Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Marie Biondolillo’s fiction piece, Triangulating My Relationship with My Lover, the Motorcycle
John: One of the remarkable things about this piece is the way your narrator, in all of her awfulness, retains a certain air of likability. How did you do that? Or have I just succumbed to her office product-infused Wiccan powers, rendering me next in line for a short, tragic motorcycle ride?
People with tangible goals are likable, generally speaking. For instance, it’s easy to feel love/concern for athletes, because they’re always focused on some specific, time-based event, like winning a game or setting a new record. I don’t enjoy watching sports, but if you told me that a famous cricketer was trying to shatter the record for “most wickets in career,” I’d immediately start rooting for them, despite not being 100% clear on what a wicket is.
The narrator in “Motorcycle” has some unusual tangible goals, such as wanting her relationship with the motorcycle to be validated by at least one witness, but she also has several modest goals that are related to her desire for a normal life. Like anyone else, she’d enjoy being friendly with her coworkers, owning her own home, and being able to impress dinner guests with clever Alton Brown recipes. But she’s going about getting what she wants in a very unhealthy way.
I should note that the narrator doesn’t have Wiccan powers and can’t be classified as a witch of any sort. Her spells are “Wiccan” in the same sense that fruit pizza is “Italian.” The narrator’s achievements, such as they are, can be attributed to a blend of magical thinking, misplaced confidence, and sheer determination. That’s Skeletor energy, but that’s also Dale Carnegie energy.
What makes pants suits so alluring?
They’re sophisticated. They say, “I’m too busy to fuss with separates, so I decided to put on a coordinated garment combo that is far more worldly than a mere top or pair of pants could be, especially if you don’t wear a shell beneath the jacket.”
Furthermore, the pants suit is balanced on the razor’s edge between formal and casual. You can run in a pantsuit, but you can also wear it to a wedding or a job interview. Actually, when I see someone wearing a pants suit, I assume that’s what’s on their schedule that day: they’re going to lope through the city streets for an hour, then they’re going to officiate a wedding, then they’re going to interview someone for a position, right before they’re interviewed themselves for a better role at a rival company. Afterwards, they’re getting drinks with Iman and Bianca Jagger.
Jumpsuits are equally dynamic, but they’re not office-ready.
The motorcycle correctly observes that power imbalances are fatal to a healthy relationship, and yet he remains attached to the narrator. Shouldn’t he be able to do better?
So, the deal with the motorcycle is that he’s a vintage model, the pet project of an older man who recently passed away. His son/business partner inherited the motorcycle when he took over the body shop. At the point at which the narrator and the motorcycle met, the son was planning on selling the motorcycle for parts. The motorcycle therefore owes the narrator a major debt. Even though she’s manic and unpredictable, she saved his life. He feels safer with her than with some collector who’d see him as a series of eBay transactions.
There’s another issue as well, which is that he’s a naive, rural motorcycle. He’s not sure of how to survive in the narrator’s suburban environment.
The motorcycle said that power imbalances are an existential threat to relationships because he truly isn’t sure of whether he’d be attracted to the narrator if he didn’t need her. He’s secretly curious about what a transportation-on-transportation relationship would be like. How would it feel to ride around in a truck bed, or be carted about by a horse trailer?
I think it’s possible that in the future, the motorcycle will leave the narrator. He’s less amoral than she is and is bound to be opposed to further murders, any ill-defined cults she might start, etc.
What advice would an older, more mature motorcycle give to the present-day motorcycle? What advice would he give the rest of us?
The future motorcycle would tell his younger self that to survive, you sometimes have to make choices that you’re deeply ashamed of. However, once you recognize that a choice is bad, you shouldn’t lie to yourself about it or chase after sunk costs.
The present-day motorcycle is probably afraid to report his part in the murder to the authorities because he doesn’t want to betray an important long-term relationship or get impounded, but his future self might say that that’s the price of personal integrity. For people as well as motorcycles, it’s unwise to double-down on shitty decisions.