The gash was deep, bleeding crimson tears down the front of my tank top. It was the middle of nowhere, dozens of miles from the gas station parking lot to the bar where I would finally crush the flow with a napkin full of ice.
Steve set me back on his Softail Heritage Classic, wrapped my arms around his waist, and tied my wrists. He kicked the Harley to life, eased it onto the country highway, and didn’t look back until we reached the bar. I knew the bar. I worked the day shift.
“Oh my god,” said the Jon, the bar’s bouncer. “Are you OK?”
“It hurts Jon,” I said. “I need to sit.”
Jon swept me up in his thick arms, resting my petite body against his beer belly, and carried me to the bar, setting me on a stool newly opened by JR, offering the only thing he had to offer.
“God that’s fucking ugly,” said Dennis, the bar’s Sunday bartender, handing me a Miller Light. “Here, this will help.”
“I need ice you asshole,” I snapped.
Jon came back with a napkin full of ice, and salt. In his hyper rush to help, he grabbed a handful of the beer trough ice. Ice that was covered in salt to hasten the cooling of the beer, regularly depleted by the crowds of bikers.
Steve placed the stinging compact on my chin, applied pressure, and held it there. The bleeding ceased, the swelling increased, and my head cleared.
“Why are we at the bar you fuck?” I asked Steve.
“I didn’t know where else to go,” he answered.
“I’m not fucking you tonight,” I said.
“Melanie, this is Steve,” Sue said as she introduced me to her boyfriend’s single friend. She had promised me he was a good biker for my first all-day ride since he didn’t drink and owned an extra helmet. She wanted me to ride with her and Dale. She wanted me to experience a Harley if I was going to sling drinks to bikers.
“Steve, this is Melanie,” Sue continued as she introduced her boyfriend’s single friend to her single friend. She had promised him I was good for my first all-day ride and wouldn’t freak out and unbalance the bike.
“Hi,” we said to each other and shook hands.
“You ready?” Steve asked.
“Ready as I’m gonna be,” I answered.
“Keep your body one with mine, and don’t fight the bike,” he explained and handed me a DOT-approved half-helmet.
“There’s a gas station ahead,” Steve yelled back to me.
“What the fuck for?” I asked, too one with the bike to want to disembark, ever again.
“We’ve been riding for six hours,” he yelled. “I fucking need gas.”
“You’ll have to pull ahead of Dale and Sue,” I told him.
“It’s the only gas station in the area,” he yelled. “They’ll be stopping too.”
Dale slowed his Fat Boy and turned into the gas station. Steve followed. Dale and Steve both stopped at the edge of the lot, and Sue and I both hopped off. Alice in Chains was blasting from somewhere.
♪ ♫ ♩
Yeah they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
♪ ♫ ♩
“Oh my god I love this song don’t you love this song this is the greatest song,” stammered Sue. I was lighting a cigarette, and didn’t see her coming. Sue ran to me, tripped, and as she wrapped her arms around me, I fell to the ground, and caught myself with my chin.
“Good thing you still have your helmet on,” Sue said.
“Yeah,” I said. “How bad is it?”
“Oh, it’s not bad,” she lied.
“Next time we stop will be to eat,” Sue demanded, dragging on a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other.
“Up for food,” Steve asked me.
“Yes, please,” I answered.
We rode for another half-hour through fields and around bends, taking in the blue sky and the green grass, smelling the fresh air and the cow shit, feeling the spine numbing vibrations, the sun on our skin, and the wind on our faces. We found a dive tucked behind a defunct junk yard.
“I’m getting another beer,” announced Sue. “You want one? I’m going to the bar.”
“No thanks,” I answered. “I want to remember everything about today.”