I didn’t know what someone in a motorcycle gang was supposed to look like. Two years ago, I didn’t really know what a hippie looked like, and then somehow, I became one. I suppose lots of people who saw me made assumptions about the person I was based on the way I looked, and I knew a lot of those assumptions were wrong. But I couldn’t help doing the same to the man who stood before us.
He wasn’t wearing a leather jacket. I guess I thought everyone in a motorcycle gang wore one. But he was wearing torn up jeans and worn leather boots and a black t shirt, so he definitely seemed like he could be in a motorcycle gang. There was some sort of symbol on the shirt. Maybe it was a skull with crossed bones, or maybe they were machine guns. Something was rolled up in one shirt sleeve that looked about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I didn’t even know anyone who smoked.
The man’s hair hung to his shoulders. It was unkempt and tangled and flowed right into his beard, which was just as messy. There were streaks of grey in his hair and beard, but I thought his face looked almost too young for that. It was hard to tell. He wore mirrored sunglasses that made it seem like he was looking everywhere at once.
“We’re camping here tonight,” Emmie said in a firm voice that didn’t sound like hers. If I didn’t know her, if I hadn’t spent the last month listening to her voice, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the hint of a nervous tremor. But I did, and hearing it made my stomach turn. “This is our spot,” she continued. “Lots of places along this road, but not much room left here. So, probably best if you just keep going.”
He pushed the kickstand down with the heel of a boot, learned the motorcycle to one side, and climbed off.
“Hey, listen,” Emmie said, taking a step forward. “We don’t want any trouble.”
“Young lady,” the man said in a slow voice that would have sounded stern if there wasn’t the slightest hint of a laugh beneath it. He took off his sunglasses and revealed bright blue eyes that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of him. “Someone with a knife hidden in their hand usually ends up with trouble whether they want it or not.”
My mouth hung open, and my eyes darted to Emmie, wondering how she would respond. She hesitated, just a second or two, probably just as surprised as me. Then she flipped the knife back around, its blade no longer hidden, and held it up in front of her.
“OK, it’s not hidden any more. So now get out of here,” Emmie said in that same firm voice.
The man just laughed and took a step away from his motorcycle and toward Emmie’s knife. I glanced toward the camper door, wishing I’d run for it when Emmie told me to and wondering if we could still get away somehow. But the man raised his arms like he was surrendering and then smiled and laughed again.
There are different kinds of laughs. Sometimes people laugh and it feels like they are laughing at you. Other times it feels like you should be laughing too but you missed the joke. When Seth laughed it made my skin shiver and my stomach turn. But this wasn’t like any of those laughs. It was the kind of laugh that made me want to join in and laugh right along with it. It was hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure Emmie lowered the knife just a little bit.
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