"I gotta tell you what I'm feelin' inside,
I could lie to myself, but it's true
There's no denying when I look in your eyes,
Girl I'm out of my head over you
And I lived so long believin' all love is blind
But everything about you is tellin' me this time
It's forever, this time I know and there's no doubt in my mind
Forever, until my life is through, girl I'll be lovin' you"
- KISS - "Forever"
The following story is true, all details and names are accurate, and it is long and mushy with little or no socially redeeming values and absolutely nothing to do with sport bikes or fast cars (well, almost nothing ...). It is a narrative of my long journey from bachelorhood into matrimony, interspersed with pictures and other useless information about me and my wonderful spouse. It's one of my better stories and seems to be popular with the kind of girls who read Harlequin Romance novels.
I'm putting this here because so many people have asked how a woman like Cindy ever wound up with a guy like me and I'm getting tired of telling the story (it took 35 pages in MS Word just to pen it down!). Now I can just tell them to check out the web site if they want to know the story.
Her eyes warm, deep pools
I could swim there forever.
Cynthia, my love!
Haiku for Cindy
- Christopher T. Shields '94
MY (OUR) STORY
OK, I'm a hopeless romantic. I believe in Chivalry. I believe that women should be put on pedestals and worshipped. I believe in holding doors open for women, in saying "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am" purely out of respect, and I believe in opening the car door for a woman to get in and out. Feminism be damned. If you want to act like a man, go ahead, but don't cry when you get treated like a man. If you want to be treated like a princess, then you have to act like a princess, not a prince. You can't have it both ways, not in my book. For me, a woman has always been something magical, something that a man should be in awe of. Something that a man should respect. I had nothing but respect for women. I call myself the last of the true Southern gentlemen, and that's not very far from the truth.
I always dreamed of marrying a princess. Not a blue blood nose in the air royalty type, but a real, down to earth princess. A female saint, or I guess, an angel. I wanted a country girl, a tomboy, someone who could shoot as well as I could, someone who could drive as well as I could and who could hold her own if we ever wrestled or rough housed. I didn't want someone that I could break either physically or mentally. I wanted someone on my own education level, someone who shared my own sense of humor and someone I didn't have to explain every damn thing to. I wanted a woman that would swing wrenches with me as quickly as she would throw bones standing back to back. I wanted a woman who spoke her mind and had the backbone to stand up and defend her position. The last thing I wanted was some bimbo who was a push-over. Oh, and blondes were out. It's just my preference, I love brunettes and redheads. Blondes kind of turn me off, I guess because I've been through so many of them and so many are blonde with black roots that I tend to think of any blonde as a poser. Platinum blondes, true platinum blondes, are an exception.
In other words, I had very high standards and the typical girl who hung out in bars guzzling long necks, sitting in some jock's lap while they watched the "big game" on the big screen TV wasn't the kind of girl I was looking for. The kind of girl who couldn't tell me the difference between an air filter and a spark plug wasn't the kind of girl I was looking for. I didn't want someone who was going to be high maintenance. I wanted a down to Earth girl, someone with a head on her shoulders who could take care of herself. I wanted someone who wouldn't go to pieces in a bad situation or get all emotional all the time over little stuff. I wanted a woman who would step on a mouse then clean up the mess afterwards rather than jump up on a kitchen chair and start screaming hysterically for help.
Yeah, from an early age I knew exactly what my dream girl would be like and I went through a lot of girls and women in my quest to find her.
Have you ever daydreamed about what your life was going to be like one day? Sure, we all have. Me? I used to daydream about who I was going to marry. I mean, I used to lay awake at night and just think about who I was going to marry. What would she be like? How would we meet? How would I know that she was the right one for me? What was she doing at that very moment where ever she was? Was she having as many problems finding me as I was having finding her? I had all the questions, and no answers. I kept looking at faces in the crowd, every woman that I dated, none of them seemed 'right'. Some were close, some were so far off the target that it was laughable. Others might have made it, if they had stayed on a little longer or hadn't gone mental on me.
So, I would often wonder. What is the woman that I'm going to marry one day really like? What is she doing right this minute? Is she crying? Is she happy? Or is she wishing upon a star for someone like me to come along to her emotional rescue?
So many questions ...
I was about to find
the answers fairly quickly but honestly, I'm not sure that I was ready.
I will tell you one thing though... it took me twenty-three years to find ...
"Ms. Right." but at the wrong time
Cynthia Llyn Bullock and I met innocently enough in November of 1992 in the last place that I would ever have thought that I would meet my future wife; on the job. Now, I don't believe in mixing business with pleasure. I had tried that twice before and it didn't end pretty either time so you can understand my aversion to dating on the job. That's what makes our relationship all the more improbable and wonderful.
It was 1993. A very good year, I guess, in hindsight. It didn't seem any different at the time. In fact, it seemed kind of dry after some of the stuff I had just gone through in my life (see "Band of Strays" coming soon). Yep. Life was pretty much settling down to be one huge, disappointing eight to four o'clock, be professional, work every single day, post college bore-fest.
I had graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a BS in Business Administration in 1992, almost a year ago. I was 23 years old and living with my parents. Rent was good (zero) and I enjoyed living with my parents while I could because I didn't make an incredible amount of money at the bank that I worked at (at least, not the six digit figure that I was hoping for right out of college), but it was enough to pay for my toys, and I had some toys to play with! I had a '88 Z-51 Corvette and expensive tastes in computers and motorcycles. Also, given that my current job was probably just a stepping stone in my career, I didn't feel too bad about living with my parents. I got along with my parents, and they enjoyed seeing me instead of getting letters from me in the mail from some place real far away. They knew, as well as I, that given today's computer job markets, my first good paying job might put me several states away, or maybe even in Bangladesh !
We enjoyed what we had while we had it.
I was an Information Systems Specialist for Magnolia Federal Bank in Hattiesburg, MS (you can read about some of my adventures at MFB here). I worked in the lower level of the main building (what we laughingly referred to as Magnolia Federal World Headquarters) with all of the communication and computer equipment. I was responsible for PC repair, all of the Burroughs ET-1100 main frame terminals, maintenance of said equipment, and telephone equipment installation and maintenance (phones, faxes, etc.) for the whole corporation, a job that I shared with three other co-workers. To say that it was a mentally taxing job would require a great exaggeration, but it was money and steady and I kept my eyes open for greater things...
I had a name plate, a 386SX processor based computer that I had cobbled together from a graveyard of parts in a storeroom, a set of professional tools, great responsibility, and a phone extension. I didn't rank business cards (the bank tellers did, but the computer specialist didn't, go figure...) but that was OK. I had found what I really was destined to do in life; computers and networks.
I was finally somebody! No more bagging groceries or transporting dangerous medical specimens or working all night at the university library servicing a mainframe in between college classes, no, I had a REAL job! I had graduated college, I was making good money (for Mississippi), and I had a purpose in life. I had a tiny little space all my own that corporate culture called a cubicle. OK, cubicle is a nice buzz word (read politically correct) for box without a lid, but I had one.
And Cindy had the cubicle on the opposite side of my cubicle.
Cynthia Llyn Bullock was a file room clerk, working part time as she finished up at the University of Southern Mississippi on her Elementary Education degree, so her hours were odd to fit her class schedule. This is probably the one thing that kept us from really synching the first six months of her employment.
I just didn't see her that much, I was busy in other buildings and branches around the city and state while she was off in classes.
Many times I would stand up in my cubicle to stretch and take a breather, to rest my eyes from the busy CRT or monitor screens that I had arranged around my hole in the department. Invariably my eyes would travel around our department and up into the file vault, only to lock eyes with Cindy.
She would be standing there, nodding and talking to someone, but she would be looking right at me, transfixed, dreamy, standing there, her legs locked together at the knees, her heels touching, her hands cradling a couple of files that needed to be returned to the vault. She was poised like a statue, sculpted out of the finest stone, not a slouch, not a skew to her.
All perfect poise and dainty and she was cute! It was that kind of born-with cute that really attracts your eyes, that kind of cute that makes you talk to your guy friends in low hushed voices and gestures when she passes by, that kind of cute that makes you want to, well, it makes you want to think about having a girlfriend again. And makes you willing to endure all the crap that dumb ideas like having a girlfriend again includes.
Yeah, that kind of cute. That kind of cute with the big dreamy eyes.
I didn't take too much notice of Cindy at first. She was just another woman who worked in the lower level file room where turnover took on a whole new meaning. It was the very definition of minimum wage milk run type job. You really didn't have to work; all you had to do was just show up and get paid. Cindy was one of a handful of employees in that department that actually did any work and sometimes I think that she did ALL of the work while the others just goofed off and cut up.
I didn't see too much of her.
