In a controlled rage, David pushed open the glass-plate doors at the entrance to the Washoe County Courthouse in Reno. He stopped outside in a midday hanging in the balance between winter and spring. He took a deep breath, still trembling, trying to pull himself back to the ground.
His day in court had not gone well, but it could have been worse. He felt no remorse for the rant he’d thrown at a Reno casino, his first day back in civilization after a long hike in the northern Sierra Nevada. He was right. The modern world was spiraling toward oblivion and people were ignoring it as hard as they could. The casino is the antithesis of the forest, the real world.
The sky overhead was splotched blue and gray. Bits of sun forked through. David was calming and then he thought about the smug judge, the marshals on either side of him, sharing a joke. But when his moment came, he agreed to pay a fine and go free.
That got his pulse going again. He put his helmet on and descended the granite courthouse steps to his motorcycle. Straddled it, stomped the kickstart. It didn’t start, coughing up that phlegmy sound of mechanical indifference. David hurriedly retriggered the kickstart, heaved at it again and again, ratcheting up his frustration tighter and tighter. He cursed aloud.
Then the sound of failure different, and on the next stomp the engine came alive. Get the hell out of here, he said, and twisted the throttle grip. First gear, release the clutch. The bike launched forward, accelerating recklessly into traffic. An old man with a dog was crossing his path just yards ahead. No time to look for a way to steer around them and sensing only bad outcomes, David jammed on the brakes and leaned just enough to his right to dump the bike on its side.
The street rushed up into his face, grating the skin beneath his jeans and jacket. The side of his head thudded aground. He noted the feel of the helmet, cushioning the blow. He and the bike skidded a few feet forward, behind the man, who seemed not to notice, and the dog, who did.
One person witnessed this. Standing on the sidewalk, Maria saw the motorcyclist was out of control, but he had managed to throw himself to the ground to avoid hitting the man. Or his dog.
She had never seen any of them before. Maria walked up to David, who had pulled himself from under the motorcycle and was sitting on the macadam, taking inventory. She stood over him, her hands on her hips, considering why they had been brought together in such a way. It seemed very romantic to her.
He pulled off his helmet and shook his head, looking up into her face.
She liked his eyes. “Are you the one?” she asked.
He was probably in a mild state of shock, having cycled through frustration, rage, panic and pavement rash. Still, it was clear to him that she was angelic.
“I might be,” he answered, dazzled enough not to really know what question he was answering.
This occurred on Wednesday. They courted for three days. On Saturday, a fortune teller in Sparks told Maria that she and David were destined to be together. They married that night at a wedding chapel in Stateline, Nevada, on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The witnesses were David’s brother, the cook from the Wald Guest House, Maria’s roommate from Sparks and the wedding party that was waiting behind them in the wedding-chapel queue.
David and Maria spent their wedding night in a hotel room near the top of the tallest casino on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. It was a place that strived for luxury and excess, the polar opposite of the Wald Guest House, where David had lived his entire life. Holding hands with her in the elevator on the way up the glittering casino hotel tower, he acknowledged the doubt knocking around in his cranium as the floors ticked by. Of the two of them, Maria was probably better prepared for this sudden turn of events as she was willing to follow a path set by soothsayers. David, on the other hand, was caught completely off guard.