Rubber Side Down
by Her Motorcycle
(Simi Valley, CA)
Rubber Side NOT Down
Rubber Side Down and Other Things You Say
We say a lot of things to people. We say ‘I love you’ to our friends and family; we have more than a few rough phrases we say to the people we don’t really care for and occasionally to our friends and family members. We say ‘congratulations’ when someone does well and ‘better luck next time’ when someone fails. And when one of our bike-sisters leaves, we tell her ‘rubber side down’. It’s part of the rules you know, not to say ‘be careful’ to someone who is heading out on a bike. And the reason we are covering this is simple: sometimes we struggle for what to say to the people in our lives for so long that we do not say anything at all until it is just too damn late.
We had that lesson driven like silvery spikes into our hearts the other day. She was young, she was beautiful and she could sing any song you set in front of her from your favorite rock hit to an honest to goodness operatic aria. She could fix any part on a motorcycle and she made a mean almond roca. She knew how to tell a real Fendi bag from a fake and had a mouth that would make a sailor on a seven day leave blush like a schoolgirl. She was fearless, and that might be the problem. Her complete lack of fear coupled with her youth may be what took her away from all of us. Others might have called the girl reckless. They may roll their eyes and simply say ‘just a biker’. To us, she was more than just the small parts of her entire being, and to us, she was more than just a biker, or young woman, or a singer, or any of those things that made her who she was. She was our friend, our sister.
Her family, nice enough people, were less than happy with the bike lifestyle as they put it. They would rather ignore that which had been such a huge part of her life. Seeing us, even in our respectable ladies-who-lunch clothes and driving a rented minivan upset her mother, a tiny little woman who looked like she might break under the weight of her grief at one moment and then attack in the next. We whispered among ourselves and agreed, out of our love for our fallen sister, that we would leave and have our own moment back at our clubhouse. We left, shook out of our boring clothes and back into the clothes that we knew each other best in and hopped on our bikes.
We talked about the woman that we knew, shared stories funny and sad, stories that started off with laughter and ended with tears and vice versa. We talked about what made her special and our favorite moments with that young woman, barely past being a girl, struck down before she could be an old hag, as we all put it. Her bike stood at the front of the room, a shadowy emblem, its empty seat sealing our grief faster than any wooden casket could ever.
She lived on her bike, but she did not die there. It was ovarian cancer that took our sister from us. If she would have went to the doctor like we begged, she might have found it sooner and had a chance to fight her silent foe, but she had the cloak of youth wrapped around her and would not listen. We snuck in to see her on her final days, one by one, sneaking past the family members who looked at us with such great disdain. On this day we learned that after kissing us each and telling us that she loved us, that she had said a simple phrase before we had to leave the room. In her quiet voice, ravaged by the drugs and the pain and the fear and the impending gloom, she whispered ‘rubber side down’ to all of us.