But Cindy saw me, and she started making plans. Those kind of plans that you only wish women made about you. I was oblivious, with a capital 'O' and I guess that what eventually happened to me was some kind of dark conspiracy that I had no fore-knowledge of or even control over. From the first time that Cynthia Llyn Bullock locked her sights on me, I was history for remaining a bachelor.
But that didn't stop me from going out without a good fight and I was prepared to fight for my bachelorhood!
I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS ...If you've ever been a fan of the late Sam Kinnison, then you know what kind of life I had when it came to relationships ...
"Oooo! Is that your heart? Here, let me just RIP IT OUT AND DEVOUR IT! ROOOARRRRGHHHH!"
Relationships just never worked for me.
I've had VPs of corporations, bank tellers, librarians, real estate agents, stewardesses, and a host of other assorted psycho-nut cases. I really ran the gauntlet of the Twilight Zone when it came to dating. Think of me as the living human dating filter that kept the really weird girls from ever reaching the rest of you guys. If you've never had a really weird psycho nutcase for a girlfriend, then thank me.
I had her for you.
And boy, did I ever have her. One mental roller coaster of a ride, let me tell you ! Be glad that you missed it ! That's right. I was your stunt double in the dating game and my life resembled the John Cusack movie, "Better Off Dead."
It really did, I kid you not!
I'm a loner by nature, but also a romantic, which is a hard combination to live with. You want to get involved but you don't have the time. Too many things to do, too many places to see, to many engines to race prep, too many bikes to ride, too many wrenches to swing, etc. That was me.
It was never really the kill, it was the thrill of the chase. I was never the kind to be unfaithful, but after a while things would just get boring and I guess I started to spend less and less time with whoever I was seeing and more and more time on my toys. It was the chase, the getting to know someone really well, but eventually they would all get boring. Nag. Nag. Nag. I could feel my freedom shrinking with each kiss or cuddle. I don't like to be caged.
So, you see, I wasn't looking for a relationship. Far from it, I was doing everything I could to distance myself from any women who might see me as easy pickings or a stepping stone to greater things. I wasn't going to be any woman's emotional pillow (again) where she could flop her head until she got her act together and then just walk out on me. Been there, done that. It's a roller coaster ride with a psycho strapped in next to you. I don't advise it, if you have the choice.
I guess my act fooled everyone but Cindy, and today I'm glad. I guess that I showed up like a flare on her radar, I was invisible to all the other women, but to Cindy, I was the one thing that she had been looking for all of her life and there I was, ignored, available, oblivious, and looking the other way.
Time for her to sneak up and take just what she wanted, and as far as she was concerned, she had absolutely no competition.
The first time that I REALLY noticed Cynthia was December 28, 1992. She and her supervisor were horsing around (a rare event for Cindy) in her cubicle, having a playful argument. Well, I stood up because they were making so much noise on the other side of my cubicle and I wanted to see just who was keeping me from completing my project that was due that day. Just as I stood up and my head and shoulders cleared the cubicle storage cabinets, Cindy let fly a rubber band that she had been aiming at her supervisor. Her supervisor ducked expertly and there I was, right in the terminal trajectory of the rubber band.
It was a perfect shot and hit me right between the eyes, I'm not kidding. I was shocked and the best reaction that I could muster was a dissatisfied grimace and a hard stare before I sat slowly back down in my cubicle and continued on my project. I had a headache and there wasn't any room in my schedule to put up with all the playing around that was going on that day in the file room.
Well, Cindy didn't know MUCH about me, only that she really wanted to get to know me better. She knew that I wore a suit to work every day, that I drove a '88 red Corvette, and that I parked in the executive parking lot upstairs. She figured that I was a executive or a VP and that her employment at the bank was over due to horse play on the job. I mean, hitting a VP in the face with a rubber band didn't exactly go over well with your average VP type (which Magnolia had oh, about 50 VPs, so being one wasn't really all that special... It was more a honorary title than any real power, a paper tiger in a business suit).
I wasn't a VP (yet) but I was under a lot of stress, and getting hit with a rubber band in the face when all I was going to do was to ask them to be a little more quiet was not something that I was expecting.
It got real quiet on the other side of the cubicle after that. An uncomfortable silence.
I managed to finish my project, submit it, and retreated to a long lunch at the mall in order to give me time to cool off. When I got back, I found the following memo taped to the storage cabinet of my cubicle.
Dated December 30, 1992, it read simply "In case of accidental rubber band injuries, apply one band-aid and a good sense of humor. Sorry! C.B."
"Wow!" I thought.
This girl has a sense of humor! That was rare in my experience with women, and part of me peeked out from behind my high fortress walls of solitude and THAT was the beginning of the end of my bachelorhood. That was the day that I got interested in Cynthia Llyn Bullock and the day that she found the chink in my armor, wedged herself in tight and never let go until she had me. Trust me, I was a total asshole. A real self-centered egotistical son of a bitch but like I said, "some girls don't like guys like me but, oh, some girls do." I tried to shake Cindy off of me for two years, I tested her every which way I could to find her limits and I couldn't find them. She was on me good, to the very end.
OF ROMANCE AND GUERRILLA WARFARE
Cindy came in later that afternoon and apologized and that's when I really noticed just how cute she was. I had seen her before, but never up close, never from two feet away. She was positively dazzling. Her voice, her manner, the way that she presented and carried herself, it was all perfect. So much more than I had ever been with before, no other woman that I had ever dated had ever projected the presence that Cynthia did. She simply radiated an aura that was mesmerizing, defense melting and captivating. It was the closest thing to a drug that I had ever experienced.
We laughed about the incident and I reassured her that I wasn't mad. She seemed to get happier and then she left. There was still a glow in my cubicle, like a presence that had swept away all my dark vapors and mists. I shook my head and went back to my next network project.
Over the next several months, Cynthia Llyn carried out a systematic and highly coordinated assault on my bachelorhood. From making sure that she worked on the same Saturdays that I did, to asking me to lunch, to decorating my cubicle with bunches of wild flowers that she picked fresh from the side of the road on her way into work. One time when I was really sick with a nasty sinus infection and missed a day of work, she took a roll of toilet paper and decorated my cubicle with a huge hand made bow made out of toilet paper, complete with ribbons leading to all corners of the cubicle. I'm not kidding. The caption on her get well card read "For really bad colds, remember to 'bow' your nose."
Another victory for her.
Cindy was well educated, and just two years younger than I was. She liked Star Wars, Star Trek, and a host of other things that I liked. She read novels with a voracious appetite. And she was a damn fine cook, too. Not one of my previous girlfriends had ever been able to cook worth a damn, but Cindy was a culinary artist. It was all so mind numbing. Here was a woman that liked the same things that I did. I never had to explain much to her and when I did, she never had to ask twice again. This woman was as smart as I was and that was a first in my life.
It was mesmerizing, I guess because it was the first time that I had ever met a woman that was on my level.
She used my friends to trap me. My best friend, Bill Adcox, who was married, got cornered by Cindy one day in a way that he didn't even realize that he was being cornered. They talked, like two people meeting in the hall, and Bill knew that she was chasing me, but their conversation was never about me. Later that day, Bill talked to me and said that he was really impressed with Cindy. She gave her opinion on matters, backed it up with hard facts, and never gave any ground. She fought for what she stood for, and that impressed him. That shook me to my foundation. Bill had NEVER been impressed with ANY of the women that I had dated and Bill was a great judge of character. His praise didn't come often, and when it did, it was fully earned.
So, Bill liked Cindy? Hmmm.
So, people knew that Cindy was interested in me, everyone knew but me. Like I said, I was staring hard in the other direction, Oblivious to my approaching fate. Girlfriend? No way. No time for that crap anymore. I had a 'Vette, a computer, a VF500F Honda Interceptor, I didn't need anyone to share that with. Tried that, done that, been there, it didn't work. Not going to happen again.
Fortunately I didn't have any say so in my fate.
Cindy was waging a guerrilla war for my heart, using all the grass roots resources at her disposal to bypass and undermine my determination to stay single. Her girl friend in the file room was the fiancÚ of my friend who I went flying with on many occasions. Well, Cindy casually mentioned how she really thought that I was cute and if I only asked her out, she would go out with me in the blink of an eye. Well, Cindy's girlfriend, Diana, mentioned this to her boyfriend (my friend) Youcef Jeforian.
Youcef was working at the bank while attending college. He had his private pilot's license and was working on his commercial pilot's license. Anytime that Youcef needed to log some flight time, he and I would go out to the airport and rent a plane, take it up, and just fly around for a few hours, practicing IFR and VFR flight. Well, one night we were out late, flying over Hattiesburg when Youcef mentioned that Cindy really liked me and that I should really ask her out. I told him what I thought of a relationship right now and he promptly showed me what it felt like to drop from 2500 feet to 2000 feet. By the time that I was sure that my guts were all in the proper place, he began to climb again. He explained again that I really should ask Cindy out on a date and began to list her many good features. I stared out the window and said that I would think about it. Youcef took the little Piper Cub from 2500 feet back down to 2000 feet and I was white knuckled for the next five minutes.
