Bent Words

Bent Words

July 25, 2009

"Aren't you happy to be out of that dump?"

Four years later and people still ask me this with finished smiles upon their faces. They are certain I will agree and something of my expression must signify consent more than it does contradiction because they go on.

"I mean, there was no parking. No room. The entire foundation stood crooked. I'm surprised the place is still standing! I heard the new owners couldn't make a go of it either. What a -- excuse my language --shithole."

My shoulders rise up and I shove my hands deeper into my pants pockets, as though I were able to bury their comments along with my hands. I lose eye contact and distract myself with a person in the distance who's attempting to hang a motorcycle with a cable to a thick beam near the ceiling. He shouldn't be doing that by himself... I never know how to answer. Even when I think I do know how to answer, it seems there's something wrong with the explanation. The lack of preparation on my part, the interpretation on their part -- the part where I bother to justify my affinity toward a dilapidated place long gone.

So I nod. Nod and agree. That's easier.

"Yeah. We sure do have better parking here. That's for sure."

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In the air, in the air

Through the humid sky his voice would rise unexpected and sudden like the surprise of a popping balloon. The once tame tones faded out with the day and here, in the evening, is a new man bouncing 'round like a boy. With confinement unwrapped and duties done he seems bigger, louder and... more. With a question waiting to be answered, his eyes come alive, and he no longer just looks at you as he's passing by -- he sees you. His mouth opens wider with every word in his speech and his gestures turn grand as he orchestrates and emphasizes this new mood. Smiles turn to grins, handshakes into hugs, statements to declarations. Here, in this moment, the world around him expands like a welcome sigh, heaving out against the day's disabling timidity. And you can feel it in the air.

You no longer feel that here in this new place with its tall walls and high ceilings. The expansive showroom floor, which stretches fivefold beyond the old shop, housing several toys of motley hues, doesn't hold more excitement. Rather, it seems empty. It can hold more motorcycles, not more character.

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To me, that place -- that 'dump' -- was like the beginning of a dirty habit. You know it's not-so-good and you don't try to convince yourself otherwise but you go ahead with it just the same. You're young and strong and unyielding and who says you can't quit at any time? By then you're hooked. There isn't a specific date circled on the calendar marking your steady progress of infatuation but there you are -- all at once; all in. Your repetitive ways having mysteriously turned to devotion.

You didn't see the crumbling exterior as you entered the front door. What caught your eye were perfectly aligned metallic machines, standing aggressively as though leaping forward to greet you. The years of dust which dripped from the walls in the middle of summer was easily overlooked when the Ducatis and MV Agustas came into view and what of the leaking roof when deals were to be had? The dirtied counter tops full of greasy fingerprints and oil stains were never consider obscene but rather well used. The catalogues with a thousand pages, worn seams and more fingerprints, showcased a mélange of parts, accessories and clothing and expert eyes deftly turned to remembered pages. It wasn't about the uneven floor or the cracks in the glass of the front door. It wasn't about parking spaces (well, not usually) or the perfect display -- it was something more.

It was something in the air. Something seductive and intriguing. Like being at home. A bit run down and a bit beat up but that's why you sympathize with it, defend it. You know it and it knows you, like an old friend, a little worse for wear but still standing, ready to greet you as though nothing's changed. And we did complain while we were there but we miss it now that we're not.

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It has been years. YEARS. I wonder how he's changed, if he has, but even more so, I wonder how I've changed, if I have. If he is there, although I know he won't be, what will he see? I'll stand in front of the mirror, hiding in the women's room, and scrutinize the lines, worry about my figure. But none of that will matter for I know that he won't be there.

I watched as the signs went up, the posters hung, the flyers handed out with every purchase. The race team he works for is hosting an autograph session at our shop and, when I heard the news, I dropped my paperwork. I leaned over and attempted to collect purchase orders and special order details only to have my pen fall out of my front shirt pocket with my lighter and with the pen and my lighter my glasses, once sitting stately upon my head, found their way to the floor. My face was a brighter shade of red then my shirt and I clumsily blamed it on the fact that I had stood up too quickly. Stupid shy-meter face.

And it's all wrapped up into a moment that hasn't happened yet. A moment that may not happen at all. Part of me knows he won't be there but another part of me doesn't know for certain. And so I just watch as they raise posters and I listen as they chatter of preparation and I wait, endlessly, for my pulse to calm its clamber. I let everyone else just think I'm clumsy while I trip over the obviousness and stumble over the possibility. But he won't be there so it won't matter....

Unless he is. In which case I shall concede the floor. I'll stay out of the way and hide my face, so he has nothing to explain and nothing to prove later. I'll disappear from my own space for, who knows! Perhaps he won't want to remember, perhaps he won't want to see. Perhaps he's not wondered how I'm doing or perhaps he knows enough already. Perhaps it would be too easy to walk down the street for a drink.

Perhaps he believes the sting of it all will be quite gone. The shock of our eyes meeting, how it nearly drove us backward from each other though all we wanted was to dive with unforgiving minds forward. The blow to the chest that stops your breath whenever we heard the familiar fall of each other's voice. That last second when you could have run away but what of movement can you expect from legs surrounded by thick and exquisite terror? Face to face with calm intentions turn into the million things we've wanted to say that we can now hardly think of let alone string together into one coherent sentence. And that damned smile that you can't quite keep from tugging relentlessly at the corners of your mouth as you swallow the nervousness down with an audible gulp. Perhaps, for him, it will all be quite gone.

But I don't know.

It's all in the air, in the air.

Written at 8:10 p.m.