There was a biker couple on our street. Thinking back he would be the mid to late thirties, and she would be in her late-twenties. Cheadle was a quiet town back then, and they were probably the only hardcore bikers in the area. They both wore leathers, sported tattoos and always had a cigarette on the go. They always had a smile and a wave for us kids. We’d stop playing football or whatever we were doing at the sound of his Honda Goldwing (which we were all convinced was a Harley) firing into life, and they’d sail past us with a knowing wink or a nod, before disappearing in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
They were involved in an accident. I would be around the age of ten. She was thrown from the bike. I do not recall her name, and I feel a sense of guilt at that. I remember her, though, pale and blonde. Her eyes were always clouded by red like she had been crying. I often wondered if she had. She died. Again I do not remember how soon after. Childhood is punctuated by a series of playground events, holiday adventures and little else (if we are lucky.). Little of our memory or attention is allocated to the pain of others; such is our naivety.
He withdrew from life. We heard his bike roar into a life less and less, until one day (I forget how I was informed,) we heard that he had committed suicide. He brought the bike into the house, fired her up and let the fumes do the rest.
I recall feeling sad upon hearing of his death. This was a man that in later life I feel I would have gotten along with, shared a beer and a laugh with. Even at that young age, I knew he was a free spirit. I could see that he’d gone out on his terms, and I respected that. Though, knowing nothing of love and heartache I could not pretend to understand his pain or contemplate as to why he decided to take his life.
The street kids accepted his loss in a blank, matter of fact way. We went to look at his house a few days later, all of us standing in front of the window, a silent homage, wondering which room he placed his bike. We all missed him. Few adults gave us the time of day and most saw us as a nuisance. Here was a man who understood what it was like to live free of other people’s opinions, a man who remembered what it was like to be a kid.
I don’t know what made me remember this just now, but this one is for you Wayne. RIP.