Bent Words

Bent Words

October 17, 2009

December 2000

I had my own desk. I had my own phone. I was completely surrounded by men... and, more importantly, motorcycles.

I was the receptionist at a motorcycle shop.

So I answered phones, took messages, wrote stupid FOR SALE signs on the windows with green paint, set up Christmas decorations (on the false premise that women have a greater inclination when it comes to adorning trees with frivolous bits of shiny tinsle) and learned about the internal goings on of a motorcycle shop.

I also read every single motorcycle pamphlet that I could get my hands on.

The Sales Manager had just fired his last sales person and so it was just him and the Finance Manager on the floor during the week. Although it was relatively slow and I was completely new to the industry, it wasn't long before I was forgetting the phones and answering the few questions I could posed by customers. We already had some of the 2001 motorcycles on the floor and there I was introducing the new F4i; explaining the benefits of fuel injection, going over the added tooth in the rear sprocket over last year's carbureted version and describing weight reductions where it counts...
A few days later I was pushed out the door to garner my sales license.

The first bike I legitimately sold was an Excelsior Henderson.

Things were going great and I loved my job. I felt so badass being a sales person at a motorcycle shop but I was also very careful to listen to customers and treat them with integrity. I never really got into the 'sneaky salesman' skin. I was just excited, honest and willing. Unfortunately things at home weren't going quite as well.

Chris in the wintertime was like a monsoon at a non-domed baseball game -- bloody depressing. His paychecks were lighter and his moods were... moodier. He still felt too tired to do anything and I couldn't break him of his hermit-like habits. There was no going out, no conversations, no sex and no fun. We argued a lot or kept up the insolent silence but there seemed to be no meeting in the middle. I didn't know it then but Chris was on anti-depression pills. This caused the lacking sex drive and the comatose states I frequently fussed over. Had I known, perhaps I would have been more sympathetic. Still, I tried. I tried to make things better.

So one day during the winter, when we were having a Christmas sale at work (and therefore drinking steadily from the keg), I suggested that the entire gang of employees head out to a bowling game -- yes, a bowling game. Because what cures the blues better than a game of bowling?!

And, MAN, was it ever game ON.

The service manager, service writers, parts dudes, technicians myself and a few others headed out to Who Knows Where and proceeded to bowl the night away. Just what I was looking for -- a bit of fun! After the game we all headed back to the apartment, since it was right down the road from the shop, and I can clearly see the gathering now. Our apartment was full beyond capacity which might not be saying much as four people standing could make the place feel a bit cramper but you get what I mean. So I was in the middle of our living room, chatting it up heavily with the boys and instigating a card game, when I noticed HE was sitting at the kitchen table by himself.

"What's going on?" I asked him.

"Nothing, just thinking."


I was always one to push the questions -- of strangers and friends alike but especially of strangers. Fewer consequences.

"I was thinking about... well... you... this... just reminded me of an ex-girlfriend."

He was speaking very quietly and so I moved him from the table to the kitchen counter area so that we might hear each other. To my surprise, he eyes were filled with tears as he described this women with whom he was in love with once upon a time. He said he had never meant to hurt but he knew he had and although he chose the path he was then on, he sometimes wished he could go back and tell her how he felt. He never forgot her, he said. He didn't know how to forget. I watched him explain the situation as he leaned up against the wall in my kitchen, ashing his cigarette in my kitchen sink. He was swaying from left to right and his belt rubbed up against the wall so many times that the mark from it still remains...

We somehow managed to converse the night away. I hardly recalled the other people in my apartment, what they were doing, what they were saying, whether they stayed or retired, I just saw Him with his tears and his insecurities and his stories. He was nervous and shy and yet somehow he was pouring his heart out to me as he had obviously not done in a very long time. And although I very much wanted to talk, to contribute, I could not help but listen. I was lost in those blue eyes swelling with genuine emotion. I was captured by his soft, silky voice that would break out occasionally into a shocking bit of loud laughter at one of my inane comments. I was exhilarated by quiet sincerity and taken in by his sorrow.

He had to go. I walked him out the door. I awkwardly wrapped my arms around him, not knowing if that was the right thing to do but feeling it was after our conversation and, with some liquid courage on my side, kissed his cheek for good bye.

"I feel like I'm saying good bye after a date," I said, blushing at such an inappropriate action.


One night soon after that I sat Chris down and explained to him with the utmost clarity, unlike I've ever had before or since, that we were not going to work out. I did not falter, I could not be swayed and I knew exactly what I wanted. I should have bottled up that firm resolution for later enjoyment but who thinks of these things when they're twenty?

