The bike was all rust. Rust spreading like algae on the tank. Rust on the mirrors and on the handlebars. Thick dusty doilies of it. The battery would be worse than flat, dead. Her dead motorcycle. She squeezed the car in next to it, illuminating it with her headlights and she sat like that engine off, the shadow of it stretching out across the road. She felt it in her body, suddenly, the lean of a corner, that particular ache in her forearms from holding the throttle at its furthest extension for hours, days. All the open road. She remembered a moment when the sunset took her by surprise and she had to pull over, flip her visor up and breathe in the change of season. Just an ordinary day but this moment bedded down in memory like it was her times tables or a recipe for pancakes.
She turned off the headlights and the motorcycle retreated into darkness. She could see the vague outline of it but it might be anything.
She placed the keys in the bowl on the kitchen bench. The place for keys. Everything in it's place Neat stale air. She breathed. There was a time when she would have opened the window, but she had lost that battle to a sudden gust of wind and a broken glass. She turned the air conditioning up a notch thinking about open faced helmets, drops of rain hitting her eyeballs, the scent of night jasmine. Breathing in static dryness and artificial chill.
She could smell him on her.
She moved through the loungeroom and there was evidence of her passing, her bag dropped to the ground and forgotten in an instant, her helmet perched on the table, her gloves on the couch The jacket draped over the bench framing the kitchenette. It wa a regular complaint, her shedding. There were pieces of her everywhere, abandoned, unnoticed even at his place there would be something, old bus tickets fallen from her bag, a pen that she had used to write his home phone number down. The envalope on which she had written his number. (She should have folded it back into her pocket or the zip pocket of her bag) A tampon wrapped in toilet paper and secreted in the very bottm of this kitchen bin. Her mark on his place. Her address, glaring from the window of the envalope dropped onto the floor beside his bed. Pieces of herself.
She took her knickers off and held them in her hands staring at the crotch, expecting blood. She had a sudden flash of that first time in high school and almost laughed. This new first thing. Despite the last days of her period, despite the idea of something done for the first time, it had not drawn blood. No one hurt then, which was a relief.
She stepped into the shower. The sound of the water echoed. She would wake her husband and he would roll over in his sleep and glance at the clock.
She turned the shower to a slow drizzle, but it was no better. Soap, shampoo, bath cream. She rubbed the chemical scent onto her skin. She turned the tap off and reached for a towel. Fresh towels today. Today was Tuesday. There were fresh towels on a tuesday, slightly stiff and smelling of washing powder.
She huddled in it. The temperature had dropped. The sun rising and the cold air rushing in to meet it. There must be some science behind it, but it was a mystery to her.
No point in sleeping. She rummaged in the dirty clothes pile for different underwear, a shirt and trousers, rolling the things still warm from her body and pushing them to the bottom of the basket.
She emerged and there was steam drifting off her skin because of the cold and that was nice. The flat was a mess. She had done nothing more than drift through it and it was untidy. SHe began to stoop and gather. She lifted her helmet and there was a fine layer of sand on the table where it had rested. She wiped the surface with her palm and the sand was no longer on the surface but she could feel it on the floor under her feet. It took her a while to find the dustpan and brush which was embarassing. She found the broom quickly but that was not what she wanted. She looked in the laundry and behind doors and she thought she might have to check the bedroom but she found it in the pantry. She leaned over and she was light-headed. She was unused to this kind of protracted wakefulness.
She scraped the sand into the dustpan and she noticed that she had a headache. A big one. Something fierce and inescapable like you see on the adds for Panadol Forte. A headache, penance for her lack of guilt. At least this is wht she thought when she stood and covered her eyes with her hand. And then she fell, knocking the side table over, spilling sand back onto the floor, setting her helmet to skitter and stop in lazy rolling circles. It was a crash but not a terribly loud one, and in the bedroom her husband shifted once and settled and continued to sleep.
The clock flicked over, one red glowing digit at a time. The shower dripped. She had dropped the towel in the bathroom and it slowly soaked up the damp spill off the tiled floor.
Kissing. This moment of wonder opening, like his lips, a soft kind of understanding, a fruit falling and seeping into the dry earth. She had never put time into kissing. Twenty years of marriage and before that there was no time for something so preparatory. One kiss perhaps or several, but each one a hurried preface to sex. She kissed and she closed her eyes and her mouth softened and it was something that invaded her whole body and the idea of sex was superfluous. The kiss was the whole of it and the idea of sex seemed unimportant next to this momentous. Inside the kiss was a bitter-sweetness, all the love songs she had dismissed as saccharine, all the awful romantic comedies that she had always avoided. Not one kiss, but a series of kisses that might never stop. But they did stop eventually and she put her fingers to her lips as if she could pick up this knowledge with her fingers and remove it.
She replayed it. In this space there was time for it. She rocked away from the kiss, hand to lips. Thought, they were right. Thought, how can there be this new thing after so many years. Thought, I will have to rethink my relationship to a whole genre. Thought, maybe it is too late now. Because there was a glimmer of awareness. At the edges of the kiss there was a falling forward and pain, her body tensing. An overwhelming hurt, like the flip side to the kissing, and when she came close to it she almost woke to it and it was too big. It might swallow her.
She turned back to the kiss, replayed on a loop. This new thing. Tried to link the lyrics to love songs to it, but there was no comparison. The words were specific, fixed, nothing. The kissing was some kind of chemical reaction. It was physical. Some change was taking place inside her body and she would not be the same when it was done. She leaned forward. She touched lips. She softened and slowly opened them.