Bent Words

Bent Words

April 12, 2008

They all asked me what I was doing, as though I knew. Running around in circles, trying to keep my hands from shaking, biting my cuticles, sitting there looking like a wild leaf in the wind ready to be carried away by the slightest inclination. What was I doing?

I missed class. That was what I was doing. It was noon and I was supposed to be sitting in a classroom watching a movie which was likely unrelated to the course because the professor had to be out of town again on a ‘very important meeting’ but instead I was sitting in my car, lighting up cigarettes and contemplating how I could go to the bathroom without leaving the radio. I was just waiting to hear his voice.

That’s what I was doing.

It had been a year. A whole year since I heard his actual voice, though its musical tones have touched my ears on plenty of offbeat occasions in between. I just wanted the absolute proof – the undeniable fact that he was, is, indeed, alive. No questions, no notions, no maybes – just sound, solid proof.

Who was I kidding? I wasn’t going to go to class. I backed up my car in a gruff (stupid guilt) and sped off. The radio-thon still hadn’t interviewed him. I had been listening to the damned radio every minute of the last day and a half and he still wasn’t on. I knew he wasn’t on and I knew it was just a matter of time before he was. I couldn’t risk missing him so I just circled around town, my bladder impressing upon me a certain sense of urgency which really couldn’t be ignored much longer.

I pulled into a Walgreens parking lot. Since I skipped class, I could finally attend to the toilet paper and cat food I needed but how could I leave the radio for such an extended period of time? Did the cats really need food? Damn it. I sat in my car biting my fingers and thrumming the steering wheel – partly because I didn’t know what to do and partly because I had to pee so damned bad. People exiting Walgreens looked at me funny, as though I were about to have a seizure or pull out a gun, so I stopped biting my nails (sure sign of seizure and/or robbery attempt) hoping that would give me some semblance of normalcy.

I should have planned this out better.

I waited until Bob and Brian played a request – A Boy Named Sue. Surely old Johnny Cash would grant me some time.

Do they have to play that song every year? That and the Bugs Bunny song square dance song – really… I thought while marching into Walgreens.

Head down, list ready, purposeful game face on, I sped through Walgreens. Was I shaking? Was I really still biting my nails? Was I nervously eyeing the various flavors of deodorant, questioning my ability to choose Island Sun over Powder Fresh? Was I talking to the toilet paper, coaxing my usual brand out of hiding from the convenience store shelves? Yes, I was. But not once, at the time anyway, did I think myself ridiculous – I just knew how things had to go. I had to hear his voice.

That’s what I was doing.

Naturally I got stuck in a traffic jam of coupon holders in the checkout line. Chick didn’t understand why she couldn’t get one package of toilet paper for seven dollars if she could get two for fourteen and so I offered her a piece of biting intelligence – “There will be other coupons, let this one go.” She didn’t hear me. Or she was just ignoring me. I know I would have ignored me. But the two backwards hat wearing freaks in front of me, who thankfully had only to purchase a bottle of water, giggled. Hooray for them and their lacking coupons.

I rushed out of Walgreens and sighed a big breath of relief once I found that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Radio-Thon had only been playing crappy requests during my shopping experience. I didn’t miss him. Well… I hoped I hadn’t.

I then headed off to work. I probably should have called in sick. The owner wouldn’t play 102.9 on the main system and I knew I couldn’t tune it in on my computer for the company I keep in the office, so I should have just called in. I already used the Flu excuse once this year, though. What to do. What to do.

Well, first things first, my bladder was about to empty itself, with or without a toilet.

As I dropped my bag on the floor in Katie’s office and rushed toward the bathroom, I urgently charged her with the task of tuning in the radio station on her computer. I knew she’d do it quickly and without question. I knew she wouldn’t hassle me or look at me like a bunny about to be eaten alive. Katie’s super efficient like that, whereas I would have continued to blink with a bland expression on my face had the tables been turned.

When I returned, I told her the deal. I explained everything, quickly and perhaps a little poorly. I told her to please keep the station on and if they should introduce Shane, “you must, upon penalty of death, call me into your office.” She nodded. Sweeeet.

I went to my office and before I could even turn on my computer, Katie was paging me over the intercom.

I almost fell over my chair, tripping on my book bag. I nearly poked a salesman’s eye out with my pen, I pushed aside another on my way down the hall and didn’t even think about the fact that I was punched in, getting paid for my insanity.

And there he was.

Same voice speckled with nervous undertones. Same high pitched laughter which drifts off into a deep satisfaction that seems to have no end and that’s right about when I could see the light in his eyes. His story flowing through me as Katie spilled her coffee onto her desk and keyboard and I refused to abandon my post in order to obtain paper towel and only thought about helping to swab the caffeine up with my pullover or sock or anything within reach which wouldn’t detract from this moment. What was I doing that whole time? Was I standing or sitting, commenting or listening attentively, smiling or frowning, nervously tapping my foot or remaining perfectly still?

I had my proof. All those stretched out seconds of worry were worth it. All those late nights wondering what was wrong when I would ask “What is wrong?” or pretend, right along side him, because I thought it was what he wanted, that nothing was wrong at all. The nights I listened, the nights I watched, the nights I waited. All those upside down emotions suddenly seemed okay.

It was worth it – every inch. Every weekend comprised of cheering from the side lines, of maxed out lungs and maxed out moments. All those days we packed together with passion, riding faster side by side as though the world couldn’t catch us and all those nights we spent in untiring momentum, working late or sitting beneath an endless summer sky – daring the higher powers to scold us. And they did…

But though we’re not together and I cannot inquire as to what is wrong or sit quietly in his presence hoping that that’s enough or crack a joke that will split the silence because I’m too nervous to admit the pain or even just check up on an old friend; it’s worth it.

It was worth the worst because it was worth the risk. It was worth fighting for, worth worrying and being crazy about. It was worth it – the small slice of time we shared, the sacrifices, to know the light that shines in his eyes, to know something more exists in our capacities as human beings.

It was entirely worth waiting for.

Just to hear his voice.

Written at 9:53 p.m.