to that 6, our pumped up camaraderie null and void once the test results were passed out by the instructors. Still, I wonder what happened to Jiggy after that day, had he gotten a good night’s sleep, bought himself a bike off of Craigslist anyway to pursue his post chemo dream? Or had he really given up on bikes, on treatment, on life altogether? There would be no way to know; I hadn’t taken his number, hadn’t even bothered to get his real name.

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