Bent Words

Bent Words

April 26, 2008

He sort of stood nervously. I say sort of because it was as though it wasn’t his fault, the way his whole body seemed to faintly flinch, like the wooden floor beneath his feet was inconsistent or instable and thus he had to carefully position himself lest he misjudge some unknown obstacle below. His eyes widened and his eyebrows rose as he let out an exaggerated sigh which released an insignificant amount of tension from his stiffened shoulders. I watched his thumbs as they alternately thrummed the bar and I knew, without looking up, that he was searching the space from left to right for someone.

Probably someone other than the bartender.

“Ahhhhhhh, I guess I’ll have… Well, the Spotted Cow, I guess. Thanks.”

He wasn’t a drinker.

Or if he was, he very indecisive about it.

He finally resigned himself to a semi-recumbent position to my left where he continued to sigh and thrum and, after retracting his phone from the inside pocket of his jacket and checking the time, twice, added a little left knee bounce to the enthralling routine.

He looked around him again, from left to right, and I felt his eyes fall upon me and my notebook. I was deftly hiding behind my hair. I tried not pause with my writing but the reality was that I hadn’t really been writing in the first place – I was merely retracing the lines of the only sentence I had laid down since my arrival two drinks ago, allowing the ink to bleed through to the next page. Still I was sure that I appeared convincingly absorbed.

The man to my left regarded his beer more than he drank it, observing it with a fierce expression as though it were the source of all his past failures. He bunched the edges of the bottle’s label under his fingertips and checked his phone again; this time for missed calls or messages, noisily clasping the phone shut after a moment or two.

The bartender, Kim, refilled my drink without asking. I ceremoniously stole yet another paper-sealed straw, carefully tore off the top and blew the remaining portion of the paper into the space behind the bar. Kim smiled. I smiled. The man to my left even smiled, though absently and awkwardly. He wanted to say something. I could feel it. I could hear it in the shortness of his breath, how desperately he wanted to be able to call up a casual conversation with the golden-brown haired girl to his right. But I wasn’t about to help him.

I just waited.

“Soooo… you’re, um, writing.”

He knew he sounded stupid, even before he finished his sentence, but he really didn’t have any way of saving himself at that point. He couldn’t blame it on the beer, the single lukewarm bottle he’d been nursing for the last hour. He couldn’t hide behind the length of the day, with it only being a few ticks past three in the afternoon.

“Sort of,” I replied.

He nodded. Then, nothing. The extent of his conversation apparently exhausted with three and a half words of keen observation. He resumed his impatience – thrumming, bunching, bouncing, waiting – and I my ink gathering. And then, just as I was contemplating the perfect simile, ready to record my genius, the man to my left exclaimed, in a burst of realization,

“It must be nice, ya know, that you can do that. I mean, how you are, content to be all alone, sitting here by yourself.”

And with that he rose abruptly, decidedly, placed a ten spot on the bar, nodded at me and stalked the door with an air of confidence or anger or resolution that he didn’t have when he walked in. Lost were his nervous ticks, his impatient taps and his bashful knee bounces. He was just done, finished, ready to sit and wait no more.

I just sat up straight, eyes wide, and silently stared after him.

Yeah... it must be.

Written at 11:37 p.m.