BETTER THAN FOOD II: Baby A
Words by Mish Way
Somehow I had convinced Baby A to go on a motorbike trip with me after we slept together once. Granted this had been a long time coming since I stupidly denied an invite to go home with him after my show in LA in March because I needed to go to Phoenix early the next day.
Baby A took me through the Los Angeles freeways on the back of his ’90s Harley Davidson cop bike he lovingly stared at like a child transfixed whenever we stopped riding. If gas got on the bike, he would spit on the white sheen and rub the liquids away. He admitted he often turned down “pussy” because he wouldn’t leave his bike in front of girl’s houses unattended. Not even for 20 minutes to fuck.
“Sorry,” he laughed in his Arkansas drawl as we ate fried chicken and drank tequila on the balcony of the trailer park in Joshua Tree we were staying in for a few days. “I guess that makes me sound cocky, but I just love my bike.” He ripped through a chicken breast and wiped the grease from his face. “You did good with dinner, darlin’.”
Darlin’. Darlin’. Darlin’. How did I get here again?
We had taken the freeway all the way to Joshua Tree from Baby A’s house in Eagle Rock. On the back of the bike I felt the most free and safe I had felt in a while. On the bike it’s only hand signals and your own thoughts. The wind screams through your helmet. The sun rapes your face. You smell everything. You feel the slightest change in temperature. You are flying outside. I had spent my twenties driving around North America with my band a million times over, but the bike was different. The landscape I thought I knew like pores on my skin had changed.
“Well, this is going to be a good snack in a few hours,” Baby A said and he wrapped up the rest of our food to put away in the communal trailer park fridge. The sun was starting to set over the desert and the sky was melting pink all before us. I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it. I was suspiciously quiet and I wondered if Baby A could feel it. There was so much to take in. There weren’t many words between us, but it felt calm. Baby A got up to make us tequila drinks and I stretched out like a cat on a lawn chair, lit one of his Camels and breathed in the last light of day.
I needed this. I needed to escape to the desert with a metalhead outlaw I barely knew. In my home of Vancouver I was always bored. When I wasn’t on tour, I was drowning in work. I was either behind my computer or trying to score morphine to wipe out the clouds that had been swimming in my brain on and off for months. Stimulation was tour. Stimulation was being on stage every night. Stimulation was scrambling from the van to the dressing room to the stage to the after-party to the hotel to the van and around and around again. Home was anti-stimulation. Every time I went back, I felt happy for three days and then wanted out.
Baby A had taken me out into Joshua Tree National Park earlier that day. Dressed in cutoffs and a stolen T-shirt I never planned on giving back, I let Baby A spray sunscreen all over my pale, Canadian skin as he sucked on a cigarette and let the sun beat down on his own. I hoisted my leg onto the bench outside our trailer, our temporary home. At night when we slept, I laid awake silently cursing because my morphine kick was tail ending. Baby A slept quietly. Unlike most men, he never snored. Snoring made me sick. I had lost the earplugs I normally kept in my purse just incase the guy I went home with snored, but this was kismet. I didn’t need them with Baby A. He was quiet. I just looked at his tattooed back, the big, dark goat inked onto his skin that looked right back at me, and tried to ignore my cravings.
We ripped around the rocks of Joshua Tree on his Harley stopping at certain places so Baby A could climb around. I was wearing big boots that made me walk awkwardly like a child but he always stopped and extended his hand when he thought I wouldn’t make the jump. We walked to the top of a stack of dinosaur rocks and squatted down together with his pipe, smoked it, and stared into the distance. I felt like I was on Mars.
“I knew two people who died out here,” he said. “People try to go out too far. It was a couple. They went out. Got lost. Died of heat. They found the woman dead and the man a few miles further. They ran out of gas on the bike.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, stoned. “That’s horrible.”
He folded up the map, grabbed my hand and we jumped down the rocks back to the road.
Baby A grew up with parents who bounced him back and forth from Arkansas to Colorado to California trying to find work. Sometimes his family had tons of money and sometimes they had none. He grew up in flux and running. He was a chubby kid whose brother introduced him to the Butthole Surfers with toilet paper. I, on the other hand, grew up in a Canadian town, a suburb where most houses copied the nuclear family outline. I grew up with a guinea pig and extracurricular activities and complete steadiness. I had most things I needed and a father who yelled a lot. Baby A and I came from completely different worlds, but we had one thing that we both knew. We were stupid, idiotic musicians.
“My friend is getting a divorce,” I mentioned as Baby A and I sat outside drinking iced coffee before our ride one morning. “She got married way too fast.”
