I Remember You — Shannon, pt. 2
Love Looks Back — Episode 1: Shannon, part 2
This Happened to Me
Love Looks Back — Episode 1: Shannon, part 2
Once Shannon and I had confirmed our date, she gave me her address. Brazenly, I pretended to know where it was, but I had no fucking idea. If you know one thing about me, know that I suffer from DDD (Directional Deficit Disorder — not a thing, but it should be.)
Again, much like watches from part 1, this was the before time, and I knew MapQuest and my printer would save me.
Shannon was still living with her folks, and when I went to pick her up that Thursday, I walked up to the door half expecting to meet the parents. She came flying out of the door to meet me and grabbed my arm: “Let’s go.”
I only caught a glimpse of what she was wearing, but it was white and flattering whatever it was — I think they’re called sundresses.
She hopped into my car (technically an SUV, a Jeep Cherokee) and wasted no time: “Where are we going?”
“I found this place in St. Augustine. Seems nice enough.”
“Cool.” She took a moment and heard the music, probably Son Volt or Uncle Tupelo at that point: “What’s this?”
I told her who it was, and she stared at me as though I was explaining string theory: “Go ahead, put the radio on.”
Shannon ejected the CD (again, the before times), put it in the holder on her visor, and began noodling around the radio. I found a fair amount of comfort when she landed on a classic rock radio station — one of those “The Wave” or “The Bend,” the type of radio station that advertises their morning show with “Beaver and the Goose” a little too often; and their playlist relies too heavily on Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC.
Going from her place to the restaurant, we got caught in traffic. Giving us ample time to talk without the influence of alcohol. One of the funniest things she told me was that she had a steel drum scholarship to college.
“What’s that now?”
“A steel drum scholarship.”
I was having none of it: “Bullshit. That can’t possibly be a thing.”
“It is. It wasn’t a full ride, but it helped.”
I had to ask the obvious question: “You’re from Pittsburgh; how on earth did you pick up the steel drums there?”
“I knew I needed something to help pay for college, so I taught myself during my sophomore year of high school. I figured there was no way there’d be a huge run on steel drum scholarships.”
“Do you like the steel drums?”
She laughed: “Not particularly.”
As we inched our way towards St. Augustine, we learned more about each other. By now, she was aware of our age difference and was nonplussed. I soon found out why.
Shannon told me: “My mom and dad are about 12 years apart.”
“Yea, but they’re divorced, and from what you’ve told me, they hate each other.”
She nodded: “All true.”
Laughing, I asked: “What’s your point?”
She smiled: “I didn’t have one. Just saying.”
As we talked, we discovered we had a fair amount in common.
We eventually made it to the restaurant, and I parked the car (I know, it’s a Jeep, but I will always refer to it as a car), and we walked in. Once settled, we each had a drink (Manhattan and Martini, respectively), then a bottle of wine (Pinot Grigio), a nice dinner (no clue), and an after-dinner drink (Grand Marnier and Glenlivet, respectively).
Then the check came, and I reached for my wallet.
It wasn’t there.
I was petrified, not only because I was on a date, but getting everything replaced is such a HUGE holy fucking pain in the ass. I was more afraid of jumping through those hoops.
Shannon saw the terror sweep over me.
“My wallet. It’s not here.”
“Did you lose it?”
She got to see a smidge of my snarky temper on the first date, awesome: “Yes. It would appear so.”
“Don’t sweat it; I can get this.”
“No, no. Let me run out to the car.”
I did run to the car (Jeep), and sure enough, it had fallen out of my pocket. I walked back in triumphantly, shaking it in my hand.
We walked around the little city after dinner and stopped in for another drink. While walking, she grabbed my hand — we had not even kissed at this point. Eventually, we made our way back to the car.
She informed me that her stepfather and mother were out of town on the drive to take her back. The subtext of the statement was obvious. When we got to her house, she invited me in.
We’re all adults here, so we know what happened next.
This kind of thing went on for a couple of more weeks. We saw each other when we could and would go out for drinks after work. On more than a few nights, we needed the room that the Jeep had to offer.
But rather quickly, things changed. While we had a lot in common, she was doing that thing where she would go out of her way to highlight the things we didn’t have in common. A behavior I have encountered more than once. This always struck me as a passive-aggressive way of saying: “This isn’t working for me.” It was a sign.
I also realized just how much I didn’t like being in the restaurant business anymore, so I was grumpier. That wasn’t helping.
After work one night, we were at the bar and had a little row right before the last call about what, I don’t recall. Invariably, something dumb given both of our headspaces at the moment — the alcohol did not help. She was a bit tipsier than average, but I had seen her in worse shape. We still walked out together, and when we got to our cars, we were still going at it.
