I have had one perfect day in all my life. It was a Saturday and a group of us were headed down to Brighton on our bikes for a sunny blast on the back roads and a rock concert in the evening. We had agreed to meet at a little greasy spoon cafe at Box Hill just outside London. As is my nature I had gotten there early and used the time to grab a bite to eat. The cafe was a regular place for bikers to meet so there were usually a number of people hanging around.
Tucking into my burger and tea I didn’t notice a rather tearful looking young woman at first. She was dressed in black jeans and a green leather biker jacket and had long wavy auburn hair tied into a simple ponytail. She was also wearing a pair of steel heeled cowboy boots which looked both impractical and deadly. I noticed that she was repeatedly looking at her watch and had a worried expression on her face that was turning to panic. Finishing my burger I walked over to her and offered to help ‘Hi is there something wrong, can I help you?’
‘My friend said he’d meet me here and give me a lift but he’s really late and hasn’t called’ she said.
‘Would you like to borrow my phone?’
‘Yes please, mine has no charge’ she replied.
I pulled out my phone and lent it to her, taking a step back to give her some privacy. She dialled a number and spoke briefly to someone on the other end.
Handing my phone back to me the girl said ‘Apparently he forgot that he had to visit his mother today’ in a hurt tone of voice.
‘Where are you headed’ I asked.
‘Up to Brighton, I’m meeting some friends for lunch’ she replied.
‘Well if you can wait a little bit I could give you a lift. A bunch of us are headed that way and I’m sure someone has a spare helmet if you don’t mind riding pillion?’ I said.
‘That would be great, as long as it’s not a bother?’
‘No bother, we just have to wait a bit for my friends to get here, would you like a cup of tea?’ I asked.
‘Yes please’ she said.
I ordered two cups of tea and we sat down to wait. We talked a little about the weather and what we liked about Brighton and pretty soon my friends started turning up and joined in the conversation as I introduced Vanessa to them and explained her situation. Fortunately there was a spare helmet that fitted her well enough and within half an hour or so we were on our way.
Vanessa sat closely behind me her belly against my back and her hands gripping my jacket around my waist, we had found a pair of gloves for her but they were quite thin so she tucked her hands into the space between the bike and me and held on tightly. ‘Just relax and go with the bike’ I told her ‘it’s easy once you get into it’. While my friends roared off on their bikes, eager in the great riding weather, I set off gently to give Vanessa a chance to get used to the ride.
As we picked up speed I could feel Vanessa’s breathing through her belly where it pressed against my back, quickly at first but more relaxed later on. The sensation was very intimate and I felt as if we were as close as we would be if we were making love. Picking up the pace a little I caught up with my friends and we barrelled along the A roads down to Brighton, the sun shining, the weather not too warm, our motorcycles working well on the open roads. It was a magical hour on the bike, one of those special journeys where the traffic mixes perfectly and you are not slowed, overtaking smoothly at all the right places, no dangerous blind corners, no caravans or egotistical executives trying to wipe you off the road.
It’s hard to believe, when you’re sitting indoors watching the rain against the window that a better day will come along. But sooner or later the rain will stop, the roads will dry out, and the sun will shine. Then is the time to take to the open road, to hear the roar of the engine and the whisper of tyres on tarmac. Get away from the motorways and their queues of cars and explore the bends and dips of the land, feel the wind flowing by as you settle into a long curve, the suspension settling, the tyres gripping, gravity pulling down and the throttle pushing up.
This was the perfect ride, the bike eloquent on the corners and fierce on the straights, each turn perfectly executed from turn in to apex and out, no wasted motion just a state of smoothness that lasted for moments then minutes and stretched out to hours. The landscape flowed past, hedges, walls, and signs blurred with speed, eyes fixed on the vanishing point ahead.
Vanessa’s thighs gripped my hips as she leant with the bike, not straining to stay upright like some pillions who were scared of the road rushing past beneath them. I was last in a conga line of motorcycles, almost touching nose to tail as we slowed down and then opening up, the lead riders rushing ahead to seek out the next opportunity for cornering.