"Stop doing that shit!" I told him, growing used to weight again.
I have this thing about free fall. That and glasses were the only thing that kept me from being a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
The plane began its lazy climb back up.
"She's a really nice girl ..." Youcef began, smiling, checking his instruments as we turned into the setting sun.
"I'm sure ..." I began.
Youcef's hand gently began to push the yoke forward and the nose of the plane dipped, seemingly hanging on a pivot, ready to top over into a gut wrenching drop again. I couldn't stand it. This was getting ridiculous.
"I'm sure ... that she'll be in tomorrow afternoon. I'll see if she wants to go out Friday."
"Good." Youcef said, bringing the nose back from the pivot and into level flight.
Yeah, right. Snookered. That was me.
Et tu, Youcef?
OK, SHE'S CUTE. I'LL TAKE A CHANCE
The next day, I went and picked up my Vette out of the dealer from having service done on it. I had mentioned this to Cindy when we passed in the hall and the casual 'whatyadoing' talk began. She got excited when I mentioned my Vette and I thought to myself, 'oh no, not another material girl.' But I decided, what the hey, and I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She said sure! I mean, what red blooded American girl didn't want to cruise around town in a arrest me red Corvette?
Only later did I learn that she had skipped her afternoon class to go riding with me and that she had made it a point to intercept me in the hall and ask me about my car. My best friend Bill had suggested that she ask me about my car, since I was getting it back. You see, my toys were my weakness, and I liked to talk about them. Cindy used this bit of advice to her every advantage. She was mechanically inclined, a tomboy by nature, and she knew about engines and performance.
It wasn't a long ride, at first. The radio was on, the AC was pumping, and I was in my business suit. She was in her dress clothes, but there we were, two adults enjoying one of the simple pleasures of life, the drive. I pulled into a convenience store and played a trump card that I knew would probably work on Cindy. I was beginning to read her, to understand what kind of person she was and how she ticked. I mean, she had so many victories racked up against my bachelorhood, it was time to at least slap back at her, to show her that I wasn't going down quietly.
I went in, leaving the Vette running with her sitting there in it, and man, did she look good, there with her sunglasses and her long brown hair blowing in the AC. She even noticed the looks that other patrons were giving her and she basked in it, unused to the attention that a beautiful woman in a Corvette can generate from the average man. I saw her blush and look away.
I played my trump card, the derringer up my sleeve. I bought her a cola flavored Icee. I walked back out to the Vette and handed her the Icee. Her eyes lit up almost as big as Top Flights.
"My favorite! How did you know?" she asked, taking a sip.
"I guessed. I'm good at guessing." I told her.
"I haven't had one of these in years. My daddy used to buy them for me when we went to town, but ... Oh, your car phone was ringing and I didn't know where it was, I couldn't find it, and when I did find it, they had hung up." she said.
Damn. Only a few people had my cell number and they only used it when there was a problem.
"It's OK." I said, reaching behind her seat and unlocking the cellular phone from its charging cradle, checking the display.
"They'll probably call back in a minute or two."
Weird, I thought as the phone beeped in my hand.
"Shields." I said flatly, keying the transmit key.
"Bill." Bill said flatly on the other end.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"I know." He said with a mischievous tone.
"Really?" I asked him, understanding dawning slowly.
"She really likes you. Work with it, dude. She's worth getting to know." he said. "I really like Cindy. Stop by later tonight and we'll talk."
I looked over at Cindy, who was sipping at the Icee, looking up past the straw at me with that sly woman look that makes great poster sales.
"And so, was this your idea?" I asked him, trying not to tip Cindy off that I was catching on.
"Bye." Bill said and hung up.
I returned the phone to the cradle and worked the 4+3 speed manual.
"Bill?" Cindy asked.
"Yeah." I replied.
We drove around for about an hour, just talking.
Et tu, William? I thought.
Sold out by everyone that I had ever trusted with my independence.
OUR FIRST MOTORCYCLE RIDE
Another blow came when my father and I were going to lunch that Friday. He was in town working on a local bank (he's a Federal bank examiner and travels all over the country, so I don't get to see him very much. It's rare when we get a chance to do lunch). We were going down Hardy St. and there, near the bank, was Cindy coming to work. She was waiting on the light to change to cross the street. Dad saw her and pointed her out to me. I honked the horn and waved. She beamed and waved back, watching us pass as I watched her in the rearview mirror.
"Who was that pretty thing?" he asked, turning around to look.
"That's Cindy." I said. "She works downstairs with me."
"You had better ask that out." he said matter of factly.
"I did. She and I are going out tomorrow night."
"She is fine!" my dad said. "Much better looking that those others that you've brought home before. You need to start being choosy about who you date ..."
Now, my dad liked her and they had never even met her.
As it would later turn out, my whole family liked her.
They had never liked any of my previous girlfriends.
Something big was happening here now... I just couldn't put my finger on it.
That afternoon I showed up at her place on my '84 Honda VF500F V-4 Interceptor, with my spare helmet bungee netted to the back seat. I knocked on her door and she answered, shocked and happily surprised to find out that I rode a sport bike as well as drove a Corvette. We shared a glass of iced tea while she got ready to ride, I suggested a T-shirt and jeans, with sneakers. No shorts. She quickly changed and I gave her the spare helmet, making sure that it was secure before explaining my three basic rules of riding:
Lean with me, don't
try to fight me, I'm in control and you have to trust me, I won't drop you or let you
what I say. Do not second guess me, don't question my judgment.
If I say 'JUMP!", you get off the bike as quick as you can, it doesn't matter how, just do it. Don't think about it, just do it. Because if I ever say Jump!, I'll be off the bike before you can even say "Huh?"
Cindy understood and I mounted the Interceptor. I held out my hand and she took it, climbing easily onto the back like an expert. Was I missing something here? Did she have any previous experience on a motorcycle? No, she said. Just a natural, I joked.
"I guess.", she answered.
We went for a long ride, through country two lanes and twisties, leaning and accelerating, banking and braking. I had to check four times during the trip to make sure that she was still behind me, she was that good of a rider. Leaned with me, leaned into me, worked with me. It was incredible. The best passenger that I had ever had on the back of a motorcycle. I returned her home and we agreed to meet that night at a fitness track near my parents home.
Cindy was beaming!
I was confused. What was I starting to feel?
Later that night, we went walking at a local fitness track, and spent the rest of the evening hugging, kissing and necking in my parent's kitchen, against the cabinets, outside on the oak swing, and on the couch in the living room. It was spontaneous, instinctual, animalistic. It was uncontrollable and we were both swept into it like two thirsty survivors in the desert who stumble upon an oasis. It felt really good, I hadn't had an experience like that since high school. The shenanigans lasted until midnight when she sadly said good night and left.
I felt bad afterwards, good and bad. I mean, Cindy was an incredible kisser and she had seemed ready to let me just go ahead and sweep her off her feet and into happily ever after, but I wasn't sure. I didn't sleep well that night... I didn't feel good with myself. I didn't want this, no matter how hard I tried to force myself to want this, I just didn't.
I didn't understand. What was wrong with me? A year ago, I would have given my left arm for a woman like Cindy and here I was, tonight, wondering how I was going to tell her to back off and leave me alone.
Life is nothing, if it isn't ironically funny.
Saturday we met at the fitness track again to walk. Cindy was all bouncy and happy, glowing when she saw me and I had to use all my courage to put her off, to tell her that the night before was a mistake, and that I hadn't meant to lead her on. I didn't want a relationship, I didn't want a girlfriend, last night was nice, but it couldn't happen again. I just didn't need that. Cindy was hurt. Bad. But she didn't let it show. I told her that everything was happening way too fast, that we should just be friends and if it grows, well, we'll deal with that when it happens. Damn. I had to use the one word in the whole world that I really hate; "Friends." Such an ugly word that one is.
She nodded, solemnly and hurt, but she didn't show it. I felt bad, but damn it, it was MY heart. My feelings. I didn't care if Cindy got hurt, if in a few bold words that I trashed months of her secret plans and all of her dreams. This was my life, only I mattered in it and I wasn't going to get hurt again. Not again, not ever. Sorry, Cindy, but it was your heart or mine and you never had a chance. The game was fixed in my favor.
Thanks for playing.
