The sun hammered down, beating the shadows into the ground in the smallest size possible. I cowered down into the bike like an ant under the magnifying glass of a pernicious child. My leather jacket was fastened at the cuffs and neck against the sixty miles per hour oven blast. My helmet was likewise sealed with a shermagh, smothering my face and neck in defiance of the onslaught. Even under the dark wraparound glasses behind my visor, I was forced to squint against the unrelenting brightness. It seemed counter-intuitive to wrap up against the heat but such was my reality.
The muscles in my shoulders and back ached with gentle fatigue, resonating with the offbeat v-twin strum of the motor to induce a fugue state. My senses felt deprived. My vision was overwhelmed by glare and stultified by the monotonous landscape. My hearing was dulled by the drone of the motor, the thrum of the tyres and the roar of the wind. With every breath I inhaled a hot, dry wheat smell mixed with a faint scent of the hot motor oil that wept gently from the dependable old twin cylinder engine.
I was both bored and disgruntled. Sleepy and ill tempered, not happy as I should have been on such an adventure. My sense of time and distance were distorted, stretched out like a prison sentence. I felt like I had been traveling this way forever with no end in site. In reality, it had only been about two hours since I fueled up and some time in the next fifty miles I would have to stop again to take on fuel and water.
The road was flat, straight and empty of traffic. Occasionally it would rise or fall gently or veer slightly one way or the other but not enough to break the monotony. Earlier I had seen colossal birds swoop down on the highway, their wingspans almost the width of the two lane blacktop. I guessed they were eagles or maybe condors. The size of the creatures jarred my mind. But now, with the sun at its zenith there was not a living thing to be seen.
I continued my endless voyage across the featureless ocean of wheat with no way to monitor my progress save for the rolling of the odometer at the rate of one mile every minute. I droned on. The terrain became less flat and occasional tiny hamlets began to appear like rocky islands in a pale yellow sea. The sandy buildings huddling together on their rocky outcrops seemed to crack under the relentless downward pressure of the sun.
Eventually, the road led alongside a village so I rolled the throttle closed and kicked down a gear, the motor groaning on the overrun as it slowed my progress. It was a small village, just a few dozen tightly packed dwellings and a church on a promontory. I imagined it looked pretty much as it had done five hundred years earlier. I knew from experience that somewhere among those buildings would be a bakery and a taberna and some kind of grocery store along with other necessities of life, but without any signage they wouldn't be obvious to an interloper.
I wasn't expecting any sign of life so I was surprised to see an elderly woman dressed all in black. She contrasted dramatically with the sepia glare of the surrounding environment. As I coasted past her I saw that she was carrying a wicker basket and that that basket was full of oranges. The oranges shone like beacons in the harsh light and it struck me that this was were the first splash of colour I had see in a long time.
Enormous, bright and shiny Spanish oranges. The ones with thick skins that fall away effortlessly, taking all the pith with them and revealing just the clean, fat segmented fruit. The sweetest, juiciest, most flavoursome of oranges. My mouth watered and after a moment of indecision I sat upright, applied the brakes and kicked down through the remaining gears, rolling to a halt about fifty yards past the Orange Lady. I looked back over my shoulder but she didn't divulge any interest in me or my motorcycle.
Suddenly I was overcome by a massive wave of fatigue. I rested the heavy machine carefully down on the side stand and sat for a moment with my head bowed in exhaustion as the sun beat down on me with renewed vigour. In order to dismount the bike I would have to swing my right leg up and over the rolled up tent and sleeping bag strapped to the back of the machine. And in that moment, I just didn't have the strength. And then I would have to walk all the way back to the Orange Lady under solar assault and I just couldn't visualise being able to do that. And then I would have to have a conversation, in my pidgin Spanish, and there would be unfamiliar currency and foreign counting and I knew I couldn't face it. It was just too much.
In any case, I didn't have time for this. I was in a hurry. I was under pressure to keep moving. I didn't know why I had to keep moving. I didn't have a ferry to catch or a deadline to meet, I just felt this invisible, unrelenting coercion to make progress. To move on. To get to the next thing. To escape this cruel sun and the heat and the boring arid dustiness.
I paused a moment longer. I really wanted that orange. Not just because it would be cool and sweet and delicious, but because it would be an experience, an act of living, a memory in the making. An opportunity to pause for a moment, to take the time to look around and to truly experience something and perhaps, commit it to memory to peruse at a later date. But I knew I didn't have it in me to go back and get the orange while simultaneously I was also acutely aware that I would regret this. I knew that this peculiar experience would haunt me for the rest of my life.
Helplessly, I flicked up the stand, kicked down into first gear and pulled away in defeat.
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