Wheels

Sharon H. Nelson

"Wheels" appeared in the Canadian Journal of Contemporary Literary Stuff as part of a poetry feature. It's one of the few prose poems I've published,

The boys, driving into manhood, drove huge cars - pontiacs, chevies, caddies. The bigger the car, the bigger the man. They also rode motorcycles, built not for comfort but for speed. The triumph 600 was so heavy I couldn't throw it. The boys said: if you can't throw it off you, you can't drive it.

I was not the kind of woman to fall in love with a honda 250, safe as a baby carriage, if you know how to ride. I wanted to speed down the fast lane. Why not live dangerously? The boys were adamant: if you can't throw it off you, you mustn't get on at any speed.

So I made that the emblem on my crash helmet: if you can't throw it off you, you can't ride it. I sized men up over the years, looked each one over; they thought it had something to do with sex. I just smiled, chanting to myself: if you can't throw it off you, you can't ride it.

So I never tangled with a man or a bike I couldn't throw off me. Big Bob in New York City weighed in over 220. I was young, had a strong sense of security, threw him. Two hundred twenty pounds is nothing compared to the weight of a bike, and it helps to have some leverage.

He bounced. He didn't know what threw him. He saw himself as a big man, a big big man, and then this little woman. . . . Who would believe? It must have felt as if he were sailing. I was still in training then, still dreaming of a big bike.

Not a harley. They had no class then. They were heavy, all the bikes were heavy then, and you had to kick-start, no automatic anything. You had to know something to keep those big machines under control. So I learned.

The boys were serious, concerned. The boys were scared, scared of their bikes, scared of their big gorgeous bikes, scared because I wasn't scared. That's how accidents happen: some fool on a bike, not scared of the highway, not scared of the speed, not scared of the weight.

The boys tried everything they could think of to talk me out of it: the cost of boots, the cost of leather suits; safety first: you don't go out on the road at that speed on that weight without protection. I just kept training, lay down under the weight and just kept practising ways to throw it off.

It was the boys, the boys who cared for me, so scared, so safety-conscious, made me a feminist theorist; all that practice, sizing them up, throwing off the weight.

Big men never scared me, never impressed me either. Even a big man's easy compared to an old triumph gone out of control.

Sharon H. Nelson. 15 March 1999.