I didn't tell her all this, but my carefully chosen words still hurt. I could tell, but she was a lot more mature than I ever knew a woman could be. She took everything that I threw on her and just absorbed it. I wanted her to hit me, to dog cuss me, I didn't want her to just sit there with that damn "If that's the way it has to be..." attitude.
An uncomfortable silence loomed over us and it started to rain there in the parking lot of the fitness track. I remember how loud the rain sounded hitting the top of the Corvette's fiberglass targa-top. Like tears, little ponds of water gathering until the combined weight of the rain drops sent the blobs running down the curves of the Vette's roof. I remember Cindy was looking out the window and she sniffled only once, composed herself, and then turned to me, looking none the worse for wear.
Damn! This was one hell of a woman, I thought. It's too bad that I'm just not interested. How could I NOT be interested? Look at what she had to offer! She's going to make someone a GREAT wife... It just didn't seem to be destined that she would be my wife.
I needed something to clear the air, and I remembered what I had wanted to show her. The latest copy of MOTORCYCLIST that had just come with my subscription. My birthday was coming up in three weeks and on the front of the June issue was a picture of a 1993 Honda VFR750F. White with black details and decals, beautiful! The magazine was two days old but already the full feature article on the bike was dog worn by my constant meditation on the data therein.
I wanted that bike bad!
I didn't need a girlfriend, I needed the VFR750F! I told her how I was going to trade in my VF500F for the VFR. She was happy for me, but I could tell that we still weren't at a solution, even though I had tried to change the subject.
Well, Cindy and I still saw each other several times a week, totally platonic. She worked her charms as best as she could, but try as she might, she just couldn't crack that final fortress that I had erected around my heart, but she never stopped trying. Back rubs, massages, home cooked meals, motorcycle rides, videos, nothing could crack that final wall.
Give Cindy credit though, she never quit trying.
Not even when I met Sabrina ...
Sabrina was a strawberry blonde, six foot tall, exercised constantly, well tanned and recently divorced, which probably sounded like a bachelor's wet dream but in reality was just the right mixture of ingredients for a industrial size dose of trouble. She looked like she had stepped off the front cover of Cosmo (at that time) and had most of the guys that hung out at Bill's apartment going ga-ga over her when she left or entered her apartment. Guys would line up at Bill's window in droves to watch her come and go.
Except me. I don't play that game.
Sabrina was trying to get her life together and was going back to school at USM. She also moved in right across from Bill and his wife, Melanie, at their apartment complex. Sabrina was Melanie's age, and so both she and Melanie hit it off quite well. Sabrina was always over at Bill and Mel's, usually when I was there.
Bill and I were best friends and he, his wife, I, and his other friends all did things together. Cindy got invited along on occasion, just because Bill thought that she was really cool and I guess he was still trying to play matchmaker. Dinner on the town, movies, video rental parties, you name it and we turned it into an all-nighter. Since Sabrina and Melanie became quick friends, Sabrina got included in the group which meant that she and I noticed each other and that put one hell of a speed bump in Cindy's plans.
Sabrina and I really got to lock eyes when we cluster-hiked to the local cinema and watched JURASSIC PARK. We sat next to each other and little ripples of energy just kind of passed between us. She laughed at all of my jokes and even jumped during a few tense scenes when I reached over casually and goosed her in her side.
The next two months I'll cut short because the Summer of 1993 is such a high speed blur that I only today remember the good times and bits and pieces of memories, ripped to shreds on the jagged rocks of a three way love affair.
You see, Cindy and I still remained friends, though I was still in the game in her mind. So I had blown her off ... too bad. The decision wasn't mine to make, she had already made the decision and her strong will was determined that may the best woman win.
I was the prize.
It wasn't much of a contest.
I felt more like a pinball in a game that had long since registered tilt.
Sabrina and I grew closer together, sharing time from late at night to the early hours of the morning. Bill noticed this and became concerned. He and I constantly talked of my affection for Sabrina and lack of affection for Cindy. I chased Sabrina, but she was giving me the same treatment that I was giving Cindy. It was weird, it was like the attitude that I was projecting at Cindy was somehow being mentally shared with Sabrina and then re-radiated back in my face. Sabrina would tease me, and when I got tired of it, she would give me just enough to invite me back. We had a lot of good times, but I was getting no closer to Sabrina than I was letting Cindy get to me. It was just too weird. About time to go back to sport bikes and forget the whole thing of women. Two women fighting over you can really drain you fast.
Sabrina liked motorcycle rides, she liked the Vette, and she liked road trips. We all went to New Orleans for the weekend, we saw several more movies, had video / pizza parties. I began to get closer to Sabrina, she began to let me in, a little bit at a time, but by then I was starting to notice Cindy again. I mean, hey, this woman had hung on like Velcro through thick and thin. Sabrina was missing something. That sweetness that Cindy just radiated. Sabrina was all business-like, calculating, and demanding. Cindy was easy going, happy, and willing to give everything. They were like night and day.
Melanie, Sabrina, Cindy, and I would invariably all go walking at the fitness track together, but that would soon break into two separate groups; Mel and Sabrina in the group that lagged behind, and Cindy and I in the group that walked ahead. Cindy and I constantly talked about our lives, what we had done, where we had been. Occasionally the topic of Sabrina and I would come up, but not often.
Cindy didn't care.
She had already won in her mind and talking about the person in second place didn't interest her that much. That's the way it finally went, I started moving further away from Sabrina and really becoming attracted to Cindy. I don't know if Sabrina ever really cared about the growing split; in one instant, it seemed, the tables were completely reversed and there I was, friends with Sabrina and chasing Cindy. Well, there wasn't much chasing involved, like she has said before, all I ever had to do was to ask.
But I had to ask, and that was the hardest part of the whole game.
The hardest part of that July was in signing over my '84 Honda VF500F to the dealer for a trade in on my new VFR. It would be three weeks before the bike arrived, three long weeks without a motorcycle. I'd have to four wheel it in my car, something I didn't look forward to. I mean, I rode my bike everywhere. It was my main mode of transportation.
Things were starting to get hectic. Time for a vacation.
A WELL DESERVED SABBATICAL
It was the first week in August, 1993 when I finally had had enough of all the summer and the three way romance and I took a long vacation to Virginia to see some relatives. My '93 Honda VFR750F would be in the dealer by the time that I got back and I looked forward to having my new motorcycle since I had been without a motorcycle for almost three weeks now. I was starting to get cabin fever, bad. On the day that I was leaving for my week long sabbatical, Sabrina didn't say anything to me.
Cindy brought me a home-made to-do kit for the road that included a separate envelope marked with each day. I was to open one envelope per day and carry out the instructions inside. It was fun. She included this little pinball game that you give kids to play with on long trips. She packed me a zip-lock bag of peppermints, packed some gum, a couple of mushy Hallmark cards, etc. It was the most extraordinary thing that any woman had ever done for me. I kind of understand now what it must feel like for a woman to receive flowers from a man. Here was this 'have a good trip and I'll see you soon and with all this you better not forget me!' bundle from Cindy.
What did I get from Sabrina?
Not even a good-bye wish or kiss.
During my vacation, I took a long time to think over what it was that I really wanted in a woman. I opened Cindy's little envelopes one per day, one for each day and followed the simple instructions. My thoughts were torn between my two choices. Did I want Sabrina and all the trouble that I saw was on the horizon? Did I or would I ever have enough money to make a woman like Sabrina happy?
What DID I want from a woman? Hmmmm.... I thought long and hard, and every time that I outlined what I was looking for in the perfect girlfriend, it all came right down to one answer.
Cynthia Llyn Bullock.
I had finally made up my mind, or as Cindy likes to say, finally woke up. Sorry it took me so long, doll. Yes, I was stupid for a while. I guess that I had had so many bad relationships and been with so many losers before that when I had the perfect woman in the palm of my hand, I couldn't even recognize it. I started to mentally kick myself. I hoped that Cindy would still have me, I mean, I would have given up long ago on someone like me. I began an elaborate plan on how to keep Ms. Cynthia Llyn Bullock.
Heading home from Virginia, I raced a storm front in order to make it to the dealer by 5:00pm to pick up my new bike. I made it by 4:30pm and after the paper work was all finished, I looked outside to see a heavy rain soaking everything. There was no way that I was going to ride my brand new bike in the pouring rain, not being familiar with it, etc. The dealer said for me to call him at home once the rain blew over and he would come back and open up the shop and let me get the bike out.
I had to wait an hour and a half, but I got my bike and during that time, my thoughts were only for Cindy. I reviewed my master plan. Finally, rolling the VFR750F out of the Honda dealer, stabbing the starter to life, I kicked it into gear and rode off into the setting sun toward Bill's apartment where I had learned that Cindy was waiting.
