Bent Words

Bent Words

January 24, 2006

Normally, when we arrive to my Grandparent's condo in Florida, my Grandmother and Grandfather can be seen standing right outside of the tall wooden fence that lines their flower filled patio. They were always waiting for us. Amongst the refreshing palm trees and the bright sun that tickles the top of the pool, one can next expect to see a big smile on my Grandfather's face contrasting the scowling look from my Grandmother who was sure we were all supposed to arrive earlier than we did. I suppose the usual stops to the liquor and grocery stores inhibited our once punctual plans.

My Grandmother's face would then melt into the warmest, inviting smile as she forgave our tardiness and gobbled us up, one by one, into her open arms. Grandpa would sneak back through the gate and take his usual position on the patio chair; his feet propped up in front of him with his pipe protruding through his grinning teeth. We were never happier, my parents and I, to see those two familiar faces beaming at us after a long, tedious day of travel.

This time, I traveled sans parentals with John and, this time, there were no smiling faces to greet us.

It felt rather appropriate that our arrival was marked with dark skies and quieted condominiums. A shining sun showing off the verdant patch of thick grass in the front of my Grandparent's home would have surely purported their spying faces through the gate once the sound of our rented minivan pulled into their free parking space. Still, I could not convince my shaking hands to shift from the tight grip around my bottle of Diet Coke to the door handle inside the blue Dodge Minivan. I simply sat there, stunned and silent, as though waiting for the right moment to exit the vehicle. My fumbling fingers making the task of opening the door even more daunting and thus I decided to wait until John had successfully maneuvered into the warm, humid air.

Once outside, I shuffled my bags about my shoulders and sighed, sniffing back the tears, focusing assiduously upon the keys in my hand. It didn't feel right for me to be holding onto these keys. This wasn't even my place. The gate was supposed to be open and the sliding screen door to the kitchen was supposed to be impossible to see for the bright lights in the kitchen. All was dark.

My key had not even made it into the wooden gate's lock before John's phone rang at 11:00 p.m.. It was my mother.

"She's just unlocking the gate right now," I heard John say.

I took the phone to my ear and my mother followed us through the opening of the front door. She listened patiently as we roamed about the empty condo. My Grandparent's abode was never so dark and so hollow and I've never felt such a hard pressing sense of emptiness as I did during that moment. It was like leaving a familiar hometown only to return to the shambles left over by a staggering storm - it just didn't seem right. But everything else about the condo in Florida was just as I remembered it.

The smell was still there. That scent of sweet warmth coupled with a hint of chlorine from the pool in the air. The dilapidated mat by the sliding patio door still threatened to slide out from under my feet whenever I crossed the kitchen with a cocktail and the tiled floor still felt cool and smooth on my toes. The living room still looked lonely as it was the least used room in the condo and the sound of the fountain near the entrance of the place could still be heard from the patio door.

I do not know what I said to my mother as she accompanied me through those moments of memories but I do know that I would not have been standing if not for her soothing voice over the phone. And what I would have given to have had my parents there right then as we all would have cautiously made our way around this strangely foreign yet too familiar place.

John poured the contents of my Diet Coke bottle, which contained part Coke and part Captain Morgan, into two glasses and we immediately changed into our shorts. Outside, the wind whirled around us as though whispering threats of a storm but we remained undeterred to be outdoors. We talked about my Grandma and Grandpa until the lids over our eyes drooped under our fingers and we finally resolved to head up to bed in the master bedroom. The idea of sleeping in what was once my Grandparent's room never failed to torment my senses but I knew that sleeping on the fold out bed in the spare room would have been the most physically uncomfortable experience for us both.

I would not have slept either way. The wind rushing through open balcony door picked at my conscious and, after lying awake for hours, I finally found an agitated bit of repose while John slept deeply beside me.

I was roused out of my sleep by the sound of my own voice calling out into the dark. I had a nightmare. It was 4:30 a.m. and my scream had not bothered John. I rose out of bed and looked around me. The darkness pressed in on my chest and the wind outside literally took my breath away. Just then, the spare room's door slammed shut and I was entirely wide awake. I jammed the door with a DVD (The Matrix Reloaded) and wondered at the fact that there was no DVD player in the house. I then turned on the light that led down the stairs and went to the refrigerator to grab a beer that was left behind by my aunt and uncle who had been there just a couple days before. I crept back upstairs to find my journal and a pen and occupied the spot on the balcony from the spare room. I scribbled down the remnants of my dream...

About seven young men came tramping through a downed spot in the tall, wooden fence that surrounded the condo's patio. It was dark and they were drunk and laughing and looking to ravage the place that they thought was unoccupied. I looked down at them from the master bedroom's sliding door and they caught the glint in my eye, seemingly one by one. They started to point and call out to me as though I were simply going to join them in their destructive quest. They began to advance upon me but I told them that it was time for them to turn around and leave and they did; slowly backing away from the hole in the fence through which they came.

I sought out the neighbors home in order to inquire if they had had any similar problems with hooligans when a blood curdling shriek broke through my concentration. Just as I approached the house, a women came spilling through the front door. Her hands bound in twine and her hair disheveled and blowing in the breeze. She looked at me through the tears in her eyes and claimed that her husband had gone crazy. She warned me to be wary of his illogical acts of insanity and just I was turning to run away, I saw John hanging from a tree before me. He was hanging from the back of his shirt and his hands were also bound in twine although the twine was tied in in shoe lace fashion. It was easy to release him and once he was free of the tree, we went back to my Grandparent's condo.

Little did we know that the crazy bastard was following us. Just as I made it up the steps to the master bedroom and looked behind me at John, the woman's psychotic husband came rushing up the stairs behind John. He pushed him through the door and into the spare bedroom. I heard two loud 'crunches' which I first associated with punches but as I ran through the spare bedroom door to John, I found that he was hunched over and holding his hands against his chest. The lunatic had broken John's pinky fingers and then leapt from the balcony onto the ground and ran off through the hole in the wooden fence. John cried out that his fingers were broken and I senselessly screamed after the man that had attacked him...

Stupid dream.

*** To Be Continued... ***

Written at 4:35 p.m.