He’d meet you with twinkling green eyes, a smile tugging his lips up, and a hand as large as a baseball mitt. Leaning forward, he’d announce, “Pleased to meet you. Hi, I’m Bent.” He always made it seem like meeting you was a special treat for him.
His full name was Bent E. Thompson. The E. was forever just a letter, and wasn’t fronting a name. A man so tall that he was always stooping through doorways, he’d never been in the military but he was as straight and hard as an iron fireplace poker.
Everyone agreed that Bent was as straight as anyone they’d ever met. Yet, after he passed, his swindles, frauds, and schemes started coming out like roaches sneaking out after the lights are turned off. It paralyzed people with disbelief. “Not Bent. Really? I don’t believe it. I’ll never believe it.”
Yet, the proof kept coming out. Funny enough, though, was the epitaph that Bent himself had chosen: “I’m Bent.”
Everyone was always wondering if it was a confession.
He’s seven feet tall and chalky white with an unlined face. The sandy hair that’s swept to one side never seems shorter or longer. His eyes are as black and soulless as the eyes I’ve seen on a shark when I was underwater in a cage. They’re eyes that don’t judge or care; they only see.
This is what he is. His long fingers with their trimmed, polished nails lack whorls and ridges. Blinking seems beyond him. Speaking isn’t done, nor is touching. He’s always wearing the same blue jeans, sandals, and black and red flannel shirt. Smiles, as are other expressions, never find his face.
My friend, Emily, calls him a white hole, a person who takes everything in and puts nothing back out. True, except for his piano playing. When he sits and plays, we hear songs that seem to transcend our existence. When he’ll play, what he’ll play, why he play, these things are more mysteries. He shows up, and stands beside the piano until he’s given leave to play. Then he plays, and then he leaves. If we’re fortunate, we’re there to hear.
That’s why I decided that I needed to follow him. I wanted to know where he lives and who he was. It wasn’t my first mistake in life, but it was my biggest.