I parked my bike, undid my helmet, and looked up from the parking lot. The light was on in Sabrina's apartment and her car was in the lot. Goosebumps. OK, let's take this one step at a time. I walked into the courtyard to the wooden stairs that led up to Bill's second story apartment. The stairs branched in the middle, going off to the left to Sabrina's apartment and to the right to Bill's. There was a little landing in the center. I climbed the stairs and stopped on the landing, still reviewing my decision.
Here was the moment of truth, I could turn left and go to Sabrina or turn right and go to Cindy. This would be the last choice, whoever I chose here would be IT. No second chances, the other one wouldn't have me. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, but Bill told me later that he had been watching from the window and I had barely paused. I turned to the right and climbed the steps. I heard the handle to Bill's apartment turn and the door swung open. Cynthia Llyn Bullock came skipping out, all bouncy and overjoyed, to see me.
I stepped up, swinging my arms out, and swept her into the biggest and deepest kiss that I have ever given anyone in my life. She responded in kind and said "Goodness. I missed you too!"
I stood there for a while, holding her close, hearing her purr (yes, she can purr just like a cat, and it's very neat!). Time seemed to stand still. The setting sun was frozen in the sky, casting our intertwined shadows across the balcony of the apartments. Bill and the rest of my friends came out to greet me and to welcome me back. They could tell that a large load had been lifted from my shoulders, a lot of weight was gone and in its place was this feeling of familiarity, and at the same time a feeling of newness. Cynthia was going to be my new girlfriend, my best girlfriend, and I really didn't have any say in the matter.
We all walked down to the parking lot look at my new bike, Cindy and I hand in hand.
Sabrina never even looked out the window...
That night was our first date, even though Cindy likes to think of the time at my parents house as our first date, I like to disagree. I took her on my new bike to McAllister's Deli where we had dinner on the patio, and then I took her to see a movie, Sean Connery and Wesley Snipe's action drama "Rising Sun", very appropriate since she and I shared a interest in all things oriental and I had just taken delivery of the finest sport touring 750 in the world.
In August, I traded in my Corvette on a brand new '93 GMC Sonoma extended cab pickup truck (horrors). I was tired of the high performance game (growing up?) and I wanted something that could carry my new motorcycle around. Well, the GMC was solid white, with black accents and gold trimming. So was the Honda VFR. Did I ever get some looks when I was hauling around the bike in the back of the truck. It looked like the VFR and the GMC had been done by the same company.
Cindy and I grew closer, a lot closer. Time with her was like time out of sync with everything else. It was magical, poetic, and mystical.
We shared a lot of time together.
For her birthday, the first birthday that she and I had shared together, I dug deep into my memories and played another trump card. I got her for her birthday the one thing that she had always wanted; a gingerbread house cake. Her mom had tried to make her one once before, when she was younger, but it hadn't come out right.
I knew a friend who owned a bakery. He said that it was kind of late in the year to be ordering a gingerbread house cake, but what the hey, he knew what I wanted it for and he stayed late one night to bake it.
Cindy wanted a gingerbread house cake.
I gave her a fairy tale castle.
The whole cake was almost too good to eat, but we did. Bill, Mel, Cindy, and I had a lot of fun that night, and I think that Cindy actually cried a little when she saw the cake. That was me, I tried to make all of her dreams come true. Everything she said that she had never had or that she had wanted but couldn't afford, I got for her.
Cindy quit Magnolia Federal to start her student teaching. She still had a year to go to finish college and receive her Elementary Education degree. Cindy was going to be a elementary teacher, and I had the greatest respect for her. Her quitting also freed up one of my reasons for not dating her; we no longer worked together.
Things were really looking good for us. I helped carry Cindy through her college hardships and she lifted me out of my dull moments. We shared many things together, it was as if we both fit like two cogs in a wheel, perfectly meshed. Everyone started to talk about how cute a couple we were, it was like we had been destined to be together. It was a really great time that we shared.
We had been dating for about four months. She was that happy with me all the time. I kid you not.
Until I got my new job in Meridian and had to move ninety miles away ...
In November of 1993, Bill's friend, Eric, helped me to land a job at a small software company called IDEAL SOFTWARE in Meridian. I would have to move to Meridian, the pay was worth it though, 50% more than I had been making at the bank and the chance to travel around the country and install network systems.
Cindy helped me move. She drove my GMC, I rode the VFR. It was cold that day, almost too cold to ride, but I wasn't going to put the bike in the back of the Ryder truck where it could jostle around and fall over. Cindy looked really cute wearing a leather jacket and my Macintosh POWER USER cap, with her hair pulled back through the snap ring in the back. She wore the pair of Ray Bans that I had given her for her birthday. Man, she was fine, but she was quiet. Something was wrong.
I moved to Meridian to a two bedroom apartment. After we got everything settled in, Cindy and I said our good-byes and she left with my parents. I settled down happily to my first apartment since college and reveled in my new found freedom. I was also sad.
I wouldn't be able to see Cindy every night like I had been used to. She was ninety miles away, might as well be ninety light years. I called her that night to talk to her and she was crying.
She thought that it was over.
I nodded, this is what I had feared. None of my previous girlfriends could ever do the distance thing. The last one before Cindy had lived on the coast and considered that to be too far for her to carry on a relationship with me in Hattiesburg (about seventy miles). This was ninety miles. My heart began to race, was Cindy going to dump me just because I would only be able to see her on weekends? I'd been down that road before! If this happened again, I swore I was going to become a monk!No.
Cindy was scared that I was going to dump her now that I had moved away. I laughed and reassured her. Man, my heart had to be rebooted after that! We made jokes about my ex-girlfriend and I explained that ninety miles was not far. If she could love me from that far away, then I could keep my end of the bargain. I didn't want to lose her. She didn't want to lose me. What had started out as a moody, somber phone call turned into a promise of loyalty and a reassurance of our feelings.
Several weekends I would have to stay in Meridian, to be on call for tech support. Cindy would come up and see me on those weekends. On weekends when I was free, I would go and visit my parents, and spend my time in Hattiesburg with Cindy. We were very happy, I opened myself up to her and she to me. We had a lot of great memories in Meridian, but I still couldn't bring myself to tell her that I loved her. She understood that I had been hurt bad before, but she swore that she wasn't like any of my other girlfriends, why couldn't I just tell her what she wanted? I told her that ALL of my ex-girlfriends had told me the same exact thing ("I'm not like all the others...").
I just couldn't tell her. That was a sore subject for us, one that would bring out tears from her if we dwelt on it too long. Now, Cindy and I never fought, we never had fights or got mad at each other. It was almost magical.
That April, I came up with the idea for Sons of Nippon Sportswear Company (SONSCO). All my designs took about thirty minutes of fevered mental work on a scratch pad. It was amazing, really, the company just kind of divinely flowed out of my creative genius. I worked hard on having a catalog to be able to produce, I worked on my designs further, and shared my dreams with Cindy.
One Friday night, when she came up to see me in Meridian, she brought me a surprise. She had taken one of my designs and had it made into a T-shirt. The very first ever Sons Of Nippon design put onto a T-shirt. The front logo was the Hsin symbol, with the caption SONS OF NIPPON SPORTSWEAR INC. On the back, in much smaller format than I use today was my favorite design, "RIDE FAST, LEAN HARD, NEVER LOOK BACK". That saying pretty much summed up Cindy and my relationship as well. The time for living in the past was over with. To hell with all the other losers that I had dated, I was with a real pistol now. The sooner that I never looked back, the quicker Cindy and I were going to reach our dreams.
Everyone I met that rode a cycle in Meridian wanted a copy of the shirt, and that's when I knew that SONSCO could survive. It would take me another year, though, to get off my butt and really take my designs to the limit.
On August 5th, 1994, Cynthia Llyn Bullock graduated the University of Southern Mississippi. She walked across that stage proudly and accepted her diploma with all the grace and poise that I had come to admire in her. She had earned that piece of paper with blood, sweat and tears. We celebrated that night, she and I, and I never felt more proud of something that another human being had done in my life. I think that I was glowing more than she was.
Two weeks later, Cindy was hired by the Quitman Public School district. Quitman was a small town, about thirty miles north east of Meridian. Cindy and I weren't ninety miles away now. Now we were only thirty minutes and I went and saw her on Wednesdays. She came down to Meridian and spent weekends with me. Her teaching career was off to a good start. God had provided for us, we were closer now, closer than we had been in eight months and we ate that up. Things were going our way, somehow, instead of Cindy winding way up north or all the way on the coast, she had found a job only thirty miles away. It started to look like she was my destiny, I mean, everything in our lives was just trying to push us together.
But there was still one final obstacle in our relationship. A very major one from her point of view.
