Little House on the Heide
The Vespa and The Voice

Last week M drove out to the house on the Vespa and I took the car to meet him. For a date. Or just a brief respite from our kids.

I gave him the Vespa for his 40th birthday. He drove it around for a summer or two before it landed in a friend’s basement for nearly a decade. Of course, it wouldn’t start when he tried it. After 700 euros worth of repairs it was fixed.

I arrived at the house first. M was frozen to the bone when he pulled in an hour later. But the Vespa was in great shape. It can do 70, he said with a grin. We sat in the sun until he warmed up and then he started the motor again: tak-tak-tak-tak-tak…

I climbed on behind him and wrapped my hands around his waist, a little scared as we wobbled off, smiling by the time we passed the Rights. A few minutes later it fizzled out. Nothing would get it to start. And no, we were not out of gas. I wondered if it was just bad luck or a metaphor for our relationship.

We walked back to the house. Seething about the fact that this was yet another thing that needed fixing, M barked, stop taking pictures!

A few days later, after a phone call to the fix-it guy, we knew how to get it working again. But this time we were all there. No date. M took the kids out individually for a ride. Each time he drove off with one of them I said, have fun, and louder, be careful!

Later I took the Vespa out alone. The forty-year-old manual shifting is tricky and there are no mirrors or blinkers. M had warned me about it, but the first time a car passed me on a narrow cobblestone road was shocking.

I got used to it, though. The way you get used to having your teeth cleaned. More than ready for the ride to be over, I glanced over my shoulder and started to go a little faster. Was I having fun? No, I was not.

As my shoulders hunched up, I gripped the handles tighter. And that’s when I heard the voice: You could die!

I will hold on very, very tight and be very, very careful, I thought. But what if I lose my balance or the breaks don’t work or an animal darts onto the road? What if I skid on a stone or a truck hits me? What if I land in a ditch or smash into a tree?

I saw rain-tattered tributes flapping in the wind. Votive candles and wilted flowers. My name on a plywood cross. You could die!

Let me be clear: this was not the voice of reason talking. I’m way too sensible as it is. I have insurance policies and a well-stocked pantry. I travel with a lint-roller. I’ve given up high heels and almost everything else that’s bad for me. But I haven’t given up the voice.

The voice tells me: don’t bother, you’ll just make a fool of yourself, you’ll never win, you suck, you’re ugly, you’re dumb. The voice asks: why would you buy a falling down house in the middle of nowhere or try to write a novel, and who do you think you are out on a damn Vespa?

The voice said it again: You could die! Or I could live a little more, I thought. I started to lean into the curves then, and when the next car passed me, I waved.