Bent Words

Bent Words

June 21, 2007

Down the driveway and over the street, ‘just like Frogger,’ you’d say. Kicking a stone between our steps through the parking lot and lifting our noses once the scent of Chinese food strikes the air. Crossing the street again – this one filled with potholes and debris. The building to our left is occupied by a Spanish family. Their small blue car is parked outside, on the street, the license plate; GLY-360. I see the family sometimes, hanging out in the frame of their front door, watching the traffic roll by. We stroll on to embark upon our secret path, which wasn’t much of a secret but we love to think so.

Sometimes we took our bikes. You could handle the gravel much better than I.

The wooden bridge beyond the path is lined with boxes of flowers which I always wanted to inhale slowly – the water below us gurgling by as you paused awhile to let me catch up. Ducks lead their young carefully into the water only to watch them slip gently away with the current. We’ll wait to make sure they have found the security of a rock, finding their footing, and their mothers, once again.

In the winter, the bridge is icy and the flowers are just sickly little sticks poking out from frozen earth. We’ll run our gloved hands over the bridge rail, removing snow as we walk over. We’ll leave our mark by making pictures with our finger tips – I’ll recall the ducks in spring and draw your smiling face into the white power. You like to make baby’s feet with your fist and I like to watch you; careful and slow.

Over the red brick path that follows the river. There are tall, iron fence gates on the other side where thousands of spiders of all sizes live – we call it Spider Alley – and we’ll stop, every time, to claim which one is the biggest. The old-fashioned street lamps light our way. Underneath them benches where no one sits but I walk on them while you hold out your hand, reaching toward me in case I should fall.

We pass behind shops and cafes and bars and restaurants, wondering at the clamber that goes on inside. The scents from the doughnut shop, where someone is always working regardless of the hour, make us want to step inside but we never do. We just appreciate that it’s there.

We’ve taken this route a thousand times and yet I have no sense of direction. You gently push me to one side, marking the way which we should turn. I smile and think about how I could never do this alone. I’d never want to.

There is no destination in mind but somehow we end up there – downtown at our favorite, quiet bar of which the best bartenders serve you up your usual drink or a Bloody Mary if you’re hungry. They also serve a bit of wit, charm and nicotine. You can hear yourself think unless there’s a game and downstairs some people play poker.

On Friday nights we head down to Main Street and sit on the back patio of another establishment. The area is decorated with cheesy flamingo string lights, Hawaiian umbrellas and tiki lamps. The employment isn’t nearly as amicable but we’re there for the live music, anyway. The father and son due play Simon and Garfunkle, Margaritaville and others I never remember yet thoroughly enjoy. You laugh at me – singing poorly late into the night.

The drinks go down smoothly as we know we have no where to be and, since we’re on foot, we aren’t much of a risk to others. But we know we should eat something. Just to soak up a bit of the alcohol.

We head back and stand in front a steak shop which advertises The Best Steaks in Town. We never have the steak. We stumble in just before they begin cleaning up and order a fish fry. We can’t eat at the bar but the owner will let me smoke at the table when no one else is around. We watch the busboys clean, vacuum and set chairs up side down and comment about how this is the best fish fry we’ve had.

Eventually, we head back down along the river, over the streets and parking lots, perhaps steadying each other as we go. This time, we’re out of breath, the way back is uphill. But we laugh, chugging along. It’s always a good time and I never fail to wonder at the fact that you introduced me to all of this – even though I had been living here for five years – I had never before seen the beauty in my own backyard.

They have now demolished the building where the Spanish family lived. The blue car is gone and only a pile of what was remains on the corner where we once headed down our secret path. The path, too, is gone, somewhat. A fence blocks the way, to someday be replaced by condos and someone’s backyard.

It seems appropriate that it is all gone now since you are gone, too.

But it sure was a nice walk while it lasted.

Written at 8:38 a.m.