Bent Words

Bent Words

February 06, 2013

I lost the journals in the fire. The ones in which I wrote about you. With your name, written in cursive, in red ink on the brown front cover. “I HEART Michael Harlan Zielinski.” Stories about you were sprinkled into the mix of drama that was Duker and I. You were pretty pissed off when I went back to him. But I wasn’t even 18. What did I know?

I knew you like your cowboy boots. I can hear them click, click, clicking beside me at the mall. I was so much taller than you but I told you I didn’t care. Well, I did.

I lost the pictures in the fire, too. The ones we took of each other at your father’s house on Lake Lorraine Road. You had a water bed. I hate water beds. I used your green blanket to cover my face. Pretty sure it was pretty old. We listened to Bush, songs from the album Sixteen Stone, or it played in a movie we watched together.

We had one crazy party at your place. I remember blackberry brandy, puking in your back yard, sleeping on your living room floor, a big dog on a leash, My Maria and a hang over breakfast at Jessica’s.

Couples bowling at Hawk Bowl. I was way too young to be drinking, let alone getting served. I drank something called Swamp Water. I liked it. Jeff was very serious about his bowling. He was good. I got a $5.00 prize for worst bowler.

You in your blue Volkswagen Rabbit. Reverse was weird. Nice sound system. We raced back to your house on Lake Lorraine Road. I remember passing each other in no passing areas, over hills, late at night – the caravan of people we made up back then – and how we shouldn’t have really come out of our teens and twenties alive.

“Marlboro reds and another High Life please.”

There was Jeff and Jennifer, Devon, Nikki, Brenda, Eric, Renee, Duker, that redhead who went to UW-Whitewater, Chad and eventually Tracey.

I think you dated all the girls. Or maybe that was Duker.

Maybe that was all of us – musical relationships.

I remember Gus’s pizza where we all hung out. Slinging zah and sweating in the summer. Big pizza oven. Bigger pizza stick. That red head waiting tables. She didn’t like me much.

Motorcycles. Weren’t we cool. Parking it somewhere on the Janesville circuit. The Intercraptor. Turning our headlights off through stop signs on the back roads. Oh my. We shouldn’t have made it past our teens and twenties.

I remember my first summer moved out of my house. You needed me. I drove from Waukesha to Whitewater in a heartbeat. We drank beer and talked in your garage. At first I thought the trip was a waste. Well it wasn’t.

Driving down Highway P at the tender age of 17. I got pulled over in my Camry. Two beers in a bottle on the passenger seat. One open between my legs. I hid it between my feet. Drank a stale Coke to relinquish the smell of alcohol. There may have been cigarettes butts in there, too. I was given a written warning. I cannot help but wonder that we made it past our teens and twenties.

And We Danced Anyway on the way home from a barefoot Deana Carter concert in the grass, Any Man of Mine blasting from your speakers, Time for me to Fly when you realized I was beyond control and how many more we sang so poorly to.

Fourth of July on Eric’s “farm.” His parents in the house, us in the wide garage. We played Asshole at the round glass table. No one could remember whose smokes were whose. There were fights. There were tears. There were secret rendezvous. There was Devon. On a horse. Coming riding in from town. Yeah that was a good one.


Preferred Stock. Standing next to your best friend on a warm summer day. Riding through town with a smoke hanging from the corner if your lips.

You made it past your teens and twenties, still you were taken from us too soon.

At least we all had what we had.

Some good ol' times with you.


And now the sleds are passing by. On an otherwise cold and quiet night. Mocking me it seems. They are living what you lived just yesterday.

If you were drinking a little less. Had you been wearing a damn lid. Had you learned anything from your teens and twenties...

Good night, Dork Monster. Good bye, my old friend.

Rest in peace and promise, we might see each other once again.

Written at 8:17 p.m.