Yeah. We had been dating over a year and I still hadn't told her that I loved her. I just wanted to be sure. Those were the only times that I even made Cindy cry, when she wanted me to tell her those three simple words that were so very hard for me to say. She wanted me to say those words that badly. I had been hurt before, bad, by women who swore that they would never hurt me (yeah, right.), who swore that they were not like my other girlfriends (right!), and who swore that they were different (hahahaha). So, I took it easy with Cindy.
I had her, but it was going to be a while before I ever told her that I loved her. It was going to take me being absolutely sure that this was the woman for me, that this was the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, because I had already told two women in my life that I loved them and both of them had up and walked out on me without any warning.
I was damned if I was going to do that a third time.
Now, to some people, those three little words probably don't mean a lot, you can say them to your girlfriend after you've been dating for only three weeks. Puppy love. Not me. Those three words mean a hell of a lot to me and they are not words to be taken lightly. Those three words are more than a promise, they're a commitment and for all that we had been through, I still wasn't sure that I really loved Cindy. I admit, and I've admitted it to her, that I took her for granted. I was satisfied. I had someone to talk to, someone to shower with affection, someone to cuddle with, but I honestly didn't know if I loved her. I really cared for her, and all of my cards and letters to her failed to say "I Love You." Instead, they simply ended "I Care For You."
It was going to take something monumental to make me come to my senses and say those words. It was going to take a turning point in our relationship, something that would make me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I really loved and cared for Cindy.
In short, it was going to take a near fatal accident on the VFR to make me realize just what I had.
LAST RIDE OF THE VFR750F
The Friday evening of October 15th, 1994 was a special and tragic evening. It was a turning point in our relationship. It had been raining a little bit that afternoon when I got off of work late and headed to my apartment. My friend Teddy's room mate was playing in his band at a local dive called Carolyn's. It was also Quitman's Homecoming. Our plans for the evening would be to go and attend Homecoming, then get something to eat, and finally go to hear Teddy's room mate play at the dive.
Sounded like a plan.
Things started to go wrong right after work.
I was late, running behind, finishing up some work that I really needed to do. By the time that I got dressed and drove to Quitman in the GMC to pick up Cindy, it was too late to go to Homecoming. Cindy was disappointed, this was going to be her first Homecoming as a teacher and several of the kids had asked her to be there. I tried to cheer her up by taking her out to dinner. This worked and she was in a better frame of mind when we went back to my apartment. I wanted to ride my VFR to the dive, since parking was limited, Cindy agreed. It was starting to get colder, but not so much that our leather jackets couldn't keep us warm.
We managed to park outside the front of Carolyn's. The music was loud, and as we were dismounting, a man approached Cindy and I and the bike. It was obvious that he was drunk, but he didn't appear to be a threat. He very politely stood in front of Cindy and I and explained that he had had too much to drink and that he had spent the last of his money. Would Cindy and I call him a cab so that he could get home. I thought about it, and agreed. He said that the bartender wouldn't let him use the phone, which I thought was strange. Cindy and I went on inside the dive after locking up the helmets and the bike. I asked the bartender if I could borrow the phone. He said that patrons couldn't use the phone but that there was a pay phone over on the wall. I thanked him and went over to the pay-phone, dialed a cab company, and told them they had a customer in the front of Carolyn's. They said that they would dispatch a unit. I hung up and went and told the man outside that a cab was on it's way.
"God will bless you!" He said, nodding and standing, facing the street.
I went back in the bar to listen to the band. I think that I turned around thirty seconds later to see if the man was still out there.
He was gone.
Weird, I thought. I hadn't even seen the cab pull up and get him.
Cindy and I stayed about an hour to listen to the band and to dance. Teddy was getting pretty sloshed, to the point of being drunk where everything and I mean everything is funny. Cindy had a wine cooler, but I had coffee because I was riding. I don't drink often, never to excess, and certainly not when I'm riding. It took Cindy an hour to finish her wine cooler. She likes them, but she's not a big drinker, another point in her favor in my book. Give her a mixed drink or a wine cooler and she's happy the rest of the night.
Cindy and I started to get bored after an hour and told Teddy that we were heading on. He was laughing and drinking so he didn't much care if we were gone or not. Cindy and I went outside and mounted up, heading back to my apartment. I told her that she could spend the night, that I would take her back home tomorrow. She agreed, she was too tired to argue. We left Carolyn's, pulled out down a main street, and caught a red light while trying to turn left. Cindy hugged me and I hugged her back. It was a great night for a ride.
The light turned green, and I accelerated, leaning the VFR to the left and heading up the street, the main thoroughfare in Meridian. We were just getting to city speed, about 35mph, easy second gear range in the VFR, when we were coming up on an intersection. The light ahead was green, the intersection was clear. Now, it is my habit that I look both ways through an intersection, even when I have the right away. Especially at night. There are just too many stupid people in the world behind the wheels of cars.
We were riding into the intersection, I looked left to make sure that no traffic was coming. Cindy, by unspoken riding pact, always looked right.
Cindy said something that sounded a lot like "God will bless you!"
Confused, I turned my head to the left to check for traffic.
"What did you say?" I asked loudly.
Cindy's reply was a scream!
My head snapped right only to see a '76 Chevy C-10, green pickup truck with a camper shell on the back, doing about forty miles an hour heading through the red light. It wasn't stopping! I had no room to outmaneuver and I was too low in the RPM range to boost on through the intersection. It was just bad karma, it was a no-win situation. Nothing I nor anybody could have done would have saved the VFR. Now, some of you out there will read this and go, yeah, you lost your bike but if I had been there, I wouldn't have lost my bike. Yes. You would have lost your bike too. I don't wish that kind of situation on anyone. You are trapped, you know you are fixing to get hurt, possibly killed, there is nothing you can do about it and the worst thing about the whole situation is that it ISN'T YOUR FAULT! It's some other idiot's fault!
I said the F word really loud at that instant in time.
The next two seconds were reconstructed carefully by Cindy and I since they were an inhuman blur of adrenaline and fear. The next two seconds of our lives and the last two seconds of the VFR's life went like this.
I grabbed the front brakes of the VFR and squeezed with all that I had, while my right foot jammed down on the rear brakes. The tires locked and I let off the rear brake for maneuverability, preventing a skid. The truck locked its brakes and started to slide. We weren't going to stop in time. The speeding truck was going to T-bone us. We were probably both going to lose our right legs when the front bumper severed them. Without even thinking, without even giving Cindy the chance to do it herself, I reached back and slammed my elbow and forearm into her chest, instantly loosening her grip that she had around my waist and sending her backwards off the VFR and rolling onto the pavement.
I cut the front of the VFR hard, trying to get off the bike myself.
It started to low-side. I wrestled for control, felt all my arm muscles stretch as tight as they could and still the bike was winning. The VFR was heavy, over 500 lbs wet, and when it went down, it was a bitch to subdue.
I felt a sickening nausea as the left side of the bike went down at an angle, a piece of the cowling ripped away and bounced off of my helmet. The bike started to spin as the engine revved. My hands came off the clip ons and I spun as I kicked off the bike as hard as I could, straight backwards. I was in the air, probably about two feet off the ground, and flying backwards.
Good-bye, VFR ...
I saw the bike slide away from me and heard the screaming of the truck tires. I felt gravity pull me down from my short lived flight. My last thoughts were of Cindy. I hit hard on my upper right shoulder and back, my helmet slamming against the pavement as I rolled.
I was unconscious before I had come to a complete stop.
My next conscious thought was when I came too. It felt like it took six years to swim out of that black inky goop that was unconsciousness, and it took everything that I could muster. The asphalt was cold and my ears were ringing, like blood when it goes to your head. Everything was fading into the distance, and then it was quiet.
I looked up slowly, listening, realizing that I was laying in the middle of a busy intersection at night. I was wearing a solid white Bieffe helmet and a black leather jacket. A speeding car could think that I was a grocery store plastic bag in the middle of the intersection instead of a broken body and not even slow down. I started to move, I had to get up and get moving.
I wasn't paralyzed! All those horror stories about what a fast motorcycle could do to you, about low siding, about breaking your neck, that wasn't true, they couldn't be true. Not this time, I wouldn't let it!
I refused to be hurt in a accident.
I was too good a rider to be hurt!
I picked my head up off the cold asphalt, and stared straight ahead. There was a lot of something in the intersection... My eyes started to clear and the ringing started to dissipate. What was that laying all around me? I squinted and blinked. Damn! Pieces of the VFR's cowl and body work littered the intersection, the bike lay about twenty feet ahead, smashed. Fuel was leaking from the tank, forming a puddle on the left side, the lights were still on, and the rear wheel slowly spun to a stop as I watched, the engine had shut off after impact, or been starved for fuel when the bike lay sideways.
There were so many pieces...