Cars crept by on the inside, for once not blocking our way, each one overtaken smoothly and swiftly without incident, nothing interrupting our progress. Eventually we came to the coast road and opened up the bikes on the dual carriageway, hitting a hundred miles an hour within moments, the road vanishing beneath us as we rushed headlong to the sea shore.
As we entered the town we became scattered, exiting the state of motorcycling grace that had fallen upon us, the chaos and hubbub of the town traffic breaking us like the land breaks the waves. We became choppy and human once more. Nothing again would compare to that one ride, a single motion covering fifty miles in one step, the time vanishing into a Zen state of ultimate biking bliss. We had ascended to Nirvana and been blessed with illumination. All was right in the world.
It was something that a car driver would never have, locked away in their metal boxes, four wheeled coffins carrying them from cradle to grave, never breathing the air of freedom that was found on the back of a bike. I pitied them for their loss.
We arrived at the pier in Brighton and parked out bikes facing the sea, all in a neat little row to mark our perfect riding. We were all removing leathers, stretching our legs, and locking our bikes when Vanessa spoke to me.
‘That was great but I have to get going. It was really nice to meet you’ she said.
‘Thanks, you were a great pillion, hope you enjoyed the ride’ I said.
‘Anyway, I’m sorry but I have to go, I’m already really late and my friends will be worried’ Vanessa said.
‘Will you be okay from here?’ I asked.
‘Yes, it’s just a little ways away’ she replied, turning to indicate where she was headed. ‘I hope you have a nice day with your friends’
‘Okay, bye then’ she said and before I knew what happened she leaned in and kissed me on the lips, not just a quick peck but a proper kiss, before she turned to go. I stood there speechless as she walked away.
‘Hey Vanessa’ I cried out, and she turned to look back, pausing in mid-stride.
‘Do you want to meet up later?’ I said, cringing at the lame line.
‘I can’t’ she said her smile losing its intensity, ‘I’m busy all afternoon, sorry’
‘Well we’re all going to the concert tonight; do you want to come with us? I mean me; do you want to come with me? To the concert, tonight at the pavilion?’ I said.
Smiling again, she replied ‘I’ll see if my friends want to go, maybe’
Smiling again, she replied ‘I’ll see how things go this afternoon, maybe’
‘Okay… I’ll see you there then?’
‘Sure. Have a nice day, bye’ she said as she left.
I stood there feeling like an idiot while around me my friends joked with one another and grumbled about needing a cup of tea. Vanessa had kissed me and I’d let her walk away. Why didn’t I at least ask her for her number? I locked my bike and trudged after my friends, hoping that she would be able to make it to the concert tonight. Maybe she kissed everyone like that and it was nothing special, maybe I was misinterpreting, but it had felt like it meant something.
It had been just after four o’clock when we arrived and we had only a little left time to explore the lanes. We stuck to the northern end where the bias was towards piercings, tattoos, and Goth. The very end of the lanes was dominated by a neo-Victorian empire called Arkham, where icons of the old gods stood watch over steampunk contrivances.
I continued to alternately rejoice and worry throughout the afternoon, spoiling what would otherwise have been a splendid afternoon. Everywhere I looked were reflections of Vanessa. A girl in a green jacket. A girl with the exact same tone of hair. A laugh that sounded like her, just round the corner. I love the little shops that you find in the lanes of Brighton. All manner of frivolous goods are available from jewellery to scarves, comics to guitars, pretty much every amusement is represented.
Towards the end of the afternoon my spirits lifted in a surge of optimism, I was sure that Vanessa would make it to the concert. Our group found a waffle and pancake house and we settled down to fuel ourselves for the evening to come.
‘Remember that girl I gave a lift to from this morning?’ I said over the table.
‘Yes, how many girls do you think I can get on my bike?’
‘The one who borrowed my helmet you mean?’
