Smoke rose from the cigarette in my mouth. It burned my eyes, transforming the setting sun before me from orange to a pale brown. I wasn’t a smoker, but the alcohol coursing through my veins drove me to stop and buy a pack. I stood in front of the 7-11, smoking and staring at the sun
The sun dropped below the horizon as I finished the cigarette. I lit another one, then started my motorcycle and headed home with the cigarette dangling from my lips. It bobbed in the wind, periodically releasing ash and sparks over my shoulder.
Elizabeth walked onto the porch as I pulled into the driveway. She watched me get off my bike, then said flatly, “You’re drunk.” I had not stumbled or said a word. I had only made eye contact with her and yet she knew. After fifteen years together, my wife could tell whether I had been drinking from subtle changes in my behavior that others never noticed.
I lied. “I had one beer.” Actually it was true if I ignored the bucket of liquor that accompanied that beer.
She frowned, seeing though my bullshit. “I thought you were gonna lay off?” When she realized I was not going to answer her question, she continued, “Are you coming in for dinner?”
My son Gage ran from the house on the stiff legs of a two-year-old and yelled, “Da!”
I lied again. “Not now. I want to mount that rear fender.”
“OK. It’ll be on the stove when you’re ready. Gage and I are gonna eat now.”
They went inside the house and I headed for my shop. Once inside, I grabbed the bottle of gin tucked among motorcycle parts on the shelf. I filled my mouth then sat on a stool with the bottle between my feet. I lit a new cigarette and stared at the motorcycle with no intention of working on it.
The smell of Loctite came to me. It was an odor intimately tied in my brain to working on machines. Combined with the fresh wave of alcohol from the gin, it was now relaxing me. I stared at the motorcycle on the lift before me, running my eyes over the curves of sheet metal which mirrored the wheels and engine. It was a lovely form that caused my thoughts to drift slowly. They floated here and there, eventually coming to my first motorcycle and how I had cajoled my Old Man into buying it for me.