Sitting out on the dive bar patio, soaking up the warmth of a rare sunny day in the dead of a nasty winter, I overheard a conversation between members of a club I recognized. There were no attempts at keeping the story quiet so I listened intently as a guy described a situation he’d experienced three years prior.
“Right here is where I was standing when I had my heart attack. Right in this exact spot. Man, it was weird, like something taking over my body. I’ll never forget it. It just came over me out of the blue and I dropped like a rock. That shit hurts like a bitch, I’m here to tell ya. They said I’m lucky to be alive. I’m lucky I was around people or else I might not have made it. Remember all that, Grease?” He shook his head as he recalled the life-changing episode that struck him down during a club run. “Rookie took my bike home for me, handled all that stuff. Even took care of the dogs while I was in the hospital. I was in there for a week. There’s three stents in me now and I have to take pills the rest of my life. They keep messing with the dosages and the kind of stuff they give me, can’t seem to figure out what’s gonna work best. But I’m doing it. Religiously. Had to quit smoking, too.” He looked down at the cigarette dangling from his fingers and shook his head before he took a deep draw and inhaled, then flicked the butt over into the gravel and let the smoke out slowly. “It’s been pretty tough on the job lately, just picked the damned things back up. I’m gonna quit again, just having a little rough patch right now. You know, with Tracy leaving me and all. House sure is quiet without the kids. Just can’t seem to get used to it. Shit sucks.” He fidgets with his jacket and smooths his long red beard before the guy that looks pale and very young nods at the waitress who delivers an armload of food to the nearby picnic table.
“C’mon, grub’s here, guys.” He moseys over to the sit-down and straddles the bench to face away from his food so his belly doesn’t hit the table before he dives into the burger and heaping pile of French fries. A club brother asks if there’s family history of heart attacks and he launches into an explanation of his father’s death when he was a teenager but says Dad was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, wild sonofagun who never saw a doc in his life and probably wouldn’t have followed advice even if he had. “Not like me, man. I’m really trying to follow orders. I take all that shit they’re giving me, I’m working out.” Grease pipes up that yeah, right, he’s working out alright. “The only iron you pump is that Bud Light 18-pack from the 7-Eleven cooler to your saddlebag, brother. You’re fulla shit! And look at what you’re cramming down your gullet: a burger and greasy fries? Pretty sure that ain’t on your list of acceptable grub. Your doc would probably shit a brick if he saw what you’re eating, little brother. Don’t be sitting here lying to us! You’re killing yourself, dude. Pure ’n’ simple. Go ahead, order another shot of Jack and tell us all about how you’re living the clean life, taking care of yourself. Yeah, tell us some more about how you miss Tracy and the kids, huh? She left you because you can’t keep your shit together and she’s tired of babysitting your ass. And here’s a new flash, Jimmy: that was three years ago. Tracy left you three years ago, dude… and you’re still talking about it like it was yesterday! Me, I’m tired of hearing about it. Trouble on the job? Maybe life would get better if you showed up on time once in awhile, ya think?” Jimmy throws his burger back into the basket and spits a mouthful of food on the ground before he slams the rest of his beer and stands up with clenched fists. Nobody stops eating as the friend across from him shakes his head. “No, Jimmy, you’re not gonna swing on me. See, this is what I’m talking about. There ain’t no difference between you and your old man except that he’s dead and you’re gonna be if you don’t clean up your shit. That’s all I’m saying, son. Sit down; you look like a fool, boy. I love ya, that’s all. We all do, but you can’t keep living like this.” The older biker orders another round for the table as the guy next to Jimmy pulls him back to sit down with his friends and digest the plate full of reality that had just been handed to him. Silence engulfed the group as they all pondered the conversation when suddenly the guy at the far end of the table piped up. “But hey, Jimmy, if you kick the bucket, I’ve got dibs on your Pan, OK? I’ve always wanted a ’57 Panhead and I promise I’ll take really good care of her for ya. I’ll even paint it that stupid shade of yellow you keep talking about. Think I’ll name her Jimmy Marie. Whaddya think?”