Bent Words

Bent Words

December 18, 2007

It was a day so hot you could feel the heat rise through your shoes from the sidewalk. The air was heavy and still enough to make you choke inside the tunnel and I had to wash my face three times before I finished pushing out in order to stave the salty sweat falling into my eyes. I remembered to bring a few tissues with me before I began again; the expletives sliding off my tongue as easily as the sweat from my brow.

It was a busy Saturday despite the lacking air in the shop. One of those days where everyone had a ‘clever’ comment regarding weather and you’d surely smack each one with a stapler if only you had the strength but none of did. In fact, rather than relishing in a cigarette, most of us spent our free moments haggling over pole position in front of one of the three oscillating fans in the building. It was better than baking in the sun.

Everyone was done long before the end of the day and, everywhere you looked, employees roamed about lazily with untucked shirts, circles wide under their arms and wet strands of hair threatening to drip into exhausted eyes. Everyone, that is, but Shane.

He was just quitting an air-conditioned car, rising slightly on his toes with each step and carrying with him a case of Miller Light – always cause for a cool grin in the midst of the suffering summer sun.

After the last customer faded and sought sanctuary in their air-cooled abodes, after all the toys were shoddily set to rest in the tunnel and after we had all washed our faces one last time, it was officially beer-thirty. Stretching out our bodies on the pavement that had finally cooled a bit since the midday heat, it was the only way we could think of – the ultimate sensation – to stand or sit or squat amongst the tools and toys and grease and tribulation and unfinished jobs and finally find ourselves with a moment’s worth of repose. Where once we could be sure to experience nothing less than mayhem and unforgiving features, we now found peace. Peace within the walls of delirium.

The madness ceased for us and now was our chance to watch the wiles of the world race beyond our borders. And there we sat, reveling in round two, facing forward without the necessity of words, while the rest of ‘them’ raced by in cars, in trucks and on two wheels, rarely stopping for red light on the corner of our little shop.

“I’ll put you guys on the list – just in case,” said our Finance Manager, Adam.

That steaming Saturday was Johnny Blaze’s last day at the shop and, with a name like that, so entirely appropriate, we had to regretfully let him go in style. Adam invited us to spend our last hours together by checking out his skills as keyboard player and faithful free shot receiver, extraordinaire. Thus, after another round of liquid courage, we happily acquiesced.

“And you can ride with me!” I exclaimed eagerly as Shane laughed all the while.

“Only if I can drive…”

Only if I can properly record this fine evening, I thought, holding up my camera for another ‘candid’ shot of Johnny Blaze scratching himself and faking the delight of my cigarette.

The location of the entertainment was farther away than anyone expected but well worth the pride of being ‘on the list’ and waving the normal door fee. The beer was on someone else, the table was sticky with the nonsense of those who came before us and the neon lights barely provided enough reassurance to make one’s way to the bathroom. The noise was astonishing and there was no room for chatter or banter – only wild bouts of laughter and meaningful glances and gestures of head shakes to handle the lacking quietude – and the band hadn’t even taken the stage yet. Someone next to us tripped on an invisible obstacle; a party behind us raised their shots high in the air purposing a toast that couldn’t be discerned; six bartenders leaned over the ruckus to take another order.

But whose concern was that in the perfervid moment that Shane’s eyes met my own?

“Hanging by a moment here with you…”

The heaviness of the day struck from the record. The irritable customers faded from memory. The noise, the clutter, the true purpose of our evening, the color of my work shirt, the blister on my left hand, the color of the sky, the day of the month – along with all the other simple certainties swirling somewhere in reality – dismissed.

There was suddenly nothing left to see and nothing left to know; nothing that one could be more curious about or enthralled with. All the wonders of the world were easily combined in that singular space and we could have been anywhere and yet it would have mattered not. The walls could have burned, the tables collapse on cue, the sentiments of children could have cried out and I would not have been the wiser.

It was as though the past caved in upon us and, within a quiet stumble, fell away from our perception.

It was the most astonishing, the most beautiful and the most brilliant catastrophe I have ever experienced.

And with that, there was no escape and no desire whatsoever to break free. There was nothing else – nothing more and nothing less in the world that could change our minds for we were powerless against it. Better judgment, ideal conceptions, sympathetic whims, obvious impossibilities… Like the darkness of night swallowing up the hopeless heat of the day – gone.

Written at 7:08 p.m.