I was thinking about all the different roles I’ve played in my life, and there are many. I’ve had student roles, and a pastor role, and administrative roles, and sisterly roles. I’m a daughter, an aunt, I’ve been a wife, and a friend, and I have certainly played the role of the love-sick, cow-eyed girl many times. But I have one particular role to write about today.
I was my first husband’s biker babe. When I think about it now, I can understand why I liked being her then. I grew up in a family that celebrated decorum; we were polite, and never made spectacles of ourselves — we were afraid to. And the life I was living with Alton was pretty much the opposite of what I had grown up knowing: we had big parties, barbecues, camp-outs; we went on “lobster runs,” (four or five hundred bikers riding down the road, on our way to Boothbay Harbor for a big lobster picnic,)
I used to love riding on the back of that bike with Alton. I was either fearless or suicidal, or more likely a combination of both. I would ride in shorts and a tank top, back when I could wear that kind of thing and look good. Flipflops and a scarf in my hair. I knew what could happen if we had an accident — but I never hesitated to climb on the back of the bike. I felt an abandon unlike anything I’d ever experienced and, for a couple of years, I just went feeling great.
We smoked a lot of dope, often brought to us by Alton’s friends from northern Maine, as rent. They came south to work in the big industry in our town, and we often had them stay with us until they found someplace of their own. I know this is an exaggeration, but I thought at the time that every friend of his must have a huge operation in the back yard — one of them brought a black plastic trash bag full of home-grown pot for us, and none of them brought less than a couple of pounds. When I was twenty-one, that seemed like a good way to live, much better than what I had known at home.
I look back now, and I feel somewhat differently about the whole time. I think, if I’d had even a little more leeway at home, I might not have — nope, I probably still would have. My course was set, with the help of my doctor, when I never questioned his pronouncement of my early death. But why would I? The idea of the infallibility of authority was ground into my brain from the time I was old enough to think. The idea that I could question what a doctor told me was so foreign as to be anathema.
I survived being married to Alton — although I stopped riding with him after one crazy trip across the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, when he just wouldn’t slow down. I didn’t ride any more, but I didn’t stop my nutso life, either. Still, I did have some fun when I was with Alton, and since I lived through it, I can look back now and enjoy the memories. In fact, most of my life feels that way — I survived, so it couldn’t have been all bad. Could it?