A Moto Noir Tale
The rain had been falling hard for hours, washing the colorless streets of grit and garbage in endless streams of city jetsam. Cigarette butts washed up against the bike’s rear wheel, forming a sickly eddy of blackened filters, some still smeared with lipstick. I threw mine into the swirl, like tossing it into a flushing toilet. It was time to ride, the storm would have to do better to keep me off the saddle.
Steam was still rising from the titanic Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 floating under me. I had only stopped for a few minutes to wipe my sunglasses, have another cigarette, and figure out how the hell to find her again. It’s been three days of relentless rain and seven straight nights since I last saw her. She has jet black hair, blood red lips and hard green eyes that could turn me to ice under a dog-day sun.
The beast in question- Kawasaki Vulcan 2000.
It was your typical lover’s spat. Something about nothing I can remember but enough to get a door slammed in my face. Last I saw she was wearing a tight red t-shirt that stated in fancy white script, “Can’t tell you where I’ve been or how I sinned, just meet me there all over again.” I’ve been trying to find “there” ever since.
What I do remember is the first time we went for a ride. It was a night a lot like this. The showers started just past midnight, miles after I left the apartment. Not much I could do but meet her, make my apologies, park the bike and hand her an umbrella. Instead, she reached for a helmet. “C’mon, be tough,” she said as she looked skyward and opened her arms, “This is perfect.” Right then I knew I would never meet another woman like her.
Dark and dank cityscape. Photo by Unreal Engine.
The Vulcan didn’t mind the rain; in fact, it seemed to burn a hole through it. The 2053cc (125 cubic-inch) V-Twin thumps out power pulses that send a beat to the brain, bathing it in a painless rush of immoral pleasure. The motor is liquid cooled, which seemed oddly comical to me as buckets of water drenched us, penetrating leather and I can only imagine, the black lace that pressed deeply into her bare skin.
The Vulcan 2000 is as long as a city block, easily punching through the eight-foot barrier. Its chassis rolls on fat tires front (150mm) and rear (200mm), which offer much thick flesh to the biting urban asphalt.
Vulcan 2000 in brighter days, kitted out for our rides. Photo by Christian Ammering.
We cruised the concrete canyons that night, as we did countless nights to follow, ricocheting about town in the usual way, a way that became our way. Big cities are really condensed little worlds where humanity keeps all its secrets. If you ride long and hard enough you will discover each, one one at a time. There will be some you wish you hadn’t.
She liked to explore the dark side, a place where trains can’t reach and taxis dare not go. It was the frontier, the city’s last surviving bohemia. Inhabited by misanthropes and mutant minds, we felt at home there. The Vulcan trolled down each sinister block, growling like some mad oversized ape pounding his chest, declaring his domain. I did nothing to calm the beast.
The urban frontier has a surprise waiting behind each doorway; some happy, some fatal. The trick is to pick the right one, the one that offers entry to the torment or joy you seek. You just have to learn how to read the signs. There is no tolerance for mistakes.
Now I rode alone, wondering sometimes out loud where she could be and worse—with whom. The big 2000 rumbled on through, steady, obedient, uncaring if my direction was aimless. The downpour wouldn’t relent; engulfing me, getting stronger, weakening me. I finally stopped fighting it, letting it in. Maybe it would wash away my sins.
The Vulcan wasn’t hot-rodded; it had no need. It carried a few handy extras, though—saddlebags, passenger backrest and rack, and a billet light bar that helped peel back the night, until one of its screw-in lenses fell out, victim of an ill-mannered pothole. The motor exhaled through a set of Jardine Rumblers, pipes that seemed hand-forged by a medieval blacksmith bent on wickedness. The exhaust note boomed off these boundless cement cliffs like a symphony hall.
Out among the night prowlers. Photo by Mark LA Photography.
Sunrise wasn’t far off, although it wouldn’t be able to burn through the dense cloud cover. The freaks would be emerging soon, their darkened eyes and pale faces dragging them forward. I was exhausted and beginning to feel like one of them, lost and looking for a body to inhabit. The cold was sinking deep and I was running out of places to seek forgiveness.
I turned a final corner and then somehow remembered—my birthday was tonight, not that it mattered. There was some commotion up the block and the red glare of neon spilled from a storefront that shouldn’t be open. I rode the mighty mechanical beast onto the narrow, broken sidewalk, threw the kickstand down on a steel basement door.
Under the neon night.
Standing in heels sharper than my Ka-Bar, and dripping in something black and tight and thinner than wet paint, she was surrounded by a latex masquerade. Her eyes quickly found mine like we were the last man and woman left in this heartless town. Her long, slender hand slid slowly down her hip as she reached in toward me. Then she simply smiled her irresistible smile and whispered, “It’s about time you got here.”
*Feature photo by Rain Sounds
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Josh Placa ain’t washed up. It’s just that readers don’t demand excellent writing, and editors don’t want to pay for it.
Agreed. We’ve read and enjoyed his scribblings for years, decades really. Thankful and honored to have him penning excellent prose for Road Dirt. Among the best.