Bent Words

Bent Words

September 17, 2007

Those were the only mornings when she could successfully rise from a bed filled with him when the hour more closely resembled pre-dawn than daylight. When the evening air’s chill could still be felt on the floor and the windows were tempting to be closed. Even song birds had a few minutes left of repose and so it was always a little more than amazing that she should be greeted so early with all the excitement of a girl getting a new puppy. But that’s how it was on the mornings he raced.

He, on the other hand, was always able to keep his cool. On the outside, anyway. Methodically, he went about his morning. The bathroom door left slightly open and as she curled beneath the covers, she listened, watching him in her mind as he showered, brushed his teeth, rubbed gel between his rough fingers, prepared coffee that she wouldn’t drink, smoked a first cigarette and switched on the computer. She missed him in those moments, more than she would ever admit, greeting a race day with all the elation that he was able to contain, because he was so focused, so single-minded, so reserved and quiet. She felt a little left out, at first, until the moment when she could successfully catch his eye and provoke that gorgeous smile.

Secretly she smiled despite her tired eyes as he passed on breakfast and still thought of her growling tummy. Wildly ecstatic with the idea that they would be two of only a handful of humans conscious this early in the day – preparing coolers, double checking toolboxes, fastening the bike and garnering supplies at the local grocery. It was a mini vacation, filled with race gas and extra sparkplugs, crisp air and unknown outcomes, friendly faces and fast talkers. It was what they forgot to bring and how everyone came together to assist them in those moments. It was dressing down, preparing for dirt and dust and grease and sweat, instead of preparing oneself for an evening out. It was hardcore, heavy hitting, exciting and irresistible – the mornings that he raced.

He suited up and fiddled with wrenches while she took a rag and cleaned the bike. People looked over and laughed but she always said that “a clean bike was a happy bike and a happy bike was a fast bike.” Something about aerodynamics, she added, and then, just like that they were off.

His head down, focused, waiting at the line and looking more tense than a tiger ready to pounce, his shoulders raised high, his gloved fingers twitching slightly and then the count, just before green. The simultaneous revving of twenty bikes, the buildup, the pass – he got them on the inside, took the holeshot and led the crowd through the chicane. Around the sweeping right-hand turn in the backfield, through the gravel that presented the dirt and all was dust and confusion. She waited impatiently for the color of his helmet to reappear – her only distinction – and when it surfaced, she jumped wildly from side to side, calling out like a crazy woman, raising her arms high into the air, forgetting to get the picture or knocking over the remains of her Diet Coke. She cheered, endlessly, tirelessly, with abandon. Nothing else mattered.

He was battling for the lead, swapping it up and stuffing another rider into a corner as often as the other guy was returning the favor. The infield, watching his rear tire turn in toward her, sliding and squealing, was where her hand always seemed to become magnetized to her mouth – she couldn’t bear to turn away but how could she watch!? The potential highside played in her mind but there he was, giving it, racing against time, shaming the rest of the field, keeping it so real that no one could comprehend what had just happened.

He won.

He got the holeshot. Overcame the odds. Won the race.

Nothing else mattered. Not the trophy, or lack thereof, not the speech, not the wind or the rain or the sun shattering his sight. Just that he was there. Happy. Smiling. Ready for more or exhausted beyond compare. Just that he did it, he made it, he conquered and killed the competition. Just that he was there and will always be.

And when you have a million people who are closer, a million faces more clear, a million smiles more powerful and thousands of ways to bury your fears… When I’m the furthest from your mind, the least of all your concerns… I’m still here, lost somewhere in crowd, drowned out by the sound of a million voices, waving and jumping out of control because that’s how much I’ve always wanted you to win. At everything. I never stopped cheering. And though it may be that others don’t understand this madness, this necessity, this adoration, I don’t think I can apologize. Not for celebrating the absolution of you – not for celebrating life.

It’s just been my time to give you back some of that which you gave to me.

Thank you and, please, please just go on winning. Take it, Gorgeous. The race is yours.

Written at 10:19 p.m.