When I was a kid, I wanted to get a Harley Davidson really bad. I was about seven, and I was in my dad’s car in the back, and these dudes were driving by on these Harleys.
I remember looking at them, and thinking, I want to do that, man, you know? I want to be free like those guys.
And I then started doing heroin a few years later, so I couldn’t really get a bike. I couldn’t get toothpaste and shit, you know, let alone a $15,000 motorcycle.
When I was 18 my parents found me in the house, overdosed, almost dead. They took me to a hospital, and then they took me to a detox, and then to a rehab.
When I was in the rehab, I met Fran. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl. The first time I saw her, I was just, like, wow—amazed. And we became really close, and we went through the rehab. She had been there a long time before me, and she was finishing up, and then I finished, and we started dating.
And life was pretty good, you know? It was hard to get off of heroin, but I was able to do it. I went to college, and Franny and I were together and dating and just having a good time.
One day she had a really bad fever. I took her to the hospital, and 12 hours later they said that she had pneumocystic pneumonia. I didn’t know what it was. They said it was from Aids. I didn’t know what to do. I loved her, and I wanted to be with her.
New York got her sick a lot. She’d cough a lot and had bronchitis all the time, so we moved to Florida. Like when old people move down there. We went down to retire. I figured that we would live as much as we could. I just wanted to make her life the greatest life.
We got married. We used to go out for dinners and stuff. She wanted to go out, I would take her out. She’d have her oxygen tank with her, and I’d take her to a restaurant, and I’d look around and I’d see another couple with the husband taking care of the wife. But they were 80, you know? We were 20.
I thought the warm air down there would help her heal and feel better, but it didn’t. She went into the hospital one night, and the next morning the doctor told me that she had pneumonia again, they couldn’t really cure it, and she might have a few weeks to live.
I was devastated, and she was devastated. They put her in hospice. But two weeks later, they sent her out of the hospice because she started to get better.
She was thrown out of hospice for not dying. Only she could have pulled that off.
She was a young Italian girl, and she was not interested in suffering and dying. Like, who is? But she was extra not fucking into it.
A few weeks later, she got sick again. I took her back to the hospital. They put her in.
Doctor told me the same thing: “A few weeks, and she’s gonna be gone.” So they put her back in hospice. A month and a half later, they sent her home again. Our families— my parents, her parents— were happy about it. Oh, she’s gonna be better.
But I knew how the story was gonna end.
A few weeks later, she ends up back in the hospital. And on Thursday of that week, my motorcycle— my Harley-Davidson—was ready to be picked up. So I went that Thursday to get the bike. And it was beautiful. She was in the hospital, and I got a call that she went back to hospice. So I drove the bike over to the hospice, and I didn’t know what to do. Should I show her the bike? What the fuck do you do?
I brought the bike out front, and I went into the room, and I said, “Franny, I want to show you something,” and I brought her outside and showed her the bike.
And she was mad.
She was like, “What the fuck is that?” I brought it to her ’cause it was our dream together, and she was still very important to me, and I just thought that would make her happy. But it didn’t.
So the social worker came over to me and said, “Mike, people are never dying. They live and then they die. And dying is in a moment. She feels that you’re treating her as if she’s dying, and you don’t need her anymore. You don’t love her anymore.”
That wasn’t the truth. I told her every day. But I went home, and I came back to the hospice, and I brought a few of my work shirts with me because she loved ironing for me.
I came back a couple hours later, and my shirts were all ironed, and she was walking around the hospice, dusting, like she would clean the place up. She was on a lot of morphine and— some of you that never did it— it’s wonderful. It makes you feel excited about things.
So she saw me, and she’s like, “Where’s the bike?” Everything I wanted her to feel in the beginning, she now felt. Because I asked her to iron my clothes.
And I said, “It’s outside. Let’s go see,” and I took her out.
She said, “Let me sit on it.” So I put her on it.
And then she said, “Can you start it up?”
So I start the bike up, and it’s rumbling. It was a loud bike. It was gorgeous.
And then she says, “Well, can you just take me for a little ride? Just around the parking lot here?”
And I’m like, Fuck.
I’m thinking she’s gonna fall off the back, and I’m gonna have to tell her family, Yeah, she almost died of AIDS. But then I killed her on my bike.
So now we’re riding around the hospice, and she’s got the morphine pole dragging next to her.
And we’re junkies, you know? We were different. We were fucking freaks. People crossed the street when they saw me. And her. She was a prostitute. She was a fucking drug addict. I mean all the shit that— you know what I’m talking about, some of you— I can tell.
So this was amazing. We’re riding around this hospice with this morphine pole fucking dangling. And all the staff comes out, and they’re watching us, and they’re cheering us on.
And then I hear the pole fall. And I think she fell off the back, but, no, she unhooked the morphine bag, which means, “I want to go out on the street a little bit.”
So I take her out on the street a little bit. And then she just put her arm around my belly and started rubbing, and she said, “Can we go on the highway?”
And I thought of all that we’d been through and all the suffering.
And I said, “Yeah, we could do that.”
So we got on I-95. And I had it up to eighty. And she was just screaming with happiness. Morphine bag was flapping over her head.
And that wind— I always imagined the wind on a bike making you feel free, you know? It’s so powerful. And for 10 minutes we were normal, and that wind just blew all the death off of us.
I promised her when she died that for the rest of my life I was gonna live for her. I mean, really live.
But nothing I’ll ever do will ever be that grand again.
This story is cross-posted from The Moth for Love Less Ordinary, a special edition of HuffPost UK’s Life Less Ordinary blog series. You can buy the book here and listen to Mike tell his story live here.