I shook my head and looked down at my body. I hurt, but not bad. I just hurt, like after a NFL starting line decided to play a friendly game of "Smear" and I was the guest player. My jeans were torn and I had scraped off a good portion of my left lower leg, just skin, but it would take some good sized bandages. I probably didn't get away from the VFR as neatly as I remember. There were a few other strawberries, some major bruises, deep bone bruises, and a lot of tenderness. Nothing major until I noticed that my leg was bent at an odd angle under me and behind my back.
I said the F word really loud as I looked down at my twisted leg. I cautiously tried to move it, willing my mind to make the leg work; nothing. OK, I thought, this is really weird. I'm going to reach down and move it with my hands. I'm going to put it straight out in front of me like my other leg and if my scream exceeds eighty decibels, then I'll know that it's broken.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, grabbed my shin with both hands, and straightened my leg.
The flow of blood continued uninterrupted now to my leg and I felt pins and needles returning instead of the sharp knife pain of a broken bone. OK, I had landed on it and been out long enough for it to go numb. I sat there for a second, sighing, catching my breath. I was OK, the VFR was gone. Was there something else I should remember?
I looked around, but I didn't see her in the intersection. People were starting to gather now on the sidewalks. Questions were shot out to me but I didn't hear them, my heart was pounding. A couple of people came out of bars and started to gather around the wrecked VFR. I looked down the street. There was the pickup truck that had hit us, stopped in the middle of the street, sideways. The driver, an elderly black man, was hurriedly walking back up the block where the intersection was.
I looked the other way. No traffic anywhere. It took me a second to get my bearings and I stood, felt my leg start to give and sprawled on the asphalt again, cursing. I reached down to steady myself and managed to stand, hobble a few steps and threw my visor open as I looked for Cindy.
There! Back the way that we had come, about thirty feet from where I lay. She was laying there, crumpled up in the middle of the street.
She wasn't moving!
I worked the quick release on my Bieffe and tore the helmet off as I hobbled as fast as I could over to her. Sharp pains shot through my leg with each step that made me bite my lip, might be something there after all. A long, deep gash in the left rear side of the Bieffe told me how much more serious my injuries would have been if I hadn't been wearing a helmet. The helmet was ripped almost to the inner liner! It looked like I had rested my head against a belt sander.
I dropped the Bieffe as I drew nearer to Cindy, it bounced twice and rolled to a stop ten feet away in a curb side gutter. Cindy wasn't moving. Her white Griffon RZ helmet was still on, but the chin strap had come undone. When I got to her, I realized that she had hit so hard that her chin strap had tore itself out of her helmet, taking the left side anchor point with it, completely ripping the anchor out of the polycarbonate shell! There was a deep gash running down the side of her helmet. I knelt beside her and checked to make sure she was breathing.
Please, God, let her be breathing.
I didn't want to lose her.
I loved her. Honest to God, I really did.
Yeah. That was it. It all came down to one instant in time, when everything in the whole world came to a screaming halt and time stood still. I looked down at Cindy, laying there, unmoving, eyes closed, crumpled up like the life had been yanked out of her. I didn't want her to be dead. I wanted her to be alive, to share my life with me for the rest of our lives. I didn't want the most perfect thing in the entire world to end on this cold asphalt, not on this cold October night.
I shook off my panic, and thought about what I needed to do. What I had to do. Cindy was hurt, possibly bad, and wishing it wasn't so wasn't going to help her at all. I had to act. All my training in the Boy Scouts came slowly back to me, first aid. I slowly opened her visor and checked her for breathing.
Everybody else in life had checked out on my party, but I was sure not going to let Cindy go ! Please let her be breathing!
I touched her, pulled open her visor all the way and tried to wake her. I knew about moving a injured motorcyclist, so I let her come awake. Slowly she did. She started to lift her head, and started to sit up. Her jacket was scraped up pretty bad, but there were no tears in the leather. Her jeans and the legs were intact and all of her legs and arms seemed to be pointing the right way. She said that she just wanted to close her eyes, to lay there another minute or two. She started to go limp in my arms and her head started to nod backwards. No, I screamed! I was shouting at her to wake up, she opened her eyes and slowly tried to get up. She wasn't paralyzed, but she was in shock, severe shock. I needed to get her moving, to get her conscious of her surroundings and where she was.
"On your feet, angel!" I shouted. Yes, I really said these exact words and I screamed them at her.
She blinked up at me, opening her eyes again.
"Come on! Get up! Stand up!" I shouted, screamed, grabbing her arms and putting them around me.
She nodded and I helped her up. She could stand better than I could once she came fully to. She must have hit her head and gone out before the rest of her hit the concrete, she must have landed limper than a rag doll, which probably saved her from some broken bones. She had apparently hit on her shoulder, slammed her head into the ground, and lost consciousness before she tumbled and rolled.
But she was alive!
As I was helping her remove her damaged helmet when we heard the sirens.
Someone had called in the wreck, one of the witnesses.
Every available emergency and police unit in Meridian that night converged on the scene. I kid you not! They didn't have that many units at the OJ chase! It was pretty overwhelming. We were also fortunate enough to have wrecked just two blocks from Meridian's two major medical hospital complexes. There were three ambulances, four police cars, a fire truck, a fire paramedic EMT unit, and even what looked to be a unmarked police car. The EMTs were trying to get us to be checked out while the police were redirecting traffic. They took down all the information from me, my name, was the bike mine, did I have a license, was I insured.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Then they got to Cindy and that's when we discovered that she had been knocked silly. Now, you hear people who say that they are going to knock you silly, or to hit you so hard that your head is going to swim. I've heard it too, but I've never seen anyone knocked silly before.
Cindy didn't know her name, where she lived, or what she did. It was like amnesia induced by the shock. Here's a bit of advice. When you are carrying a passenger, if it's your sister, your brother, your girlfriend, or your wife, carry their driver's license with you somewhere. That way, if there is an accident, there is identification for the authorities to follow up on.
Cindy always carried her driver's license in our fanny pack when we rode. I had to get her license out for the police to fill in her information, she was that knocked silly.
The other guy didn't see the red light. He didn't have insurance, and he was speeding home because he couldn't drive well at night.
The police officer asked me if I thought that I could ride the bike back to my apartment or did I need a tow truck to remove it from the scene. The damage looked bad, but I thought, maybe, just maybe, it might be salvageable. He and I went over to try to lift the shattered VFR. He grabbed the left clip on, and I grabbed the right. We hefted, but didn't get very far, because at the moment that I started to lift, I realized that the right clip on was only held on by the brake and throttle cables. The impact had powdered the aluminum alloy and snapped the clip on completely off. The same was true for the left foot peg. Most of the front and side of the VFR was shattered or splintered, body panels were no longer attached or lined up correctly and turn signals were just pieces of wire hanging out from dark holes in the body work.
The funny thing about the wreck?
The windshield, the front head light, and the gas tank were the only three things that weren't even scratched in the wreck. Figure that. The truck had steam rollered the bike, it's right front tire passing over the center of the bike, riding up over the center stand, over the frame, and over the seat, barely missing the fuel tank as the bike slid further under the truck.
Right where Cindy and I had been riding...
The officer helped me pick up the larger pieces of the VFR, the rest ...
I sat there on my haunches, looking at the smashed sport bike. The officer squatted and said that we had been lucky. I agreed, but I couldn't help but wonder if it would have been different if I had done something else. What if I had looked right instead of left, would the truck have magically appeared on the left then? Was it just our time?
After what seemed a endless amount of questions, and after four EMTs had checked us over for concussions, etc. everyone departed the scene of the accident. The VFR was on the back of a wrecker ( heading off to its final resting place to await various insurance agents and the final death certificate with the single notation "Totaled beyond repair") and there Cindy and I were, in our battered leather jackets, our damaged helmets and in my gloved hand was the left foot peg of the VFR, a somber memento of the worst evening in my life.
"We can walk back to Carolyn's." I told Cindy. "It's only a block away."
She fell into step beside me and I held her hand as strong as I could and not hurt her. She was still pretty sore. My leg felt tight, and it started to work itself out with each step.
We were alive, and I loved Cindy. I knew that for a fact. The one sight of her laying there on the street, hurt, maybe dead, was enough to push me past all of my convictions, past all of the bad things that losers had done to me in my life. I wanted Cindy for the rest of my life and I wasn't about to lose her, not to an uninsured motorist, and certainly not because I couldn't honestly tell her how I really felt about her. That's when I remembered what I thought that I had heard Cindy tell me right before the wreck.
"God will bless you."
Cindy didn't remember saying that to me, and at the risk of being spooky, I'll let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions. I remembered the drunk that I had been kind to, the man that I had called a cab for only two hours ago by my watch. I remembered his words, and I remembered another quote.
