Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
For the final day of a cross-country trip, I had to drive across all of Kansas and through half of Colorado. Just after leaving Kansas City, a motorcycle passed me. It was an orange Harley, the driver was helmetless, but wearing a black cap. Later, in the usual movements of traffic, I passed him back. He remained behind me, perhaps pleased with my speed and because my car worked as a semi-effective bug screen. For almost two hours, he stayed in my tailwind. When I turned on my blinker to pass someone ahead, he replied in kind. When I returned to the right lane, he swayed along with me. I grew accustomed to having him in my rearview mirror.
His long goatee flapped in the wind on either side of his face like a set of grey ribbons. I liked the idea that he trusted my skills as a driver and let me lead. Passing Manhattan, I called “EMAW!” (Every Man a Wildcat) at several signs for the University, because I remain so fond of my years at Kansas State. I knew I’d need coffee soon, so I prepared to part with my rolling companion at the second exit for Junction City. However, at the first exit, he put out his arm to signal his turn. I thought he was waving at me. So I waved back somewhat wildly, hoping the tinted windows wouldn’t obstruct my “So Long, Farewell.”
Suddenly, I felt a huge grief. I started to weep. I took the second exit, drove through for coffee, sniffing so much that the woman at McDonald’s felt moved to give me an “aww, you okay, hon?” and extra napkins. I rolled forward, feeling silly, and as I approached the road, something across the street caught my eye. There was my biker buddy. He was at a gas station. As I began to laugh, he looked up from the pump and squinted. I sped into the gas station parking lot, “Hi! I’m Paige!”
He blinked his blue eyes, “Oh, when I pulled off I saw you waving at me!” He had stopped for fuel, but didn’t find a station at the first exit, “Then lo and behold, I look up and there you are.”
“I am really not a crazy person, really. I just, I was so sad when you turned. I thought I was losing my guardian angel.”
“No worry of that.” He laughed. He was stopping here to see his mother today, so I waved again and headed home. I can’t explain why it was so nice to have a biker on my bumper, or why I cried again when I got back on the Interstate. Perhaps I missed Kansas, or felt sentimental about my grandparents who came from there. Perhaps the last 600 miles of a 3,600 mile solo roadtrip would be enough to make anyone crack. I vaguely remember Saint Teresa of Avila wrote, “We cry because God gives us tears.” I suppose that’s as good of an explanation as any that come to mind–even after a few weeks of reflection.
–Kansas City to Junction City, KS