M4MM: Men, Motorcycles, and Lessons Learned from Craigslist

I’m going 80 miles per hour down the freeway on a metal machine tucked between my legs. Wind relentlessly howls at me, cars aggressively race past, drivers’ eyes glued to their phones, unaware of my existence. My absolute, undivided attention is focused on the movements of my body; one small shift in the wrong direction and I’ll be ripped apart on the freeway like a misplaced doll through a lawnmower, my intestines strewn across freeway lanes like streamers at the worst party possible.

Like most life and death situations, I arrived in this situation via Craigslist.

******

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I’m 25 years old and life — like, REAL life — is just beginning and I already feel bored. Days are routine and crushingly cyclical (school, work, try in vain to impress Tinder dates, wash, rinse, repeat) and not much excites me anymore. I’m in a funk. A quarter-life crisis I never anticipated to be in. My therapist suggests finding a fun hobby outside of work and school, but what the hell am *I* gonna do? Knit? Ultimate Frisbee? No thanks, I’d rather have the cold, metal taste of a gun in my mouth than toss around a fucking frisbee with some idiots at the park.

After some existential panic, I sift through some craigslist ads and seemingly stumble upon the answer to my woes: BASIC MOTORCYCLE LESSONS. Pictures include a student that supposedly just received his M1 (motorcycle license) from the DMV, so by virtue of this picture, at least one person has passed this Craiglist dude’s motorcycle-course-instruction-thing.

I mean, that seems fun, right? Motorcycles? You can go fast and cut through traffic and no more parallel parking and the insurance is cheap and I don’t wanna pay for tags on my beat up 2002 Ford Focus anyways so HELL YEAH this idea RULES.

I decide to email this ad and find out what’s available.

MOTORCYCLE LESSON

hey, im angel and im interested in motorcycle lessons! what’re the rates? should i get some gear or something? thanks!

I receive a response back from mystery motorcycle figure, but instead of doing anything substantial with this information, I ignore it.

My feet are almost instantly cold on the motorcycle idea once I let my mind play around with some possibilities.

I can just ride my bike and take the bus and Uber around. Also, I’ve been in one car accident – maybe I’d be dead if that took place on a motorcycle instead?

I’m just gonna avoid this guy and his emails. Why be straight up with someone when I can just ignore them?

I’m cowardly and passive aggressive that way.

******

A couple weeks go by and I forget about the whole thing.

Cyclical life returns. School, work, trying in vain to impress Tinder dates. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Just as the itch of boredom beckons to be scratched again, I get an email from mystery motorcycle figure:

RE: RE: MOTORCYCLE LESSON

Angel, did you ever get my response to your email regarding your question?

Just checking in.

Thanks

Shit. They messaged back. Well, DAMN, now I need to meet up with this person. They went out of their way to email me back after WEEKS. I’m a disrespectful ass if I don’t go through with this. And hey, I need a new experience, right?

So, I respond back.

RE: RE: RE: MOTORCYCLE LESSON

Hey dude, totally missed your first email! My bad! I’m free typically mondays, wednesdays, and mornings on the weekend. See ya soon!

We agreed to meet on a Saturday afternoon at this person’s house.

******

Saturday morning arrives and anxiety whispers in my ear.

Can I bail on this person? Will they hate me if I bail? Will they send me an angry email? I’d respond out of guilt, wouldn’t I? And then I’d end up going to this lesson anygoddamnway, wouldn’t I?

UGH. Okay, okay. I’ll go.

I meet mystery motorcycle figure at their house. It’s in the Belmont Shores/Naples part of Long Beach, so it’s kind of nice. Middle to upper class house, well-manicured yard, everything aesthetically perfect in an Edward-Scissorhands-neighborhood kinda way. With the exception of a knocked down fence, I’m impressed already.

Upon knocking on the door, I’m greeted by mystery moto man. “Angel? Vaughn.”

Vaughn is an interesting person to look at. Imagine Marc Anthony (Latin heartthrob extraordinaire) and Lurch (the Addams Family’s zombie butler dude) had a debatably handsome, hyper-masculine son. That’s Vaughn.