The argument was heated enough, and she was drunk enough that I said she should cool down before getting in her car.
“Fuck you,” and she got in her car and took off. I thought about going after her but felt she needed to cool off.
On my way home, I extended the olive branch and repeatedly tried to call her, but there was no answer. I kept leaving messages but figured she was ignoring me. I considered turning around, but it was late already, and the last thing I wanted was to drive back and have more of an argument.
The following day, I noticed a few missed calls from a number I didn’t recognize. And then a call came.
“Hey, Keith, it’s Rob.” (Shannon’s brother.)
“Shannon had an accident last night.”
Indeed, the worst possible way to wake up: “Is she okay? What happened?”
She had been driving too fast around a corner and went into a ravine, smashing into a tree. She stayed there for about three hours until a cop stopped. It was one of those crashes where they had to use the jaws of life to get her out: “She’s going into surgery this afternoon. It was pretty bad.”
To attempt to describe what I was feeling is beyond my current abilities as a writer.
Rob told me.
“Can I come up?”
He said: “Right now, it’s only family, but let me ask my parents,” he covered the phone as he asked, “Yea, they’d like you to come up.”
“I’ll be up as soon as I can.”
I found them in what must’ve been a different waiting room because they were the only four people there. Her brother, her mother, her father, and her stepfather. We all awkwardly said hello, as I sat down.
Her father asked right away, not angrily: “What happened last night?”
And I told them.
The three parents looked at each other and shook their heads before her mother spoke: “We’ve had this talk with her before. I don’t get it.”
Her father said: “I hope you don’t think this was your fault.”
And of course, I welled up, just as I am welling up now re-telling it: “Yes, I do think it’s my fault.”
Her mother said: “It’s not. You know Shannon, we all do. You couldn’t have stopped her.”
I appreciated those words and their genuine kindness, but it did absolutely nothing to assuage my guilt.
Her mother asked me if I wanted to see Shannon, and of course, I said yes. She went to the nurse and explained I was her boyfriend, blah blah blah. In short order, I was being led to her.
As I walked in, she looked tired more than anything, and her leg was elevated. She saw me and smiled: “You come here often?”
I walked over and grabbed her hand: “Not generally. The service is shitty.”
“Tell me about it.”
We spent about ten minutes together, and I was apologizing for the fight and letting her drive.
“I don’t remember any of that. I remember the cop and getting removed from the car. That’s about it.”
“Well, I suppose that’s good. You’ll piece it together when you hear my voicemails.”
“No, my phone was shattered, so those are gone.”
We sat in silence for a minute until a nurse poked her head through the curtain and said they needed to prep her for surgery.
I squeezed her hand: “See you on the other side.”
“If we’re lucky.”
Shannon was in surgery for about four hours. She had done some severe damage to her hip and her leg. During that time, I sat with her family. Most of the time, we were silent. Her father took me outside for a cigarette at one point, and we had a more frank discussion. There were a lot of curse words, but none directed at Shannon or me. He was just angry at all of it. Mostly, he was thankful she was going to be okay.
I was too.
Oddly, he thanked me for being around. I couldn’t wrap my head around that, but I rolled with it.
It was one of the stranger afternoons in my life.
Eventually, the doctor came out and spoke to her family as I listened. The surgery went well, and he explained everything and ended by saying Shannon would be in the hospital for a few days. Ultimately, she would be fine.
Shannon was eventually released, and I would visit her at home as often as possible. I would also quit the restaurant. That’s a story for another time. Since she was in a wheelchair, most of… everything was falling on her mother. One day I came over, and her mother looked exhausted: “Good, you’re here. You can deal with the bitchy princess.”
Her mother poured a glass of wine, held it up to toast me: “You’ll see.”
It was pretty bad, but they were weaning her off of the more potent pain medication. Unlike her mother, I had the luxury of leaving.
During those ten days or so after she got home, there was a tectonic shift towards me. Which I half expected, and I took it. I was so happy she would eventually be okay, so I chalked all of this to my penance. I had also gotten a new job and wasn’t popping around as often, and eventually, she crossed a line. I don’t remember what that line was, but we just stopped talking.
And just like that, it (whatever it was) was over.
I saw Shannon about six months later when I was out with a friend. She waved me down at the bar, and we hugged and kissed. She was back to herself, seemingly no worse for the wear. She saw I was with a woman, and after our brief catch-up, she said: “I’ll let you get back to your date.”
“Oh no, no, that’s not a date. We’re friends.”
“I’ve been watching her. I’m guessing she doesn’t see it that way.”
She smiled: “We should get together soon.”
As we hugged, I said: “I’d like that.”
We both knew it was never going to happen.
And it never did.