"Men have often entertained angels in their presence, unknown to them." or something like that.
Was that man an angel in disguise? I don't know. I do know that God was with us that night. That's the only thing that I can account for us having lived through what I would term a sure kill situation.
I'm a good rider, a really good rider, but I'm not THAT good a rider for what happened that night.
Even Cindy likes to think that we did our guardian angel a favor that night when we called him a cab... I wonder where we would be right now if I had just walked into the bar and forgot about the drunk man ...
Back at Carolyn's, the place was still crowded. Cindy and I threaded our way through the crowd to where Teddy and his room mate were packing up their equipment. I asked Teddy if he could give us a ride home, I knew he was drunk, but if he had a designated driver, then maybe the three of us could catch a ride. Teddy asked why. I told him that Cindy and I just wrecked the VFR and that it was totaled. He thought that that was the funniest thing that he had ever heard in his life and immediately started laughing so hard that tears came down his eyes.
"You're shitting me!" he shouted, drunk, and happy.
"Am not!" I said flatly.
"You're shitting me!" he said, pushing good naturedly on my shoulder and continuing to laugh.
He really thought that I was kidding. He knew what the bike meant to me.
I held up the discarded left foot peg from the VFR.
"Teddy, would I rip off my bike's foot peg just to make a joke?"
Teddy took the foot peg and looked it over, he tried to say something, but couldn't. Finally he settled on what he had just said.
"You're shitting me!" he said, unbelieving.
He stared to sober up then and I told him the story.
His room mate drove Cindy and I back to my apartment. Teddy said "You're shitting me!" and "You have got to be shitting me!" about fifteen more times during our trip back to my place. I lost count. It was his way of dealing with the fact that someone he worked with almost died.
His room mate was a EMT out at the Naval Air Station, and carried a large supply of medical supplies in the trunk of his car for emergencies. Before Cindy and I thanked Teddy and his room mate, we were both arm laden to the chin with gauze, salve, and other minor first aid stuff which his room mate refused to let us leave without.
It was a very weird feeling to walk into my apartment that night and sit there on the bed, holding each other. Cindy and I dressed our wounds and lay there, snuggling, holding each other. Nothing ever felt better in the whole world. She started to shake and cry, but it was a good cry and I told her to let it all out.
My bike was gone, but I had gained the one thing that I really wanted in the whole world.
I had Cindy.
I still had Cindy.
I really had Cindy.
Life After The Wreck
That December, on New Years Eve, December 31, 1994, I proposed to Cynthia Llyn Bullock and she accepted with a tear in her eye. We set the wedding date for July 8, 1995. We would have been together for two years then, and we both felt that the only things that we were going to learn about each other that we didn't already know were only going to come through marriage.
In May of '95, I started advertising Sons Of Nippon in Peterson's SPORT RIDER magazine, receiving many orders from the US, Canada, Alaska, and parts of Europe. I was very flattered to know that someone was wearing one of my shirts while racing down the autobahn in Germany. The shirt? "MY TOY IS FASTER THAN YOURS." The owner, a soldier in the United States Army, stationed in Germany, who owned a CBR900RR Fireblade. He said that he liked to wear the shirt when he blew past Porsches at 160mph. The attitude began to grow.
Orders for SONSCO shirts started to pour in, through Email, through the mail, and by word of mouth.
I grew dissatisfied with my job in Meridian in May and turned in my resignation, thus closing the book on what otherwise could have become a dead end chapter in my life. By coincidence, the very job that I had left Magnolia Federal Bank for because I couldn't get it was now being offered to me. I accepted the job of Systems Analyst at Magnolia Federal Bank in Hattiesburg, forcing me to again move in with my parents.
This was a month before Cindy and I got married. We were going to be apart again even before we got married! That was karma for you. It felt like a bad romantic movie from Hollywood. Me. 26 years old, married, and living with my parents while my wife lives seventy five miles away and I only get to see her on Wednesday nights and weekends. Yeah, the script is all there. Listen up, Hollywood. Get John Cusack to play my part.
In July 1995, I took delivery of the fastest sport bike in the world, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. It had been almost nine months since our wreck and I was just waiting for our personal lives to settle down before I went out and purchased the Kawasaki. I was ready for another bike. I had nightmares about the wreck in the early hours of each morning just when you are coming fully awake. It was time to exercise those demons.
If a horse throws you, you always get right back on. Well, it had taken me almost nine months to find the horse that I wanted to climb back on.
Man, what a horse it was!
White, green, and purple. Six hundred cee-cees, four Kehin downdraft carbs, a slick shifting six speed with positive neutral finder. Fully adjustable Kayba front forks and dampeners, adjustable rear Kayba shock and Kawasaki's Uni-Trak Bottom Link suspension. This thing was light! Almost a hundred pounds lighter than my beloved VFR had been, and it was quick. The VFR was no slouch, and when that 750cc V-4 had come into its power band, there was no stopping the VFR, but the Ninja would beat it hands down, every time, all day long. Low, mid, and top end. The ZX-6R was the quickest production sport bike on the planet, 600 cc class. It would trip the lights at 10.8 seconds through the quarter mile at 128 mph or better. That was the range of really fast 750s and open class full liter bikes only a year before! If you knew a good flat road, you could wind the tach up to fourteen grand (!!!!) and you'd see the north side of 150 mph. This little Ninja was smoking!
And it was mine!
Back in the saddle again!
Cindy and I were happily married on July 8th, 1995 in Pine Burr Baptist Church, Columbia MS. It was a small ceremony, with only friends and family, but it was exactly what she and I wanted. Our wedding was so perfect, that a co-worker of mine at Magnolia Federal Bank almost copied our wedding down to the last detail for her own wedding five months later.
Now that's a compliment!
After our honeymoon, I went to work again for Magnolia Federal Bank, making more money than I had ever made in Meridian, but Cindy and I again were apart, separated by our jobs and by almost a hundred miles. Would this mad chase ever end?
I would see Cindy every Wednesday night, driving from Hattiesburg to Quitman to spend the night, returning to work on Thursday morning. I would go home to see her every weekend, when she didn't come to Hattiesburg. So, after being married for almost two years, we've really only lived with each other for one year. If any of you out there are going through this same situation, be strong. It will work out. There are bumps and potholes in the road of life, but if you have the right person beside you, you'll never know that the obstacles are there.
In November of '96, I resigned from Magnolia Federal Bank, after eighteen months of service, citing in my own reasons as lack of advancement ability. The real reason? I was bored. I could do my job in two hours and then I had six hours to look busy. I needed a challenge. They say that you better be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
I wanted a challenge and that's what I got!
In November of '96, I assumed the responsibilities as District Systems Analyst for the Mississippi Department Of Transportation, 6th District. What was I? Well, I was the only person in charge of all the computers and a WIN 3.51 NT state wide WAN network. I coordinated with the network control in Jackson, where our central headquarters was located, but as far as local network and users, I was in charge of EVERYTHING! It was the job that I should have had out of college! This was the dream ticket! Here I was, in charge of fourteen counties in the state of Mississippi and all the computers there!
I found my niche in life. I finally get to run a department the way that I think a department should be run, I'm in charge of several hundred thousand dollars of equipment, I do my own budgets, and I train my own users. It's a dream ticket! I don't look back harshly on my other job experiences. You see, they all showed me the things to do and not to do when it came to managing people and resources. I learned how to set up networks and hardware, and I know now that if I had taken this job right out of college, I wouldn't have been prepared. I am now, but only because I had lots of experience, the school of hard knocks, graduated in the top ten percent of my class.
Cindy is an excellent teacher. She goes after her job with a gusto and enthusiasm that most people reserve for a favorite hobby rather than a full time career. I really wish that I had had her for a teacher in Elementary. I might have learned something. She has tried to find a job teaching in the Hattiesburg area, but failed to find one last year. This year we have taken a big chance. She has quit her job in Quitman and is finally moving in with me in a house that we are renting in Marion county. She might not have a job come September, but we will finally be together, like a husband and wife should be, and that is all that matters. Jobs you can find, the right person only comes along once in your life. She'll find a job, I have no doubts. She's too good a teacher not to be recognized for such. Her portfolio is already filled with recommendations and examples of her best work.
Cynthia and I have been married now since 1995, dating since 1993 and have been friends since 1992, and we've never had a fight. It's never stopped being that story book romance that I was seeking all of my life. We've also stopped trying to define what holds us together, that magic that I used to only dream about. We've just started to take it for granted now, we fit together so well, so perfect.
That then brings to the close my long, strange trip from bachelor to husband, and how one woman, one bike, and one idea could lead to twenty nine pages of rambling and random pictures that has nothing to do with motorcycles, fast cars, or anything other than how the whole crazy thing really started.
What a long, strange trip its been.