Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chasing the Moon...

The Summer I was 17, I had a boyfriend named Eddie. He had a rebuilt old Harley that he loved just about as much as he did me, and I was okay with that.  I loved that low-ridin’ black beauty myself.

Eddie was tall, lanky, with dark hair that kissed his shoulders, sapphire-blue eyes that danced with mischief, and softened with warmth when he looked at me. He was smart, funny, and so handsome. I loved him with every bit of my 17-year-old self.

Surprisingly, my parents actually let me ride with him on the Harley, though only during the day, and never for any long journey.  He was respectful of their rules, though would often murmur in my ear that some night, just once, he wanted to take me for a ride in the moonlight.

One truly hot night in late August, Eddie called. I had mentioned to him at some point that I'd accidentally found an easy way out of the house.  One night while looking for shooting stars, I had climbed out my bedroom window to lay on the garage roof.  I realized that I could scoot across the roof, jump down onto the garden shed, then walk along the fence rail to the driveway.  Piece of cake.   

There was a full moon the night he called, too hot to be closed up inside a house, and Eddie wanted to ride. With me.  I was breaking big rules: sneaking out, riding with Eddie at night, throwing caution to the wind.  My senior year in high school was coming up in a few weeks, and I had just enough time left to feel moonlight air caress my face.  He didn’t pressure me. The decision was totally mine to make. He was riding, with or without me--it was that kind of night.

We worked out the details and when the house got quiet around me, and the hour ticked past midnight, I went out my bedroom window and sat under the stars on the pitch of the garage roof, waiting. I could hear crickets, a few frogs, the natural sounds of life on the outskirts of town. The moon was so full, and so bright, I could have read a book by the glow.

And then I heard it.

The low, deep, unmistakable rumble of a Harley off in the distance. Eddie was still a ways off, but in the quiet of the night, the sound of his bike was resonating and clear.

I raced along the rooftop, dropped to the shed and walked the fence to the driveway. The house was on a corner, halfway up a hill. I ran down the road to the bottom just as Eddie came around the bend on a slow glide and stopped next to me. My heart was beating like a drum with excitement, and a little fear. I would be grounded for my entire senior year if my Dad found out, and Eddie would be banned from my life forever.  Was I really going to do this?

He smiled, white teeth gleaming, eyes sparkling with promise. He leaned in, gave me a kiss and asked softly, “You sure?”  I nodded, my doubts melting.  Looking me over, he shrugged out of his leather jacket, holding it out for me to put on.  “Where’s yours?”

“It’s too hot.”

“Not where we’re going,” he chuckled.

I straddled the bike, shoving the sleeves of his big jacket up my arms, and as I tucked myself against his back, I said nervously, “Uh, where are we going exactly?”

“To chase the moon.”

He pulled onto the road and we quietly drove for about half a mile until we came to a four-way intersection. The road behind us led back to the city, left went into the small town where I lived, straight ahead was the freeway. But right? Right was long, winding country roads, old-growth forests, and when you ran out of road, you were at the Pacific Ocean.

Eddie looked over his shoulder at me, his grin wide and irresistible. I smiled back. It was too late to do anything now but go for it. If I was going to get busted, I might as well get busted for taking the risk, having the adventure. I had total trust that Eddie would keep me safe. He raised an eyebrow in question. I nodded.

We turned right.

I have never forgotten that night: The sense of freedom as we sped down the empty back roads; the power roaring from the Harley, eating long country miles; Eddie’s broad, strong back to lean into as my arms wrapped around his waist, my legs cradling him close; the clean, fresh scent of his tee shirt mingling with the warm spice of his skin as I pressed my face into his neck; the wind tangling our hair, binding us together.

We rode past small farms, the occasional lowing of cows followed us like a half-remembered song, ghosts in the moonlight as we passed; driving through dense forests, the sudden chill startling, but such a relief from the heat that came off the bike, shimmered up from the road, swirled in humid eddies on the night air.

Long before there was a movie about a famous ship torpedoed by an iceberg, I took that pose: arms spread wide, knees gripped tight around Eddie’s body like I was riding a crazed, bucking bronco. I laughed wildly, my head tipped back as I looked up into the night sky, the stars bright, luminous and magical, streaming overhead as we rode. Eddie put his right hand on my thigh, pulling me tighter, the warmth from his palm soaking into my heart, staking a claim.

An hour or so later, we turned down a bumpy, curving dirt road. Bouncing along, I asked him what we were doing, where we were going.

“Patience, grasshopper,” he said softly.

I laughed. He was always saying that to me, reminding me to slow down, appreciate the moments.

The sudden silence after he shut off the bike was ear-ringing. I stumbled at first when I lifted my leg over the seat and tried to stand. I felt like I’d just gotten off one of my grandmother’s horses. He steadied me, then took my hand and we walked a short way up a small incline.

I stood in front of him, his arms around me, my body firm against his as we both looked out over the ocean. The moon was huge, ethereal, otherworldly as it glistened and gleamed in undulating silver bands across the water. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, and I'd been to the beach many, many times before. For some reason I wanted to cry, which embarrassed me.

Leaning down, Eddie whispered in my ear, “It just takes your breath away, doesn’t it?”

I could only nod, the lump in my throat too big for speech. Eddie knew.  He rested his chin on top of my head, and we stood there for the longest time, listening to the sea roll and grumble, absorbing the beauty of the night.

We found a large driftwood log and, using it for a backrest, settled on the sand, comfortable and happy just to be together.  Then, too soon, it was time to go.  We had a long ride back, and I had to climb in my bedroom window, hoping my Dad wouldn’t be sitting there waiting to ground me for life. But I couldn’t, wouldn’t regret this.  Not for anything, no matter what.

Just before I got on the bike, Eddie held me close and thanked me for taking the chance, for coming with him, that he’d wanted to do this all Summer, and if I got into trouble, he would talk to my Dad for me, would take the blame.  I hugged him tight, and said I just wouldn't let anything ruin such a perfect night, so we had to stay positive, hope that no one would ever find out.  It would be our secret forever.

Eddie smiled, kissed me to seal the bargain, and said, “Our secret then, forever.”

On the ride back, the air was cooler, though when I offered Eddie his jacket, he said no, he’d rather feel the morning freshness on his skin. I snuggled into his back, my arms tight around him, and watched dreamily as the moon ran beside us all the way home.

After boosting me up onto the shed roof, Eddie waited below as I made my way across the garage and climbed through my bedroom window.  I had a moment as I stood silently in the dark, a multitude of excuses and apologies rioting in my head, as I waited for my father to snap on the light by my desk.  But no need.  The rush of relief was amazing, capping a night filled with amazement. 

I stuck my head out the window and whispered down to Eddie, where he stood in the waning moonlight at the edge of the drive, "Our secret is safe!"  He smiled, blew me a kiss, and quietly blended with the shadows.  I waited, listening until the last deep growl of his Harley had faded, unwilling to let go of such an experience.

There might be nothing better in all the world than being 17 and in love, chasing the moon down a long, winding country road on a hot Summer night…

Last night I was out in the back watering the garden.  Just getting dark, the air was heavy, sultry.  When the atmosphere is right, the sounds in the valley drift up the mountain.  As I stood gazing at the sunset colors in the sky, I heard the low, sweet rumble of a Harley from somewhere down below.  In less than a heartbeat, I was back in time, with Eddie...