My bike is parked between the building and his car. I'm sitting on the bike. Helmet and gloves off. His car is a pale green Toyota Prius. There's personalized plates adorning front and back. They read LES CO2.
Took me a while to get it. Was Les the driver? What did the second part mean? I could be excused, though. There were other things on my mind. Things that were threatening my good mood. Things like the back bumper of the Prius. It was looking to do bad things to my front wheel. Smugsy and I were sharing the Super Slab. The endless ribbon of steel and concrete that connects us all eventually. The Prius and I were to be connected here and now if I didn't do something.
Smugsy had passed me on the left. I was mellow and happy this day. Bike and I rolled easily along in the right lane. The rider's equivalent of smelling the flowers. Pleasure was about to turn to pain. Unless I did something. Real soon. There was only one solution in this formula. Prius passes. Prius moves right quickly. Rider brakes and rolls off. You could say I was disenchanted. At least I was in a good position to figure out that damned license plate.
Now here we were. I needed a stretch. Smugsy needed a bathroom. Circumstances said we should meet again.
Smugsy was walking back to his car. He'd have to pass by me. I studied him. Didn't look like a tree hugger. Sun didn't touch his skin much. I'd guess he spent a lot of time indoors. Hugging a bottle. Flush cheeks and small red veins marked his face. He was a small man. I guessed something like six decades had passed for him. Guys like him are ignored in crowds every day. Just another "nobody" shuffling along the sidewalk.
Smugsy walked with his head down. My eyes glared at his skull. As people will, he felt my gaze. Stare at someone across a room. Pick someone not looking at you. Watch them start to fidget. Pretty soon they'll look at you. Smugsy looked up at me. His body stiffens. There's surprise and a little fright in his eyes. He shoots a quick look at his car. It's on the other side of danger. His human helplessness is naked in front of me. Smugsy hunches his shoulders. Like he's bracing for a blow.
Good and Evil argue. Good says to let it go. Evil tells me I was nearly killed. Good says it wasn't that close. I was able to adjust, wasn't I? Evil reminds me that I call myself a Warrior. Warriors avenge wrongs, don't they? I tell both voices to get lost.
I tell Smugsy I didn't appreciate his move. Smugsy says he didn't see me. His reaction at seeing me betrays it as a lie. Smugsy knows it, too. He's trapped. He takes the offensive. A mouse squeaking at a cat. He's shaking a little. Fear? Self-righteous rage? Booze withdrawal?
"Bikers are irresponsible. You're the opposite of hybrid drivers. Pretty soon you'll all be gone."
Smugsy stares into my eyes as long as he can. Which isn't long. He's at a disadvantage. His eyes are uncovered. Mine are now behind dark glasses. I see his temporary bravery deflate. Does he have a death wish? Is he deluded? The shaking is worse now.
Good is speaking again. Let the man go. He's scared. The strong show mercy.
Smugsy is waiting for my reaction. His fear is plain. He seems shocked by what he just said. Did he just condemn a biker? I'm not one, of course. That's how Smugsy sees me. I slow count to twenty. Delay the reply. Toy with the mouse. Finally, the cat lets the mouse see freedom.
I reply by pointing my finger at his car. Smugsy doesn't get it. Point to him. Point to his car. Now it dawns on him. Smugsy is at his Prius in record time. He drops his keys. Now he's inside. The door slams shut. I've heard these cars use a battery for slow speeds. The gas engine takes over at higher speeds. I smile. I'm sure both help get Smugsy out of here.
I think of Smugsy after he's gone. He's not the only smug hybrid driver I've met. Talk of a bike compared to a hybrid can happen later. Isn't it enough to do the right thing? Why be smug? So many thoughts in my head. My brain needs peace. I pick a thought and go with it. Little people in giant pickups. Little people in hybrid cars. Overcompensation takes many forms, it seems.
Leave Smugsy and his ilk to live how they will. Hunger rumbles my body. A saddlebag holds relief. Over a sandwich I marvel at how beautiful Elvira is. Life's good on a bike!
Miles and smiles,