genetically similar strangers


“You selfish ingrate,” yells Kim at a young man in a small garage in Monterey, California. “I don’t ever want to see you again.” The young man still tense and brash from the motorcycle accident a day earlier; he was in no mood to receive a lecture, especially from his estranged father.

A day prior
The young man and his uncle have been riding motorcycles around Northern California for the past two weeks. Today, the two would split up, the uncle heading back to Seattle, Washington and the young man to Los Angeles. They parted with a hug north of San Francisco; each man heading their separate way.

The young man was heading towards Oakland, where he would get lunch before making his was to San Luis Obispo to camp for the night. He would make his way to Los Angeles the following day. Hunger ravished his stomach as he continued south on US101, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The five-lane highway was empty save a copper Buick driving adjacent the fast lane.

Traveling at a brisk pace, the young man grabbed throttle to pass the Buick; the speedometer trespassing onto 75 M.P.H. Getting over into the fast lane, with no other cars in sight, the young man began his pass of the Buick. The concrete barriers whizzing by in his peripheral vision the young man hunkered down and proceeded with his pass.

As the young man neared the left rear quarter panel of the Buick he noticed the car was changing into his lane. Having committed to the pass and his exits blocked by the Buick and the barrier, he grabbed more throttle hoping to thread between the shrinking aperture in front of him.

Even when it was apparent their was no escape, the young man never got off the throttle, which he still held on to as the Buick capsized the motorcycle. The front wheel washed out and the engine raced as the rear wheel was leveraged off the ground, the bike spinning end over end on its side in the fast lane. When the young man came to he was sitting in a pool of coolant, his heart palpitating he had the wits to finally jump off the bike as trailing cars rushed by his impotent motorcycle.

Up ahead the Buick drove on before deciding to pull off the road. The young man was vengeful at the irresponsible stranger that nearly cost him his life. His leather pants and jacket were tattered but the young man sustained no injuries. The saddlebags were ripped open and his belongings continued to be spread by the wake of traffic.

San Francisco Highway Patrol was on the scene after a few minutes, stemming any altercation between the two drivers. Traffic was blocked and the young man wheeled his bike to an awaiting tow truck on the other side of the highway. The police officer grabbed the young man’s bag and threw them in the truck of his patrol car. “Is there anything dangerous or illegal in these bags I should know about?” asks the Highway patrolman.

In a frantic moment the young man remembered the ounce of pot he was carrying but he assumed there would be no search. “No,” the young man replied before getting into the molded plastic seat in the back of the patrol car. Driving south for a mile the officer dropped the young man off at the Golden Gate Bridge tollbooth and tossed all his stuff in a pile near where the tow trucker driver had dropped off his bike.

The young man had to call someone. Although no one knew of the accident he had to tell someone he was still alive. Without a cell phone he walked over to the tollbooth and got $10 worth of quarters and called Elizabeth. She was worried but he needed to reassure her of his health and his love of her. He needed to see her and right now he wanted nothing more than to hold her tightly in his arms until she fell asleep.

With his mind clearer the young man called his estranged father who lived 200-miles south in Monterey. The two men had never been close but right now the young man needed help and although he never asked his father to help before, he needed someone.

His father answered the phone and offered to drive a truck north and pick him up. It would take three hours. All right said the young man, who couldn’t wander far for fear of losing his stuff spread across the parking lot. Now the young man would wait, staring at his torn leather clothing, which reminded him of the seriousness of the accident.

The young man paced, fuming mad that he couldn’t get lunch and would have to delay his plans a few days while the motorcycle was being repaired. An engineer working for the toll bridge walked into the parking lot and struck up a conversation with the young man. The engineer had heard about the accident over the radio and was himself a rider. The engineer offered up his office as a place for the young man to change and store his belongings.

Despite being strangers the young man and engineer shared a passion for riding and were bound to an unspoken camaraderie. The young man changed his clothes, grabbed some weed and a camera before exploring the WWII-era bunkers that line the windward hillside near the bridge.

He was still angry but after a few hits from the joint his nerves were settled and he began to think about the event’s implications. The young man noticed a crow, soaring in the breeze, banking left and right but never flapping. The sun shone bright and witnessing the bird’s aerobatics made him feel appreciative about being alive. The young man began laughing from the bottom of his diaphragm, even the though accident nearly killed him and damaged his favorite motorcycle, the accident also made the young man appreciate life.

After finding somewhere to eat the young man went back to his bike and soon his father had arrived. The bike was loaded up and taken to a garage in Monterey. There was damage but with some ingenuity and a couple bucks the bike would be ride-able again, which was especially important because the young man was worried if he didn’t saddle up soon he would develop a phobia.

The next day was spent sourcing parts and then came the task of jury-rigging the pieces to last until Los Angeles and the ride back to Portland. Although the young man wanted to be home the accident reaffirmed the value of family and life's ephemerality.

When Kim came home from work he found his meticulous garage littered with splayed tools, spools of safety wire and sheet metal shavings. Kim offered to help but the young man was alright, there was a lot more work to be done but it was a labor of love. The bike would be ride-able in five hours and he could leave tomorrow and see his family.

Kim chided the young man for making such a mess but the young man promised he would leave tomorrow and the garage would be as clean as it was before the he arrived. “It’s not a good idea that you ride tomorrow,” Kim rebutted. “So you’re just going to leave. You selfish ingrate.” Those words were a fire under the young man’s ass.

“Fuck you,” the young man replied. “I’ve never asked anything from you in 24 years...” “I don’t ever want to see you again,” interrupts Kim. “Then get the fuck out of my face and I’ll leave when I’m done,” screams the young man. Kim walked out of his face and out of the young man’s life.

The young man was better off without his father’s broken promises and absentee parenting. The nerve of the old fuck to accuse him of being ungrateful, it was enough to incite violence between the genetically similar strangers. At the exact moment the young man felt sorry for Kim, a man who had few friends and no ties to his parents, sister or children. Kim would write the young man off and would discontinue his yearly phone calls

Although equally prideful, the young man had friends and family and knew he would never write someone off like that. Once, when the young man was a child, he wrote a letter to Kim who didn’t show up to take him and his sister to the zoo. In the letter the boy told Kim he didn’t want any Christmas or birthday gifts or phone calls and to leave him alone.

Alone, the young man kept working on the bike but he remembered the boy who never mailed that letter to his father. As much as the young man hated Kim for avoiding his obligation to his family and making false promises now the young man pittied Kim. All of the anger had been washed away and the young man walked into his father’s home and hugged him before walking out of Kim’s life.
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