‘That’s her yes’
‘Where is my helmet anyway? You didn’t give it back to me’
‘I though she gave it to you?’
‘No. Don’t tell me you haven’t got it…’
I started to panic. Where was the helmet? It would be bad enough to be smitten by a cute girl but stupid to have let her steal a helmet. Fortunately another friend came to my rescue.
‘Relax dude, I’ve got it locked on my bike’
I breathed a sigh of relief ‘Okay, so the girl who didn’t take your helmet, she kissed me when we got off the bikes before she left and I didn’t ask her for her number because I was standing there like an idiot’
‘Kissed you? You mean like a peck on the cheek right?’
‘No I mean a proper kiss, like a date kiss’
‘Right, because girls kiss you all the time’
‘Hey! I get my share of action guys’ I said
‘But your share is a lot less than ours’
‘Let’s not get on that again please.’ I said ‘What I wanted to say was that I asked her to the concert tonight, do you think she’ll come?’
Naturally they were all very helpful by explaining to me just how unlikely that was and how there was no way such a pretty girl would be without a boyfriend, even if she did kiss me. As I tried to refute them my morale started to slip again. she had been waiting for a guy to come and pick her up after all, he was probably her boyfriend. Maybe she thought that the kiss was payment for the ride rather than the gift I thought it was, maybe she had forgotten the whole thing already and was laughing about it with her friends right now, imagining the silly biker boy wandering the town in a haze of love.
I finished the meal in a slump, talking about it to my friends had put me right off, so I wandered off on my own after dinner, promising to meet them by the pavilion in a short while. I walked down to the end of the pier and stood looking out over the calm sea my thoughts anything but. I’d made plenty of mistakes with girls in the past and I was no great catch after all. I had thought there was chemistry but it was much likelier to be imagination. Things like that just didn’t happen to me.
Putting my jacket on against the cooling breeze I walked back down the promenade to the pavilion where my friends were waiting for me. They had moved their bikes while I was wandering around, parking them in a ragged line outside the pavilion, so I had to walk back and fetch mine too. It’s very tempting, when you know you’re only going to be on the bike for a minute or less, to just forego the helmet and gloves and take the ride with the wind in your face.
But I had seen too many silly accidents to fall for the temptation, guys who just moved their bike across the road and were knocked over by a boy racer coming round a corner too fast, girls in bikinis who had hopped on the back of a bike only to fall off and scour their skins with gravel when the rider did an unexpectedly fast start. They say that there are only old bikers and bold bikers; there are no old and bold bikers. I’d been bold enough for this day, it was time to ride sensibly.
Once I’d locked up the bike the group of us went into the venue and grabbed some drinks, no alcohol for us as we would be riding back later and it’s a stupid idea to ride a bike when you’ve had a drink, especially at night and the winding road back to London. We stood around, my friends admiring the local talent, while we waited for the support band to come on. We were dreadfully uncool as we’d turned up almost an hour before the support act came on and the venue was almost empty.
An hour later, as the support act was setting up their instruments and taping playlists to speakers the venue had filled out. Thanks to our unsophisticatedly early arrival we had grabbed prime spots just in front of the stage.
The support act struck up on their first song and out sauntered Vanessa onto the stage in her steel heeled cowboy boots. She had swapped the jeans and jacket for ripped leggings and a sexy dress and had her hair up but it was definitely the girl I’d given a lift to this morning. Even her voice was familiar as she launched into the first song.
Once they’d gotten a few songs under their belt Vanessa spoke to the audience ‘The next song is dedicated to my knight in shining armour who saved the day today, without him I wouldn’t have made it here. I know you’re out there and you know who you are so come see me after our set. There’s a backstage pass waiting for you’
She was special, her band was good even though they were only the supporting act, and after their set I went backstage to meet Vanessa and we spent the rest of the evening together watching the main band and then taking in the after party. It was a magical night, full of promise, and the heady intoxication of unexpected love.