Friday, 4 October 2013

Fear and the Ducati

I’m dating a 6’2” Glaswegian with a motorbike. Three weeks ago I sent him an email with the subject heading

‘I Am, Like, So Superficial’

and wrote

'I want to see you in your leathers’.

He showed up three days later on a big, motherschtupper of a bike, kitted with gear and a spare set of leathers he demanded I put on. Well, mine weren’t leathers – they were reinforced Gortex with more zips than an Air Force jumpsuit – but I managed to catch a glimpse of myself in the window of a Land Rover, ostensibly to clip on the helmet, and although no one would have mistaken me for Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels, neither would I have been taken for a black nylon, moon-suited incarnation of the Michelin Man.

‘Why do you have such tiny clothes?’ I asked as the wrists, waist and collar all snapped snugly into place.

‘For my daughter,’ he said, putting on his helmet. He paused and grinned. ‘And my girlfriends.’

Contrary to received ideas on this subject, I like hearing men I’m dating have had other girlfriends. Multiple girlfriends, even.  Heck, wives. I benefit hugely from all the awareness my sisters have infused into the vocabulary, attitude and sexual confidence of the guy I’m going home with.

I wish one of those girlfriends or wives, however, had carved a little message onto the back of the Glaswegian’s helmet that I could read before I was riding pillion on the M25 going 70 mph: ‘This man is a maniacal speed freak and he will try to kill you.’

I must say, at the outset, that there is nothing more relative than the experience of speed and time. Einstein knew it and pointed it out and we’ve been toasting him in our GPS-equipped vehicles ever since (apparently without Einstein’s special law of relativity the satellites could not coordinate accurately with your car and would be narrating your journey to Brighton with the cheery announcement, as you pulled into a disused lay-by at Chorlton-cum-Hardy, that you had Reached Your Destination.) I understand the fly sees the world in slow motion and that’s how it’s able to avoid the swatter. One woman’s saunter is another woman’s dash. I get it. However.

This awareness did not make for a less gut-quakingly, bowel-clenchingly, artery-hardeningly terrifying experience when the Glaswegian, who up till this point had obviously just been puttering along, now decided,  crouching over the engine of his royal blue Ducati, to make good use of a bit of open motorway and speed up.

I could have sworn that he started to hum. Some tuneless little melody speed freaks obviously sing as they trifle, murderously, with the psyche of their passengers. All of me pressed up against quite-a-bit-of-him could feel his shoulders, back and legs quivering with increasing delight. He was in heaven.

Whereas I couldn’t hear the traffic around us because of the throat-rending screams inside my head. I couldn’t feel my arms around the Glaswegian’s waist because my body was sending all useful blood to my vital organs. I was on the verge of losing consciousness, not because I was somehow channelling the airman whose uniform I seemed to be wearing and was pulling G, but because going that fast so close to the ground was an experience I just wanted to get away from. How could I make this stop? And suddenly, in a blinding flash of insight, the answer occurred to me:

Jump Off.

It’s at this point in the narrative that I’m reminded of what it’s like, at times, to be a writer co-running a production company.

Christine, my producer and I, are rather ambitious. Very, in fact. In truth, our desires for our work hurtle at breakneck speed across the cosmos of our lives. We adore developing scripts. We thrill at the casting and hiring of actors, are gleeful producing films and working with directors.  We are passionate about our mission to showcase women over 35 and have attracted a board of directors (with credentials up the wazoo) who support us. And want a worldwide audience for the stories we love to tell.

These dreams are fast dreams. And if we don't keep up, if we look down, we can tense up, get scared and want to abort. In mid leap.

Yesterday I dropped off a script we’ve been refining for the whole three years of our incorporation (and that I’d been redrafting for the seven years previous)  at a good London theatre with West End connections. The day was weirdly warm, I had to take off my coat and scarf after dismounting from and parking my bike, and as I strode up to the theatre, glancing at the five star reviews on the posters in the window, sporting names like ‘Anthony Sher’ and ‘Anton Chekov’ and before I opened the doors I thought  ‘What if they don’t like it? What if they say ‘No’? What if I fail?’ Part of my brain shouted ‘Get back on the bike! Go home! Go to bed! Go to sleep! FOR YEARS.’ Because sleeping is something I can do quite well. And no one ever tells me my sleeping isn’t what they’re looking for or something they’re already producing, but many thanks for letting us see it and good luck elsewhere.

But. There just isn’t that much uninhibited, heart-launchingly, spirit-quickeningly, life affirming joy in sleeping. And desire and ambition as intense, as fuelled, as large as ours require another technique.

The Glaswegian slowed down to neatly duck the cluster of cars ahead and I gasped a whisper of air into my lungs, allowing some blood to flow back to my brain which gave me the resources to question the wisdom of avoiding terror by leaping under the oncoming rubber, chrome and steel, leaving my heart – and lungs and kidneys - in Buckinghamshire forever.

We took the next exit and, idling at a traffic light I lifted my visor with a shaking hand and whimpered ‘That’s a bit fast for me.’

He put a warm, gloved hand on my thigh, nodded, and from that point on we had a leisurely motor through green and pleasant countryside. Over a sapid pub lunch, apologising for my wimpiness, I reconfirmed we Wouldn’t Go That Fast Again. He was receptive and kind and assured me we wouldn’t.

‘I was just trying it out,’ he said smiling. ‘Different passengers, different speeds.’ I wondered if he was thinking of other, racier girlfriends. I imagined them, clutching his middle and urging him on to greater and wilder miles per hour. I saluted them.

‘How can you enjoy it?’ I said, my lunch all the tastier after the adrenalin rush. ‘How come that doesn’t scare the fuck out of you?’

He didn’t have to think about it.

‘I’m relaxed,’ he said.

 Which, in the face of both raging artistic desires and land-speed-record-breaking motorway journeys, seems like a pretty good choice.
The equation used to get you to Brighton. From outer space.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! I've often wondered about the connections between fear, art, sex, and speed... and you've enlightened me on all counts! Thanks!
    -- Athena DaVinci