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I began to crave the balance this new place brought to my life.
I met Angela as well as John, a man I dated and then remained friends with.My nights were no longer filled only with workouts, after-work cocktails and editing manuscripts.Together, we hung out at dark bars filled with biker dudes and black leather.One afternoon, when I arrived at their house, Pancho was there and thought that maybe we were up to no good. I felt a mix of fear and exhilaration in the crush of black leather. Of course, I had never been in a pack of motorcycles before, and I rode on the back with a friend of Pancho’s who was not in the club. I wanted to run back to what I thought would be the welcoming arms of the mountains and the friends that I had left. It might be right around the corner.” It sounded wise, but I knew what I was doing was retreating. I met your girlfriend Angela at the party in Frisco a few weeks ago. He was huge standing next to me, as I’m only 5’1 and 115 pounds. His arms and chest were tattooed all over, the Death Head over his heart. And in the beginning, he made me feel safe, blind as I was to the spotlight his patch and his size cast wherever we went. “I just can’t wait till Christmas,” he had said, getting down on one knee and proposing with a gorgeous aquamarine ring, my birthstone. I knew I should break it off with him, but when I planned to, he somehow sensed it, and would pull a Dr. Hyde, offering to take me on a mellow motorcycle ride, surprising me with a picnic at the end. It was in the low-buzz frequency I always thought I could hear when I was among them back in California. “It’s not my fault.” I was putting a plate of spaghetti and sauce on the table when out of the corner of my eye I sensed something whirring towards me. He once went into Forever 21 by himself because I was obsessing over a dress I had seen.It was an overdose of so much testosterone in one place, which after spending a work week among women, felt bracing, a slap of another reality. This meant that we rode behind the prospects — those in training on a quest to become full-patch members — and could see the twenty or so Harleys in front of us heading down I-80. She looked like a small bug, arms and legs barely able to wrap around him. The pack moved with military precision, so that what I felt wasn’t so much the speed, but all the bikes moving together as one machine — the Big Red Machine, as the Hells Angels are known. But I’ve since learned, going backwards never works. * * * A year later, I was living in Denver and had found a job in Boulder, a nine-to-five editorial production gig that allowed me to do what I loved — teaching writing and doing some of my own — on the side. Like a fool, I thought it justified his fiery anger, which could erupt in an instant. * * * Violence is part of the language of the Hells Angels or any outlaw motorcycle club. It wasn’t turned toward me then, but it was the same low, ominous buzz you hear if you get too close to a power line. Before I could even look up, I somehow put up my arm to block a large pink object that was going to hit me in the head. He somehow found it based on how I described it and bought it for me.I also had a college boyfriend who rode a motorcycle on campus and read Hunter Thompson’s famous book about them. Instead, I thought they were fixed in history, mythological beings. “Pancho is probably wondering where I am and he’ll probably be pissed.” I got dressed and we loaded her bike into the back of my car. It didn’t match how much fear Pancho had instilled in me. I had been in California for nearly two years and sometimes couldn’t believe that I was the same person who arrived on a rainy New Year’s Eve with my dog, not knowing a soul. But when I opened the door, I was more than a little surprised. We rode to a biker hangout in nearby Golden, the Buffalo Rose, and couldn’t get over the way we met, which really, given the small world of the club, wasn’t that unexpected. “I noticed you that night at the bar, wearing some big dress with high-heeled boots,” he said.
“Yeah, I’d say they were real,” John said, laughing, taking off his helmet and gloves. K.” * * * This was Angela’s world — and her boyfriend Pancho, who I would meet for the first time that morning at breakfast months later — was its main character. I asked her again if she was sure she wanted to go home. All I could tell him was that it sounded great, because it did. I had somehow built this new life, a much different chapter than I had ever imagined. * * * It was the Hells Angel from the Highland Tavern, the one I had wanted to talk to that night a while back. “I thought you were cute, but I was still with someone at the time.
He was, at sixty-five, one of its longstanding members. “He likes you because he knows I won’t get into trouble with you,” Angela said. It was dark and quiet when we got there, except for the open door of her house, which was brightly lit. Pancho walked towards us, a huge man three times our size. I could feel the adrenaline pumping like at the start line of a race. I could never understand how a man like Pancho and other members of the club could have these two opposing sides: the explosive anger and fear for which they’re known, and the rational, intelligent and often genuinely friendly faces they wear just as comfortably. But part of me always felt like I was only on a two-year tour of duty and would return to Colorado when it was over. Now he was standing at my front door, his bike parked at my sidewalk. “Wow, it’s you, the girl from the tavern,” he said. I don’t think you knew that I could see you were looking at me.” Busted. “I would have called sooner, but I figured you were just a random chick Pancho knew.
Soon after Angela and I met, I began going to her house on Friday nights when Pancho was gone. Angela had other girlfriends she partied with, women who could drink all night. They seemed confident, talked loudly, and cursed with authority. All I knew was that it was compelling, and that the undertone, the buzz of something about to blow, even in a friendly conversation, drew me in, as it did many women. I made the mistake of thinking that I needed to get back to my real life — the one in Colorado, where I had lived for nearly fifteen years before moving to the Bay Area. They made it sound like you were a librarian-type or something.” “What’s wrong with a librarian type? We talked for hours, sharing our very different lives.
She had picked up tennis somewhere — not in the same formal way I had, with lessons and ball machines, but by hitting against the concrete houses of wherever life found her.
We would sit there for hours and talk, watching the neighborhood kids batting the ball around, often up over the chain-link fence and on to the street.
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