The Biker

By Nada Crnogorac

Translated By Mario Šavorić

“I'm going to buy myself a motorbike,” he said slowly and in a loud voice. The words kept bouncing off the washed plates he was taking out of the dishwasher. They were rounded, smooth, shiny and cold. Jelly—she thought. A stupid association, for those were porcelain words. His sentence was brutally final, neither leaving empty spaces and room for discussion, nor asking for anything, be it a piece of advice, an opinion, a permission. It was nothing but a statement, a bare piece of information. As everything had become so exposed, so nude, she was contemplating this new reality. How we had laid it completely bare. The words had become single-layered, the sentences short, clear, and merciless. I’m going to buy myself a motorbike.


The radio was playing Goribor:


You don’t know how my thoughts are breaking me,

You don’t know how my thoughts are breaking it all…


The melody was winding its way through her head like an unstoppable eel, making her hum through its echo breaking it all.


He could have said it differently, in a myriad of more considerate ways. Revealing the cards slowly. Gradually progressing to the finish line. It’s not that he didn’t know how to, he didn’t want to do it. For example, he could have said: “I would like to buy myself a motorbike” or “For a long time I’ve been thinking of buying myself a motorbike.” He could have said: “I could myself a motorbike” or “What would you say if I bought myself a motorbike?” He could have said: “Would you be surprised and mad at me if I bought myself a motorbike?” or simply: “What do you say I buy myself a motorbike?”


But none of these I think, you think, I would like to and maybe could be heard between the two of them and the kitchen tiles. He could have said it in a number of softer and more palpable ways, instead of so unconditionally. She gave no reply. The sun was following them with a tired autumn look, leaving no space for anything else on the window.


You and I alone in the room

Talking with the shadows in our heads

You and I are no longer you and I…


She was humming silently again and could not stop… no longer you and I


“I’m going to buy myself a motorbike, like Dino. I wanna be a biker,” he went on, directing his look to her this time, not the plates. It seemed that from the corners of his eyes she could see a question mark popping out of the eyelashes. Insecurity, she thought. And fear. He fears being a biker and wants to become one at the same time, she continued her observation.


“I wanna go to the seaside on a motorbike, you know, to the islands, anywhere, all on my motorbike, I wanna cruise against the wind, that’s what I’m dreaming about,” he uttered in a single breath while taking out the knives and forks and putting them in the drawer, composing a piece of percussion music. It had its rhythm and tones—a kitchen soundtrack to an unexpected dialogue. Is this an introduction to a drama, she wondered. The only thing missing was the sound of a motorbike under the window.


“I’ve been wanting it for a long time,” he went on, breathless already, as if all this had tired him, this race with the dishwasher and with her. “I didn’t know how to tell you, how to do it. And now I’ve done it, I feel better. What do you think?” He turned around impatiently and nervously looked straight at her face, letting his tired arms droop.


She didn’t tell him it had made it more difficult for her. She was stirring the spinach so that it would not burn. Goribor kept on repeating:


I take, take, take, all I want is to take…


She was pondering on this new stage of their marriage they had entered. Where was it taking them? With every new day it seemed increasingly hopeless. Dry conversations next to dried dishes. They were far from each other. Further than the cooker and the dishwasher. They were drifting even further apart. They were terribly far away. Sometimes it all seemed so ordinary, just like all the other couples they knew. Midlife crisis, said some. How trivial! Fear of aging, fear of death, said the others. And there is no such thing as an anti-death cream, said Karmen Lončarek.[1] But then, who reads her? As a matter of fact, she felt it all made no difference. Or that it was even liberating.


“Well, buy it then,” she said, looking him in the eyes. “And ride it against the wind if that’s what you want so much. I won’t go with you. I don’t like motorbikes and bikers. I won’t join you, and you haven’t actually asked me to,” she finished, somewhat reprovingly.


“I want to go alone, with the guys, that is. Nobody’s taking their wives.”


“Ok, it’s not that I want to go with you,” she replied. 


The spinach was done. The sun had disappeared behind the edge of the window. The kitchen had turned grayish and smelled of garlic, pepper, milk, and cream. It also smelled of cold male sweat. Marriages have long and short phases of all kinds of everything, more and less transient, with some color of the previous remaining in the next, light and shadow, chiaroscuro—the colors of marriage and baroque. These phases are not erased. There is no delete key on a marriage keyboard. We just stack these stages like pots on a shelf, place them one inside another, taking a big pot, putting a smaller one in it, then an even smaller one, while taking them out of the dishwasher. So they take up as little space as possible and they can always accommodate a couple more. They keep banging in the process, making a lot of noise, and then staying silent, turning dirty, then clean, just like the stages of marriage. Dirty, then clean. There is no such thing as a marriage washer.


What is the next stage going to be like, she wondered. Dirty, probably. Wandering, alcohol, casual sex.


She remembered a scene on the beach the year before. Between the sea and the road there was a narrow strip of thin and colorless greenery consisting of a few larger and smaller trees. A biker couple parked their bike in the shade. She could see them unzipping their heavy black riding gear. The girl stripped off all of her clothes. She could still vividly remember the entire scene: stark naked, slim, white-skinned and fair-haired, the girl was standing by the side of the road full of passersby. She was slowly slipping into her swimsuit, not bothered a bit by the fact these people were perhaps just half a meter away from her. She made no effort whatsoever to screen herself from their eyes, taking no notice of a changing tent just five meters away. Maybe even less than five. What the girl did was beyond her.


“I like speed,” he said. “When I’m riding with Dino, I always urge him to speed up, to ride faster and faster, and I feel awesome then. Last time he got angry with me and said he wouldn’t take me on rides any more. He told me to go on rides on my own. To buy myself a motorbike. When we stopped, he was as white as a sheet. He had to lie on the grass because he was shaking as if he was running a fever. He couldn’t speak. I could see he was not well. He was scared shitless.”


He stopped talking. She wasn’t looking at him. She was placing the plates on the table. As they were eating in silence, she was thinking about what she was going to do while he was turning into a biker. She didn’t feel abandoned. She was thinking about silence. Silence and peace that would cover her and wrap her up like a blanket. About freedom. Her freedom. About her own gear that she was going to shift into. She was thinking about so many things. And was already looking forward to them.


“Shall we toast to your new motorbike?” she asked and headed to fetch a bottle of wine. Thinking about how those new wheels of his had in a way become hers.


[1] Karmen Loncarek is a Croatian doctor of medicine who wrote for the Croatian weekly Feral Tribune, and, in 2006, she published a collection of her contributions to that magazine titled Krema protiv smrti i druge price (Anti-death cream and other stories).