On a balmy summer night, a night made for dreams, I return from my date before midnight. I stay up, waiting for him. His date with the tramp must have lasted longer. I don’t want to think about her, or her rough, bleached hair, or her black-rimmed eyes. At 2:00 a.m., I hear the burble of his motorcycle. I run to the window. He stops in front of the house, revs the engine. Praying that my parents don’t wake up, I sneak downstairs to meet him.
We sit on the curb and share a cigarette, like a post-coital couple. He, in his white tee, black jeans, and colors—a black leather vest with the ghoulish, crimson script “Headhunters” across the back. I, in a short khaki skirt and a white sleeveless blouse, as befits a college-bound girl. I shiver in the cooling breeze. He takes off the vest and snugs it around my shoulders. I lean into him and inhale, as if I could absorb his essence. Leather, lime, and motor oil. I can’t get enough.
We don’t talk much. We never do.
He takes my hand and stares at the shiny new engagement ring on my finger. Drops my hand. Looks away.
I bow my head, and watch the tears fall on my lap in the ambient light. A long minute later, he pulls me to him, and we lie under the night sky.
Why don’t we get on that bike of his and ride off? Something indefinable stops us.
We sit for hours. With dawn streaking the eastern sky, we clutch each other, neither of us wanting to part.
Sleepless, I rise on the morning of my wedding. As I ponder the vows, my stomach sinks.
I know the meaning of hypocrisy, but proceed to the church. After the ceremony, he roars past Saint Joseph’s on his Kawasaki, creating a stir. When my husband asks, I pretend not to know who the rider is.
My marriage doesn’t last. How could it when my heart belongs to another?
I drop out of college and move to a studio apartment in the city. My job as a copywriter at an ad agency fills my days. A series of men fill my nights.
On a visit home, I learn that he fell into hard drugs. The Kawasaki, a thing of the past.
He’s on foot.
Two years later, married again, my husband and I bring our infant son for a visit to my parents. My heart clutches when I see him wandering the neighborhood streets, wearing a long black duster and leather Aussie hat in the summer heat. Lost and drug-addled, stumbling, staggering, talking to the sky. Laughing. At what, I wonder.
I weep for him.
“What’s wrong, honey,” asks my husband.
Knowing I can’t tell the truth, I answer, “Nothing.”
I don’t say, “First love lasts the longest.”
About the Author: Joanne Kukanza Easley, born in Chicago, Illinois, has adopted Texas as her home. She lives in the Texas Hill Country on a small ranch with her husband, three rescue terriers, and abundant wildlife. Retired from a career in nursing—with dual specialties in the cold, clinical operating room, and the intense, emotional world of psychiatric nursing, she devotes her time to writing fiction. Her debut novel SWEET JANE will be released on March 19, 2020 by Black Rose Writing.