Twenty-five years ago on an August afternoon, I first saw the man I was going to marry. He was out on my street, sitting astride an idling motorcycle. I was on my way to a picnic, gathering a lawn chair and a dish to pass. I saw him, studying the neighboring houses. I loaded my car, and thanks to the sound of that two-cylinder engine, I got up the nerve to speak to him.
“Nice bike,” I called out. “If you ever want somebody to ride along, this is my house. My helmet’s sitting on the shelf, gathering dust.”
He laughed. “You don’t know Elaine and William, do you? They used to live here somewhere.”
“Sorry,” I said. “But don’t forget where my house is, OK?”
He waved, lifted his feet off the pavement, and the Harley moved slowly away. The sound of those two cylinders was pure adventure and freedom, calling me. Well into my third decade of birthdays, I understood the lure of the open road, but smiled at the unlikelihood. I got into my ordinary, reliable little car and turned the corner.
He didn’t forget where my house was. Next evening I heard it again, and a minute later my doorbell rang. It was the first of many years of rides together. There was always the sound of that two-cylinder engine, that living, pounding heartbeat, inches below our seat, breathing with us, carrying our spirits. That particular ride, with summer stars over our heads and my arms tight around his middle, we floated along the two-lane roads, drinking in the night air and listening to the crickets and frogs singing. An ice cream cone sealed the deal. We decided to go again.
Over our years together, we looked to that two-cylinder engine for the courage to face every difficult moment.
“Let’s go,” one of us would say.
And we did. The sound of those two Harley cylinders unfailingly pulled us closer together. Even when we graduated to an UltraGlide with sturdy backrests, my hand always rested on his shoulder. Leathers, long-johns and the miles melted our troubles away.
These days, we’re well into our sixth decade of birthdays. For health reasons, we sold our bike. We miss it terribly. These days, we walk slowly, take medicine on time, do what we have to do. And now we two have become that living heartbeat, that two-cylinder engine. It is us. We are the two cylinders, pumping up and down, pushing each other up, lifting our heads in turn, helping each other go the next mile. We get through the tough stuff, breathe in the living breath of Mother Nature, listen to the frogs and crickets, and best of all, to each other.
Yes, I believe in the two-cylinder engine.
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