Bent Words

Bent Words

July 03, 2010

Kyle wanted to cuddle.

The first time I saw him, I was upside down. My friend Tara and I were practicing hand stands and cartwheels in the front yard of her father's restaurant and, she assured me, our acrobatics would surely garner the attention of the two "cute new bus boys" working there. I suppose I went along with it because I liked handstands and cartwheels but I don't know about the "cute boy" thing. I wasn't really interested. I was in middle school. And Tara and I weren't really even friends. The only thing we had in common was geographical location -- we were both miles away from town, in the middle of nowhere. I think our parents brought us together because they were tired of hearing us whine, "Moooooom, I'm boooooored" all summer. But Tara wasn't really a person that someone like me could be friends with in any sort of lasting way. She got hurt too easily, for one thing, and I would always have to make my way back home if she stubbed her toe in order for her to appropriate the proper amount of rest "after such an episode." That and she sneezed "cutely." You know what I mean -- that sort of women don't sweat, they glow sort of way. That's how Tara sneezed.



Plus she didn't have any depth. I cannot recall us having ever talked about anything of interest. She was just that sort of girl that merely wanted people around her as she couldn't do anything alone. She couldn't swim in her pool alone, dance in her living room alone or eat her dinner alone. Someone had to be by her side at all times. Preferably someone who wasn't quite as pretty. That's the only way she could shine.

And so it was that we met Kyle. Because of geography and Tara's need to shine.

Kyle lived on a farm with his father and older brother a few streets down from my parental unit's place on the Lake during the summer months. His mother lived in Pennsylvania. Since his father was never really the "fatherly type" and didn't know what to do with his kids during three whole months of the year, he put them to work. All through middle school and high school, we got together with Kyle. We chased pigs on his farm, rode ATVs through his field and discovered the wonders that were his father's liquor cabinet. He and Tara kissed behind the pool at the restaurant. This was all during the summer and then he was again swept away back to his mother so that we might forget all about him during our days at school.

From the moment I met him, I knew something was different. Kyle was socially awkward. Blame it on his childhood or a lack of understanding between him and his fellow man; he was just plain odd. A stranger to social grace. Although a genius in all things mechanical, he simply had not a head for relationships. One summer, when he was ready to lose his virginity, he handed Tara a condom and waited for the result. No romance, no coaxing, no foreplay, no explanatory provocations; just awkward silence. Logically, it made sense. To him. He knew what he wanted so he produced the means necessary to make said situation occur. Emotionally, it was preposterous. It took me days to explain is faux pas. In the end, he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

He and Tara never spoke again.

The years passed by and we continued to get together during the summer; riding his ATV, taking the boat out on the lake, decreasing the overall sense of boredom we would have otherwise felt with me living in the middle of nowhere and him only hanging around for a summer. I went to visit him in Michigan when he went to engineering school and he came to visit me when I was first living here in Waukesha. After that, he got married and divorced within the blink of an eye and then began his own company to which he threw himself into wholly. It seemed a perfect design for such a one as him. Full-time work, zero-time relationships.

Now he's rich. His company has expanded into China. He has acquired more airline miles to Japan in that last year than he has to his family in the last ten. It's just how it is.

So I wasn't really expecting a call from Kyle on Saturday night informing me that he was "in town for the weekend."

He pulled into my parking lot sticking out like a sore thumb in a new, tricked out Corvette. Michigan plates and a rumble to boot. I walked out doffed in board shorts, a little t-shirt and sandals to meet my childhood friend. He looked exactly the same but for fifty or sixty extra pounds. He smelled like sweat and freshly cut grass.

"Yeah, that's why I don't bother to visit family anymore. All they do is put me to work."

Five minutes inside and he hit the shower. Ten minutes later we were on our way (on foot) to my second home, the Nice Ash. A few beers seemed necessary to break the ice.

I was, initially, excited to see him. But seeing him quickly changed to seeing his things. He showed me pictures of his house (he designed it himself) and his eight car garage. His kitchen is bigger than my apartment and there's not quite enough room for all his toys in his garage. He has two unimogs (which I don't get), two dune buggies and I don't know how many ATVs. A car for every day of the week and few trucks, just in case he needs to haul something. He has a Harley (poor guy) and a couple other toys that I failed to regard. He does, indeed, have a lot of... things.

When we got around to finally talking, it was as though someone threw together pancakes and carburetors. There wasn't much we shared in common. I asked him about his failed marriage and if he's been seeing anyone new. And, while he can talk about women well enough, it seems he can only reference them in the sense that "they are all crazy" or somehow disappointing.

"They're either the biggest bitches or stupid as hell."

Oh, Kyle...

Knowing that I'm not, in fact, the biggest bitch but feeling I had a little something something to prove, I turned it up a notch. I peppered my sentences with a few choice words and pondered over the things that (sadly, in my opinion) equate to person's grandeur in this society; politics and wealth. I suppose I hit Kyle's ON button because he responded with a new-found esteem. I got his attention. But only because I was attempting to prove a point. By the end of the night, Kyle was emphasizing how well I looked, how intelligent I was and how entertaining I could be. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all that, but I just wanted to chill with my buddy -- I didn't want to have to prove myself to anyone, raise myself to someone else's perceived caliber or feel ingratiated by impressing someone with my knowledge of language. Anyone can toss out a few bigs words. Anyone can garner a degree and declare themselves well-rounded. Anyone can surround themselves with objects and say they're wealthy.

But I don't care about your vehicles. I don't care what subjects you studied in school. I don't care how you personally feel about Obama or how you've used the word 'modicum' in a sentence twice incorrectly. It's about the words you know or the people you've met or the money you've stock piled. Not after all these years, anyway.

I just want to know how you're doing. I want to know what you makes you happy, what makes you sad. I want to know what you haven't done that you want to do. I want to know what you're scared of and what excites you. I want to know who you are, who you've become.

Kyle doesn't seem to know who he is. He knows what he has and he knows what he doesn't have. And while I'm happy he has so much crap, I'm not so sure that he's actually content. At all.

Still, we had a good night. I made him forget about his business for a few hours and just enjoy the flow of the evening. We closed the place down with hugs and handshakes for many people we didn't know and, upon returning back to my place, I resigned to allow him to crash in my bed. I don't have a couch and the floor is just mean.

But Kyle wanted to cuddle.

"I miss it. Just being close to someone. Just being able to touch someone's skin and smell someone's scent. I miss waking up next to someone in the morning after sharing an entire today together. I miss how good it feels when it feels right. I miss being around someone like you, Laura."

Finally. I saw his heart. Something more than an adoration for all things with wheels and a disdain for women. Something vulnerable and true. Something you can't add up or sell on eBay. Emotion.

Unfortunately, I didn't want to cuddle.

Not with him, anyway.

Written at 5:52 p.m.