Sunday, June 23, 2013


I had barely gotten any sleep the night before. A combination of hourly hot flashes, and visions of the bike I was going to see early in the morning had me twisted in my sheets. My alarm was set for seven – and sounded just as I had settled into a restful deep sleep. I fed the dogs, splashed some cold water on my face, loaded up my bag with cash, DMV forms, grabbed my helmet and jumped in the car. I circled around to pick up my friend Brian. When we had dated a long time ago and could never trust him with my heart, but years later we had settled into a deep friendship and I now could trust him with my life – and with riding my new Triumph Bonneville back from Long Island without incident. I found this bike in the same place I found my last boyfriend. I had come across it on Craigslist. It had been a harrowing couple of weeks dealing with bike dealerships, I would hold the two wheel hucksters up to a standard they couldn't possibly live up to; expecting them to be decent and fair was naive. Soon they would let me down with a sexist comment or shell game upon closing the deal. So I went back to shop at the only place I truly trusted: the Craigslist community. And one day I saw it, it wasn't like all the other Triumph Bonnevilles – the ubiquitous black ones the hipsters rode around with on Saturdays to buy artisanal groceries, or over to the far reaches of Brooklyn to the latest beer garden. This "Bonnie" was white, all my friends had poo-pooed it; it was the anti-Bonnie and thus had to be mine. The owner was a guy named "Sal". Coincidentally he had grown up in my neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, long before it was tony and exclusive. It had been a family oriented old school neighborhood, Italian, a little rough back then. Sal had moved out and moved up, he implied on the phone. He was out on Long Island now, had a house, a family, a boat. He told me the bike was a midlife crisis, we bonded on that, the hood, life in general – he sounded like a kind, decent guy. We arranged a time for me to come on out and take a look at his midlife crisis ride the following week. But in the next day or two Sal became agitated. He would call and send emails within minutes - he seemed manic and filled with anxiety about our upcoming meeting. I almost bailed on the deal as Sal's communications increased, but I kept coming back to that first pleasant conversation and the photos he had sent me in one afternoon of the pretty white bike. So off Brian and I headed to Sal's place on Long Island. Sal kept the calls coming though out the week. We had originally planned to meet on Friday morning, but he had called Thursday night sounding oddly intense. He asked if we could push the meeting up to 8 AM. he said he had something to do much further out on the Island that Friday. So we changed the day to Sunday, and as we ware 20 minutes away, Sal was calling in yet again. I picked up, Sal sounded calm yet sad. He explained that he had taken the bike out to give it a wash and now for the life of him couldn't get it to turn over. It was on a battery tender, but still showing no signs of life. He wanted to let me know and said we were welcome to still come, but it would be like coming to "buy a puppy and getting a dead dog." Still, we had come this far. So we went ahead and pulled up on his modest, sweet suburban street. There was a shiny new Audi convertible parked out front of Sal's house; the midlife crisis' latest effect. Sal came out to greet us. He was a 50 something guy, nice looking, a little rough around the edges and weathered from what looked like some hearty partying and a sunscreen-free life in this seaside town. He welcomed us past the white fence in the driveway and led us back to the separated garage which was next to a small well-kept pool. The bike was outside, all white and shiny, with a long black tail that led back into the dark, freshly swept garage. The battery tender had our hopes up as we all stood around the bike. Sal began his tale. "I bought this bike to piss off my wife, we were having a real hard time back then, she must have been menopausing." I never heard "menopause" used as a verb, but I liked it; I had been menopausing myself just the night before and was now considering adding it to my skillset on my LinkedIn profile. But Sal continued. "Yeah, she was a real pain in the ass about it so I decided to pull the trigger. Had some fun with it, even got the wife on the back a few times – but now I dunno. I lost my brother last week and riding is pretty dangerous, ya know, we can't have another one of us dead right now." He had gone from his wife menopausing vignette to his brother's passing story so seamlessly, I barely caught it. But Brian was kinder, and a much better listener than me. He had been a detective and never missed a detail, whether he was tuning into a perp with a "story" or just a regular Joe on the street. "I'm sorry, Sal," he said, "can I ask what happened?" Sal explained, "he committed suicide." Now Sal had my full attention, the bike had lost its pull and my eyes were now squarely on the surviving brother. "It was weird, there were no real signs, no. um reason we could tell," Sal explained, "he cashed his paycheck that morning, washed his car, and killed himself that afternoon." Brian nodded like a doctor who had just told a patient they had cancer, I was looking down at the freshly hosed asphalt of Sal's pristine driveway. "He called me to say 'goodbye' – but he didn't call my cellphone, I think he dialed my home number by mistake and left a message; anyway, it doesn't matter now." I then realized why Sal had changed our Friday appointment. His further out on Long Island meeting had most likely been his brother's funeral. I wasn't sure how Sal was processing his brother's death. He had gotten the news that evening and apparently listed his motorcycle on Craigslist the next day. After he shared his intimate story with us he had moved on with levity. Talking about the bike, how hard it was to get the seat off to reach the battery - recalling his old motorcycle with the under-seat-easy-access compartment where he would store his essential items, "my cigarettes and weed." We all stood around the bike and silently mourned Sal's brother under the guise of closer inspection to the angelic white steed. Sal offered me the honors to try and start her up but in spite of my best efforts, she was still and lifeless. It would have been crass to discuss a deal given the news about Sal's sibling and the general pall of the morning that ensued. "Maybe I'll take her out the the beach house, I dunno. Sorry again for your wasted trip," he said as he led us out through the gate. He had taken our sensitivity to not show interest as disinterest and sullenly talked about re-listing her on Craigslist. When we were back in the car I asked Brian if I should have discussed a deal after all. He said, "no, it wouldn't be appropriate," he explained not because of Sal's story, but because the bike hadn't started. "I think it would be nice when you got home you reach out to Sal again, let him know you liked the bike," he said hopefully. "Yeah? Should I send him an email," I looked to Brian, he always seemed to know what the situation warranted. "A call is always nice," he said sweetly as we turned the corner from Sal's sad street and out into the silent Sunday morning out on Long Island.