Home > In the Black > In the Black: 1966 – Penelope Xing

In the Black: 1966 – Penelope Xing

ITB130429a - In the Black 1966 Cover - w180

“I am the wind!” Penelope Xing would shriek as she and Y.T., Jr. raced down the Pacific Coast Highway every Sunday morning at dawn after he had returned from his nomadic Saturday night wanderings in the Haight and Filmore Districts to make love to her, then take her away from Fu Loin’s.

Penelope Xing had never ridden on a motorcycle and had no desire nor intention whatsoever to do so. In her mind, motorcycles were barbaric metal steeds of death for brutal gangs like the Hell’s Angels, those modern day furies of anarchy who pursued their own unique brand of apparently nihilistic revenge on the highways and byways of California. So, when Y.T., Jr. brought his Harley-Davidson back to Berkeley on the Erp Industries, Inc., Learjet for the new school year, Penelope Xing confronted a direct threat to her primordial, a priori sense of order and to civilization as she knew it. She wanted nothing to do with Y.T., Jr.’s vehicular demon and she told him so.

“What if it rains?” she asked, trying to be polite at first, but Y.T., Jr. just stared at the ground and shook his head.

“But my hair will get mussed and my clothes will get all wind blown,” she whined. Y.T., Jr. rolled his eyes back and lit another Marlboro.

“I am not going to sit on top of a raw, unhoused engine with thousands and thousands of angry little gasoline explosions going off between my thighs,” she insisted. This excuse was Y.T., Jr.’s favorite. It was original. He laughed out loud.

“Look, you don’t even have any helmets. If we fell off, we would be hurt. We could get killed,” she explained rationally, prophetically.

Y.T., Jr. listened patiently, then called her bluff with his morphinically persuasive smile. Penelope Xing folded like a bad poker hand and reluctantly got on the Harley behind Y.T., Jr.

At first, it was worse than she or even Alfred Hitchcock could have ever imagined. Penelope Xing was terrified to near excretion by Y.T., Jr.’s bizarre and perverted twist on running the bulls at Pamplona through downtown San Francisco rush hour traffic. Whenever her right leg twitched with the life-preserving urge to save herself by slamming on the brakes, Y.T., Jr. inevitably twisted the throttle up a notch or two until the city was a blur of concrete, metal, brick and asphalt reaching out to grab her and flay her skin off as they banked to pass each car or truck and to whip around each corner. The forces of acceleration, deceleration and the centrifugal force of each turn groped and clawed at her body like the bad lovers who came to Fu Loin’s every weekend with crumpled twenty dollar bills in their fists and anger in their eyes. The queasy feeling of motion haunted her intestines even while stopped at traffic lights. She did not know if her tears were more from fear or from the wind relentlessly whipping her face.

Then, a funny thing happened. Traffic thinned out. The tunnel-like streets of downtown San Francisco emerged on bright, sunny, open road, and instead of enduring the blender-like blur of the city, with a little squinting, Penelope Xing’s eyes were able to focus again–on far away hilltops, on freely floating puffs of cumulus, on ocean white caps driving relentlessly towards the shore. Carbon monoxide no longer burned her throat. The salted ocean air cleared her mind like breathing pure oxygen. The speed didn’t seem to bother her any more, except when she looked over Y.T., Jr.’s shoulder at the speedometer or when a pickup truck towing a fish-tailing Airstream trailer suddenly blossomed out from around the next corner. But after a moment or two, the fear rippling her bodily fluids calmed again and the balance of the Harley no longer felt so precarious, so that her mind passed on to thoughts other than her imminent and medievally painful death.

Penelope Xing first imagined, then began to see the sharply drawn line on each curve of the Pacific Coast Highway, beyond which lay uncontrolled flight over a cliff into the ocean or a point blank kiss with the face of a rock wall at eighty miles per hour. At first, she thought Y.T., Jr. to be flirting with that line, but soon realized it was more than just a playful teasing. Y.T., Jr. chased that line and Penelope Xing began to feel its nearness like wind blowing across a high Sierra lake, imagining how the plunge beyond it might be like the bracing chill of a dive into mountain waters. There was no retreat, only victory, then the next battle, the next chance to lay your life on the line or beyond it. She held tight to Y.T., Jr.’s rib cage as he hunted that line, chewing on the Pacific Coast Highway like she had learned from assigned history texts how Patton and Rommel had chewed on Africa and Europe with their armies–only to Penelope Xing, this was not academic history, this was real.

Penelope Xing closed her eyes. She listened to the Harley’s deep throated engine respond to every twist of the throttle and shift of the gears. She felt the pistons beating through her flesh, her blood, her soul. The slip stream no longer raped her, but caressed and embraced every inch of her body all at once. It was like being on the peak of the highest mountain on earth, with no place to run, no where to hide, breathless from the climb and exposed to the splendorous wrath of some Zeus blowing against her soul. Suddenly, the walls of her claustrophobic, four-cornered life–the peeling plaster of her tiny apartment in the Haight, the dusty chalkboards of San Francisco State classrooms, the cramped study desk buried in the musty stacks of the library, and dingy, depressing room number five-sixteen at Fu Loin’s establishment–crumbled and fell away from about her.

“I am the wind!” Penelope Xing would shriek, suddenly feeling completely untethered.

“So blow me,” Y.T., Jr. would reply back over his shoulder. And when they stopped at Monterey or Carmel or Big Sur or just some secluded spot along the coast for their Sunday afternoon picnic, she did so with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Penelope Xing was falling in love.

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Categories: In the Black
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