Bent Words

Bent Words

January 22, 2010

But these dreams are something else...

I wake up in my grandmother's den in Pewaukee with the sun shining through the blinds that I apparently forgot to close the night before. I look up toward the bright window and picture the pool and the pond and the willow trees on the other side. I wonder if today will be a good day golfing for grandpa. Other than the fold out couch facing a different direction, everything is as I remember it. The faint smell of mild tobacco from my grandfather's pipe, the tink, tink, tink sounds coming from the kitchen, the soft creaking noise as someone walks into their own den in the condo above. I fold the sheets, remove the pillows, reset the couch and handle the cushions.

There my grandmother stands in the kitchen, holding a pile of cardboard and a piece of string. A small flattened box for butter on the top. I walk up behind her small frame and declare a good morning as she finally speaks in a normal tone, no longer afraid of waking me, for the first time today. I help her to tie the string around the cardboard for recycling and then promise to take the bundle downstairs later. I sit at the small kitchen table in the corner and watch as she prepares a bagel for me with cream cheese. The wrinkles on her hands accompanied by brown spots and a bracelet, the faint scent she carries with her, the way she blinks and swallows and mumbles softly to herself, her crooked little feet and her way of always making you feel welcome no matter how undeserving you might be... All these things I soaked up as I sat there.

For the first time since I can recall visiting my grandmother, I wash her dishes. I do not wonder that I've never done it before but I resolve to undertake this task every time I visit. I resolve to visit more. I do not wonder why, for once, these things didn't occur to me sooner or feel guilty that they didn't. What of guilt can there be when she is quite alive and well and standing right beside me?


I'm doing my own thing at the bar. Quietly enjoying a hookah and chattin' it up with the tar benders. Writing notes down on a napkin which I won't save once I get home. Indecision strikes me as I'm ready for another.... Corona? Captain and Diet? Shot of Hot Sex? Shot of that 'Expresso stuff?'

Give the motorcycle nod to those I know, an enthusiastic wave to those I like. Grab some dollars for the jukebox but repeat the indecision experienced with picking out my next drink.

Shoot some darts and occasionally answer "Sure" to the question, "Can I join you?"

And that's where he walks up out of nowhere.

"Can I join you?"

He looks and sounds nervous which, I know, will be the source of his seemingly endless flow of adrenaline. And I'm nervous, too, trying to act casual and cool -- trying not to let my lips leap out into a tall, telling smile. But that doesn't seem to stop the innocence of his his shoulder rubbing against mine as he whispers "Your turn" at the board. I hand him the set of darts and touch his hand with mine in the exchange and all the while I know it seems so silly, so simple, but every time our eyes meet or our hands touch or our elbows rub it's like an electricity surges up between us.

And it's more addicting than nicotine.

Luckily he knows exactly what to do with a juke box. He doesn't have to inquire of strangers at the bar what they would like to hear because he knows exactly what he wants. The Cult in the background, the dim lights of the bar, the way no one seems to notice the fire between us. And that's where the pretend ends and the real begins. We dance. So close I can feel the brush of his hair on my cheek, the whisper of his breath on my ear, the weight of his heartbeat competing with mine. The little stumbles of our feet followed by genuine laughter.

It's so real and feels so good and it's so impossible to imagine being anywhere else that I can barely get through the day when finally I wake. Consciousness is like a disappointment compared to what was real to me only moments ago.

But is it the Chantix or me?


I find a stash of my mother's nasty More cigarettes in her purse. I cannot help it but I steal them. I wake up feeling rotten for stealing from my own mother and guilty for reverting back to cigarettes. It's just so real that it affects me for hours. I can smell the leather of her purse, feel the zipper slowly separate and hear the crinkle of clear foil as I mechanically unwrap one of the two red packs I've taken. I can taste the slim cigarette between my lips. The *click* of the lighter. The initial repulsion followed by a magnificent exhale....

But I'll cut that one off at knees.


I find myself back at the old shop. My first day back. I'm trying to remember everything I tried to forget and I don't know why but I'm running around with a cigarette in my hand that I won't light, searching for an available computer to look up a part for a particularly impatient customer and as I'm rolling around the corner with determination set in my eyes, frustration burning through my forehead, I see him and hit the brakes.

"What... What are you doing here?"

He's kneeling in the middle of the shop with a ratchet screwdriver in his hands, attending the dyno machine which has somehow made its way from the trailer to the shop, and laughing at something that Marc said a moment ago. He looks up at me with an expression that's not entirely surprised but certainly not calm and he says hello and I say hello and he takes a moment and in that moment I suddenly realize that perhaps that's all we are now. Hello and maybe a handshake.

"I'm fixing the dyno," he finally says.

Later on we meet again. He's looking for a cigarette. He asks me if he can bum one. I tell him I quit.

"That's funny," he says. "So did I."

He almost smiles and takes a moment, leaving his eyes in mine, and walks away. And I stand there, struck. Immovable. All the things he says with a simple expression. And I suppose that's how it all started -- way back when -- when we didn't talk much but I strained to listen to what his eyes had to say.

At the end of the day we meet in the parking lot. I ask him if he found someone to bum a cigarette from. He says he didn't bother to look for one from anyone else. I tell him I'm proud of him, really proud of him, because I know it's not easy. No, he agrees, it's not at all easy -- the hardest thing he's ever done. I smile and he smiles and I nearly sink and we say good bye. And so much more.

Written at 12:17 p.m.