“Most people do,” he said laughing.
“I mean, she knows it was fast and dumb. My friend and her husband had only met once in real life before they got married. I just don’t know if I believe in marriage or even monogamy. Especially not with the lives we lead. Touring so much. Being away from someone you love all the time.” It was a thought I had been struggling with for a while.
Baby A stared into the parking lot in front of us.
“Maybe no one should get married ever,” I offered.
He looked at me and smiled, “That or maybe no one should marry outside of their class.”
When Baby A built a fire, he stayed shirtless and shoved his hands into the hot wood without thinking. The caveman masculinity of it made me crazy. He was hot. The motorcycle helped. Ride bitch on the back of a Harley with a guy who makes you squirmy and you have to resist jumping him every other step. Why do you resist? Because he is still a stranger and you are capable of humiliation, even in high moments. Sure, his dick has been inside of all your main holes, but in today’s world that does not mean closeness in the slightest. In the last 7 months, I’d built an invisible cold like a bubble around me.
Baby A’s fire drew two other couples out of their trailers, armed with booze and conversation. By now, I had eaten a few mushrooms and drank a lot of tequila and as I told Baby A, “I just want to be horizontal.” So, I stretched out on him as he charmed two middle-aged couples from San Diego, who bonded with us over the fire and the music we had picked on the jukebox. Baby A and I had soundtracked our trip with Roky Erickson. It started and ended with Roky. A few weeks previous when Baby A had driven us back to his apartment I put on “I Think Of Demons” and sang along drunk and sloppy.
We stayed up around the fire making small talk. I kept quiet and just listened and stared at the stars because in the desert they were so clear. I thought about the motorbike and how good it felt ripping through the hot rocks. What’s the appeal of a man on a motorbike? There were so many cheese ball fantasy factors that could be the root but that was not it. It wasn’t the danger or the whole outlaw thing or any obviousness like that. (Though that was all undeniably appealing.) For me, it was the exact opposite of the ridiculous white-knight-on-the-white-horse fantasy most Disney films had taught young girls was the ultimate conquest. (A prince on a horse rescues the princess from the woes of her life because woman is incomplete without man.) The motorbike dude was appealing because he was on wheels, which meant he could zoom off at any second. One minute you could be on the back with your bare legs curled around his lap as he rubbed into your leather boots and revved the engine and the next, he could drop you off at your house, leave to the next town and, maybe never be heard from again.
After the San Diego couples went to bed, I stripped down and got in the pool. Baby A followed. Why is fucking for an hour in water the best thing you can do in the desert? Because the chlorine kills most chances of impregnation. Plus, the build up is fucking hot after your thighs have been bumping on the motor of the bike all afternoon.
The next day, we took the long way home from Joshua Tree through the mountains because as Baby A said, the freeway was bullshit and he wanted to really ride. We chased around flash floods, felt every movement of the temperature and when the rain settled in the early mountain pass, every tree leaked organic perfume. We stopped and swam in a lake. When we got on the bike and took off again, I couldn’t remember if I had left my underwear in the sand. Then, I noticed that they were now tied to the back seat and flying behind me.
After six hours of riding, we started coming down the mountain back to Los Angeles and down below the pit of the city’s buildings stuck out of the pink smog like a magic eye. It was beautiful. I screamed over and over and tried to lock that image in my head because I had never experienced anything like it.
Two days later and I was back in my apartment drinking duty-free tequila and trying to write this story. In the last 24 hours I had gone from Joshua Tree to Los Angeles to Portland to play a show with my band and back home again. I played like shit. I lost my voice.
I sucked on tequila and thought about my last night in bed with Baby A.
“Sorry if I had been so quiet,” I apologized for no reason. “I’m just always looking for the sentence and sometimes I’m so focused on taking it in.”
Then, we fucked.
Now, I was home. “Or maybe no one should marry outside of their class.” That sentence ran around in my head. Class? I was in the music class. You can come from anything or nothing, but when you separate from that and join the circus you become a brand new class of stupid artist. You commit yourself to stimulation. You don’t need to marry into your class. You need to marry into your own world. Baby A was wrong. Or maybe he was completely and perceptively right?
“I’m trying to write my story about our trip,” I texted him. “It’s harder than I thought.”
I went back to staring at the screen, trying to find the sentence.
Darlin’. Darlin’. Darlin’. How did I get here again?
A text from Baby A: “Tell em how wet my ‘cicle made your puss.”
I laughed out loud. Because it did and that was it.
Check out more cliche-debunking ‘tour diaries’ from White Lung’s singer here.