Bent Words

Bent Words

October 26, 2009

Although I had blamed the previous night's admission on booze, I could not deny the vivid truth -- there was something there. Something I had never felt before or since.

At work, every breath followed a forced exhale. Every animated step was likely to be followed by an encounter. Every word I heard, every question that was asked, every bit of escaped laughter might be followed by his voice. Every moment seemed to be held in deep suspense. It was as though something frightening but brilliant was attempting to exact an escape from within my chest, any moment I would burst.

And the place wasn't big. There weren't many places to escape to or from. There was only one bathroom, one toilet and it could be him who I was waiting on to go next and what if we came face to face? What if he could just see it written all over my expression? What if I blushed? It wasn't right and we both knew it and so we did our best in that confined space.

I desperately tried to push these feelings down, to swallow them up before they found life. I occupied every minute with work and reasoned with myself that this was a fleeting thing that I could overcome.

Still, it was there. And what do you do with that elephant in the room?

Well, you cover it with a giant tarp and pretend you don't know what it is and rationalize it as a fluke and you dare not lift the cover despite your peeking curiosity. That's what you do. You lie to yourself.


I love sales back then.

I was free to write up my own deals. I added parts and accessories to as many deals as I possibly could -- the goal being that every SV650, every CBR600, every GSX-R rode off with an exhaust and a the promise of a dyno tune. I rocked the house back then. My manager was able to pass off all his deals onto me and he trusted me, believed in me. I started from the beginning, with a handshake, and worked the extra hours in order to perform specific customer deliveries at the time of pickup. I knew how much oil was needed for each unit, how much tire pressure a bike should have. I knew maintenance schedules and major service intervals. I went through the brakes and the turn signals and the questions about 'good gas' and 'bad gas' and how not to get on the tires too much too quickly. I wrote down the VIN and the key numbers in customer owner's manuals and I handed out my business cards and implored people to call me if they had further questions. I wouldn't let the service donkeys clean or detail my customer's bikes -- I had to do it myself or else I would worry whether or not it was done correctly. I covered all the bases or, at least, I tried to.

But I couldn't have done all that without Him.

He was the one, when no one else would do it, who prepped a JR50 before the doors to the store opened in the morning, when I needed to deliver a bike before 10am. He was the one who gave me the technical tutorials regarding tire pressure and gas and oil levels and idle screws and mirror adjustments and clock settings and break-in periods. He was the one I went to with questions for I knew I count on him to dedicate the time -- I knew he would go the extra mile to make things right, to make things perfect. He was always the one who stayed late at night, setting up last minute customer deliveries or dynoing bikes, to ensure this level of quality.

But he wasn't always working on someone else's bike -- sometimes he was working on his own after hours. Sometimes he wasn't alone. Sometimes a parts guy would stay late and wrench on his moto bike, rebuilding a buddy's forks. The Finance Manager hung out to clean his Ducati on the lift and sometimes customers/friends milled about the garage doors, garnering free advice or a dyno tune in exchange for a case of Miller Light.

And so, chances were, if you drove past the place after closing, you would catch the shop lights still burning, the garage door still open, the loud sounds of late night engines... and a few employees raising the roof with laughter.

I, too, began hanging about with the boys after hours.

Someone would take the little shop scooter down to Discount and return with a case of beer barely balanced on the footrest. "Drink it before it gets cold." We sat on bike stands, stools from the counter, old bikes or cases of beer and shared our stories. We talked about bad customers, good customers, motorcycles, improvement to the shop and management. We cranked up the tunes and I was just happy to have something to do, good people to be around. I asked questions about everything and received too many answers to make sense of most of it. We employees worked on bikes and goofed off on more -- hitting up the slab of concrete outside the building with dirt bikes and scooters and ATVs. I hopped onto anything the boys would let me hop onto and made my usual run down the street, speeding back to the shop on at speeds over 80MPH.

Most of all, it was just great staying late because there was always a sense of triumph over the day, a feeling as though we had conquered the place -- it didn't defeat us, we won. It was like a battle, every day, and we were out to win. The lacking air conditioning or lacking heat didn't beat us. The angry customers didn't complete dissolve us. The overwhelming circumstances did not completely overwhelm us -- we were still there, still alive and kicking. We made it. Only we could understand what it was like and so we came together at the end of the day to make sense of it all, to count our losses and recount our accomplishments.

It was on the days that we didn't stay late, when I would return home and work on my customer follow-ups, that I felt alone.

And so I sometimes wrote letters to him, knowing that he would understand.

Letters I would never send.

Written at 1:28 p.m.