Nothing to do now but drive away and discover what happens next. No point in trying to flee at a high rate of speed. Most Harleys (when they are not broken down) will outrun a heavy-ass Toronado. Which brings to mind a t-shirt one of MY biker friends often wore (Yes, I had some biker friends. They were also sailors, but I don’t think that disqualifies them), which read: “I’d rather push my Harley than ride your Honda.”
So off I drove into the predawn. Never having what could be remotely considered decent navigation skills, I just headed in the general direction of what I thought to be south, hoping to hit I-Five, which would lead me to 32nd Street Naval Base and my ship. And of course I kept frequently glancing in my rear-view. Billy, or whomever, did in fact follow me, yet at a respectful distance for a spell. At one point I contemplated stopping and asking him for directions, but in the end thought better of that.
Eventually, he either got bored, lost his nerve, or ran out of gas. Anyway, he disappeared from my radar. I made it back to the USS Frederick with just enough time to change into my dungarees and make morning muster.
When the 1MC announced “Knock off Ship’s Work” at 1600 hrs, I quickly changed into my civvies, left the ship, grabbed a pay phone on the pier, and called Shonnie up at work.
“You were expecting maybe… Madonna?”
Ignoring her classic wit, I said “Are you okay?”
“Yes, of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
Uh oh. Her tone did not bode well. “Perhaps you caught amnesia. Did Billy come calling?”
“Uh, yeah. He did.”
“Come on Shonnie, what happened?”
“He begged me to open the door, so finally I let him in.” She didn’t seem to want to talk about this, but damn it! I was in ‘need-to-know’ status. ‘Hey! I’m needin’ to know here!’ (Sorry Dustin)
“Well? Do I have to drag this out of you?”
“Listen Lance, he broke down and cried All Right! He promised to be a better husband and father. He begged me to take him back. He is the Father of my Son, Goddamn it! What-the-fuck-do-you-expect-me-to-do?” (Kids always trump lovers. I suppose this is as it should be, but… this asshole was abusive. At least that was her early story.)
“So, you’re getting back together then?” In asking this, I felt as if I had been kicked in the solar plexus. Hard. It was becoming difficult to breathe.
“You sure about this?”
“Yes. I am.”
I could not continue the conversation. “Well, I guess that’s it then.”
“Yeah. I guess it is. Goodbye Lance.” She hung up.
Rage. Heartbreak. Sorrow. Self-Pity. Despair. Aloneness: All competing in my soul to climb to the top of my emotional hit parade. I slammed the receiver into the phone and walked toward my car. As soon as I sat down in the driver’s seat I realized that I was crying. Fuck! (There seemed to be a pattern developing here, Shonnie: Then grown men crying–note to self–‘research this.’)
A couple of weeks later I was kidnapped by some of my buddies from my ship.
“Marcom, you done been mopping around for too long. We’re going out tonight to a great joint. No arguments. Just grab yer shit and come on.” I had to acquiesce.
Mark and Tommy mounted their Harleys. Frank, Lenny, and I climbed into Lenny’s ’68 Chevelle, which he referred to as his “She-Vail” Accent on the ‘Vail.’
“Where we goin’?” I asked after about five minutes of ear-splitting Guns N’ Roses (Lenny waxed and waned between ‘Pure Country’ and ‘Heavy Metal’ depending on his mood and blood alcohol level.
“Goin’ to IB,” he shouted over Welcome to the Jungle. (‘Imperial Beach’ for those who may not have had the opportunity to visit some of the classier environs south of San Diego.) One can actually ‘smell’ Tijuana from IB, not an entirely unpleasant smell if the wind is right and it ain’t summertime.
We were just a couple of car lengths behind Mark and Tommy who, wearing their bandanas, leather jackets, black jackboots, and seated astride their Harleys puking blue smoke, producing one hundred decibels above what OSHA would consider workplace violence, had metamorphosed elegantly from A-Jay-Squared-Away Sailors into So-Cal Bikers. Passing through National City, (‘Nasty City’) then Chula Vista, (Chew, Ya-Wanna?’) I couldn’t help but keep thinking of Shonnie and how much she would have loved this ‘adventure.’ And I with her, experiencing it together. Damn! I missed her still!
“Almost there!” Lenny shouted as we pulled off of I-5 and tacked somewhat west toward the Pacific.
“Almost where?” I shouted back, but Lenny said nothing. After navigating through some of Imperial Beach’s “Nicer Hoods” our little caravanserai pulled into a gravel parking lot, which presumably belonged to the ramshackle ‘Joint’ I now found myself staring at. Lots of bikes in the lot. I cannot recall the name of the establishment, but it was something along the lines of “The Salty Frog.” or “IB Bar N’ Grill” or “Busted Spoke.” No matter, I was only interested in drink, not ambience. Mark and Tommy dismounted as Frank, Lenny, and I ‘de-She-Vailed’ and headed into the ‘Dew Drop Inn’ or, what-you-will.
Inside, the joint wasn’t too bad. Good A/C, low lighting, a couple of pool tables and lots of… Yep: bikers. Well, why not? I was sick to death of the memory of the squeaky-clean C/W Joint where I had first met Shonnie and this place was as far removed from that type of joint as I could ever hope to get. We found a table against a back wall and proceeded headlong toward the arms of intoxication. As I was not expected to drive (this was sort of a ‘coming back out of the shadows/death’ party for me after all), I planned to “Drink that woman offa my mind.”
The drinks flowed and the bullshit rolled (mostly downhill into my lap, as it was well known that I was in ‘lost love recovery’ mode.) I won’t go into detail about how piercingly eloquent we all became during the course of the evening. Mainly because I cannot remember all the pearls of wisdom which were cast back and forth amongst us swine.
What I do recall was my exit:
Roughly fifteen minutes after Last Call, and as all the patrons began to shuffle (or in my case, stagger) toward the exit, I ran headlong into an immovable object: probably because I was trying to guide my feet one step at a time with my eyes and not really paying attention to the larger part of navigation.
Looking up I realized I had run into a woman. A very tall, very large woman. Not a fat woman, mind you, but tall and large. I mean a ‘Big-Boned Gal.’ A fuckin’-beautiful-brunette-dark-eyed Big Bone Woman, who, praise Neptune, did not appear to be angry at my clumsiness.
I found my voice and said, “Hi… I’m Lance. Will you take me home? With you?”
BBG smiled down at me, “Yes, I sure will,” she said as she took my hand.
And as they say (Always ‘They’), “Nothing gets you over the last one like the next one.”