Riding Bruce’s motorcycle


(This excerpt is dedicated with love to the memory of my brother, Bruce 1957-2010)

I had my own motorcycle helmet as a child. It was blue with gold flecks.

I was as happy as a dolphin leaping when my brother Bruce told me to go get my helmet. It meant a motorcycle ride.

I put on the black strap under my chin and climbed on behind my brother.

He rode his motorcycle all through the hills and roads of Southern California. I held on for the ride.

He wore a button-down cotton shirt and I grabbed the fabric at his sides as if they were handles. My canvas tennis shoes barely rested on the back pedals.

The wind blew my hair back. I felt fast and strong.

The sound of his bike purred as he opened the throttle. It was a small bike as motorcycles go but I was five years old and the engine seemed more powerful than anything else I knew.

We wound around curving roads that climbed past gated houses. Evening fell. He took me to the top of a hill.

He stopped the bike and turned off ignition.

“Climb down, Genny,” he said. “Let’s take a break.”

With his motorcycle leaning on its kickstand, we stood and looked at the bright and glorious sight that was Los Angeles in 1974.

The city lights glimmered gold as far as I could see. Ocean air mixed with the eucalyptus trees.

For as much as my mother liked talking, my brother liked silence. I could sit for hours with him watching TV and we wouldn’t say a word. We stood in a comfortable quiet watching the lights of LA.

It was a clear night without smog covering the starry night sky.

I don’t know what he thought about. He didn’t tell me. It was his senior year of high school. He was a nonconformist. He wore a leather top hat and drew cartoons. He had a few friends who could appreciate his trouble-making sense of humor but I imagine he felt the pain of not fitting in.

He would start college soon and never finish. He would start drugs soon and never stop.

But I didn’t know that then. I only thought about going places with my strong brother. I felt like we could go anywhere with the motorcycle as our steed to take us.

The gleaming valley under the stars beckoned us with its brightness.

My brother turned and smiled down at me.

He still had hope in his heart then.


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