Standing somewhere around 6'6, Vaughn has sharp cheekbones, saucer-like judgemental brown eyes, and bulging biceps accompanied by a tiny torso, tightly stitched to his skeletal frame. He slicks his black mane back and when the wind blows, you can see the front of his thinning hair cling to his scalp like moss on a rock. Some grays peek out around his ear, so it’s difficult to get a firm idea of what his age is.

He stretches out his baseball mitt of a hand to greet me, engulfing my fragile, feminine paw with a vice-like grip. It seems like he’s sizing me up so I shake his hand as hard as I can, an action I’m sure he doesn’t notice.

After exchanging pleasantries, our first interaction goes as follows:

“Do you know anything about motorcycles?” He asks in a stern tone.

“Um, not really but kin-”

“YOU DO OR YOU DON’T. THIS ISN’T SHITS AND GIGGLES.”

“…okay, well, no then.”

“ALRIGHT.”

Vaughn didn’t suffer fools gladly.

Our toleration of each other could best be described as a good cop / bad cop, Perfect Strangers-esque, sub / dom relationship. If you’ve ever seen KILL BILL, I was Beatrix Kiddo and Vaughn was Pai Mei.

He taught me the basics of motorcycling over a few weeks, never gave me a gold star, an A+, and don’t believe for one second that he ever told me anything resembling “good job.”

Hours were spent being yelled at, making spiteful remarks towards each other, being belittled, and leaving me on the way home wondering, “Why the fuck am I subjecting myself to this?”

His tutelage was cruel, but we *CLICHE ALERT* learned a lot from each other.

Beneath his type-A, military veneer was a man that seemed to struggle with himself and his choices in general. During small-talk, he’d constantly bemoan things he should’ve done and could’ve done, ranging from “I shouldn’t have shot wedding pictures for that cheap ass,” to “I really wish I fucked that girl from Sweden.”

As we got more and more acquainted during each lesson (hey, you gotta break the ice somehow with an intense dude that just stares at you and yells “YOU’RE SHIFTING GEARS TOO FAST!”), I began slowly chipping away at his emotional armor of sorts.

During a respite between learning how to do Figure 8s, Vaughn and I rode back to his house to get lunch. Amongst the clutter in his apartment (jackets and helmets everywhere, an actual goddamn motorcycle in his living room as well), a woman washed dishes and didn’t acknowledge his existence, but said hi to me. I assumed she was his wife, and Vaughn later told me she kind of just lived there.

On a ride up to Signal Hill one day, I pressed and he elaborated.

“Her and I’ve technically been broken up. I’ve slept with other people and she knows. I tell her. She just won’t actually leave. I’ve come close to calling the cops, but that’s fucked up, ya know?”

I indulged him and shared details about my personal life, detailing poorly handled and failed relationships (“I’m not good at ANY relationship, man, so don’t feel too guilty about that situation”) and how I solved those situations. He seemed to respond to it, opening up more and more, eventually leading to hard-to-earn “I’ve never told anyone this” type of conversations. As we became somewhat closer, the lessons got easier, and dare I say enjoyable.

Our newfound friendship of sorts culminated in our last lesson, a trip to the DMV. As I sat in line waiting for D34 to call out, he asked if I was nervous. “No. I had a great teacher,” I told him. “You’re a fuckin’ ass kiss,” he said with a smile.

After driving in circles and through some cones on the course, I earned my license.

“Look at you, riding a bike all by yourself. Good work.”

With those words, I got the validation I sought from him, our friendship changing dynamics from an angry father and his spiteful son to two brothers in arms.

“Call or text me if you wanna go on a ride sometime,” Vaughn said as I put on my helmet to exit the DMV.

“Will do,” I replied.

As I rode onto the freeway, I tried to merge lanes. A car wouldn’t let me pass, so I let them go ahead of me. I tried again to merge lanes and cursed beneath my breath at the driver. I thought about how I’d never take Vaughn up on his offer. I’m cowardly and passive aggressive that way.