I followed Kendra's gaze to a shiny, candy apple red Harley, motoring down the road.
"Wow is right, kiddo. That's a Hartley Davidson."
"You know that guy?"
I laugh, and I'm thankful for the levity after pouring another sixty dollars into the tank of my Minivan.
As usual, Kendra gives me her well-rehearsed bit of "I could sure use a drink, the sun is hot and I'm thirsty."
Her favorite drink? Some concoction with a whole cup of sugar called Buggie Juice. I'm pretty helpless against the batting of her long lashes and the polite way she asks for a little bottle of the stuff after running her pitch by me.
The sun is hot, and we have a bit of a long ride today.
She rewards me with a "Yay!" when I agree and we go into the store to pick up some snacks, her Buggie Juice and two bottles of water. (because I know she'll be parched once the sugar crystallizes in on her palate.)
When she climbs back into her seat, another motorcycle rumbles up to the gas pump in front of us. The rider is a thick man with tattoos on his arms, and a long dark beard. He peers at us from behind smoke-colored wrap around sunglasses and nods in greeting. I've yet to find a biker with poor manners.
"Nice ride," I tell him, sincerely.
"Thanks, man. Good day to ride."
We smile at each other and he stops and waves comically at Kendra, who regards him with a shy little glance and the phantom of a smile.
"Have fun today, little cutie," the biker says in a voice that utterly detracts from the tough biker image.
I stare longingly at the bike, a Harley Davidson Road King, in gleaming black with shiny chrome accents throughout its body.
"I need a bike," I think aloud, my mind already conjuring an image of the wind in my face with the occasional bug slapping my cheek.
"You don't need a bike!" Kendra protests. "You have a van!"
"Vans aren't cool, especially minivans. Don't you want me to be cool?"
Kendra gives me a look I've seen on my wife seemingly on a daily basis over the last thirteen years. "You don't need to be cool!"
"I don't? Why not?"
"Because," she says with the exasperation of a teacher losing patience with his pupils. "You're a DADDY!"
I sigh, thinking girls must be born with some genetic code in their brain that enables them to lecture a man with finality; a way that makes any argument futile. With that one short sentence, she's covered every reason my wife has thrown at me each time I get the weepy eye over a motorcycle, though for some reason, I often find a way to quickly forget her arguments, which are often longer and much more eloquently delivered. But coming from my seven year old, the meaning couldn't have been clearer.
I'm her daddy.
And with the title comes a great responsibility to this little girl who depends entirely on me.
Suddenly my mind begins to call out directives at the speed of light, exercise more, eat better, lose some weight, don't work so much, get plenty of sleep, don't take stupid risks like riding motorcycles in a world where everyone's got their thumbs on their phones while driving. You're a daddy, act like it.
"Okay, you're right. No bikes."
Kendra nods once, pleased with herself for winning the argument. Definitely a woman in the making.
As I pull out of the gas station in my "cool" beige minivan, listening to her singing along with Taylor Swift, I'm assaulted by one thought that makes me laugh inwardly.
Kendra is going to make one hell of a wife. She's already one hell of a daughter.
(NOTE: As cool as this daddy may think he is, Kendra won't be reading THE GAZE until she's at least 16. In case any of you wonder...)