"I would like for you to move out but if you would rather that I move out instead, let me know."

Chris moved out.

My father asked me to move back home saying that "I couldn't possibly make it on my own" and that's when I got angry.

I knew I could make it on my own. I knew I could do it. I dropped out of school (although I already had my Associates Degree, I wanted to get my Bachelors) and made work my full-time priority. Chris and I were still friends but the place was all mine and I cannot tell you now how it felt. It was as though I was on a permanent vacation with my own place, my own rules and my own computer. I sang MY songs while washing dishes but I had absolutely zero furniture. I slept on the floor for weeks. Eventually my parents would bring my old day bed accompanied by a supply of necessities including silverware, old dishes, my crappy old TV, a couch and a house plant (thanks Mom). My neighbor, Jim, would contribute a hammer, some glasses and a ton of support.

I put my head down and studied bikes at home, read all the magazines, wrote customer thank you cards and rocked the sales floor at work. 2001 would be the year that I would sell the most Suzuki motorcycles in our district -- I was on fire.

As spring approached we were bombarded at work with new customers. We had a full sales staff, morning meetings and a goal in mind -- we were busy as all hell. The hours at the shop were 10-7 but we all worked late and, on top of that, we needed to set up the place for my first Open House. The owner enticed all the employees with overtime pay, beer and pizza in exchange for volunteers to set up all the bikes in the warehouse after work for a whole week before the Open House. I volunteered, not knowing what I could contribute technically, mostly swayed by the booze and free food.

Our first late night was a Tuesday.

It was a cold night but of the ten volunteers none of us had sweatshirts on -- we all doffed our cold weather wear and hit the boxes filled with motorcycles. I began with the impact and 12mm socket to get all the damned bolts out of the metal motorcycle crates and steadily moved up in the ranks to vehicle setup. Chris showed me how to put on the mirrors, add oil, tighten bolts, check the equipment and then sent me out to test ride each bike (!). I rode Magnas and CBRs and 748s and GSX-Rs with new tires on cold pavement, I set up Ducatis and Hondas and Suzukis and rode each one with the realization that, in one night, I probably rode more motorcycles than one does in a lifetime. It was fantastic and my excitement never fagged.

It was late by the time we were done. But I wasn't tired. I had go-go juice mixed with excitement in my system.

I had left my gear at the shop and walked back down to grab my stuff when I noticed the garage lights were still on. I walked into the back, having to use the bathroom anyway, and there He was sitting in the dim light completing payroll for the Service Department employees. I said hello. He said hello. I pulled up a stool and sat next to him. He looked at me inquiringly.

"I'm not tired. I'm too jazzed up after having ridden twelve bikes in four hours."

I smiled.

He looked back down at his paper work.

I knew I was bugging him but he didn't ask me to leave.

I started talking about Chris in my normal fashion -- with little premeditated thought and tons of babbling. I told him about how I felt, why I asked him to move out and how it just seemed that we were no longer fit for each other.

"I know what you mean," he answered, looking away from his work. "I feel the same way right now. I mean, I love my wife but the other night, when she took my hand, I didn't feel anything. In fact, I just wanted to let her hand go. It's like I just don't have the same feelings anymore."

"As though you're being suffocated, right?"

"Right -- I just want to live but I don't know how to go about it."

He offered me a beer. I accepted. We kept on talking. Him in his chair, me on my stool. I twirled about, made him laugh, and asked him tons of inappropriate questions. We talked about stiction and rake, love loss and life, dreams and.... strip joints.

"I've been to male strip joint but never to a female strip joint -- I've always wanted to go."

"They're not that special, Laura, and they're really expensive."

"I know, but I've always wanted to go! I mean I can't go alone but I want to go. Maybe you should take me sometime!"

"Uhhhh, that's probably not a good idea," he said.

"Why not? What's the big deal? It would be fun!"

"Well, it's just that..."

"It's just what?" I asked.

"It's just that we have... nevermind."

"We have what? What were you going to say? You can't stop there!"

"I normally don't say this sort of thing, I'm not like this -- this isn't me," he said.

"What? What do you mean?"

"We have.... you and I... would... could have.... potential."

I was stunned.

I had no idea.

Until then I thought I was just pestering Him with my technical questions, with my incessant giggling and probing inquiries. I had no idea he actually liked me. I had no idea he was struggling with my presence, if he was. It knocked all the air from my chest. I had nothing to say in response. I had nothing for words when there were so many bubbling inside me. I simply said,


And although I felt terrible for causing whatever it was I had caused, I walked to my car that night smiling.

I could not help it.

Written at 10:38 p.m.