It was the summer of 1994 — I’d lived in Seattle, Washington, across the street from Shannon. Our house needed work, to say the least. A faded brown sagging roof in need of repair — the buckets we’d have to place in the kitchen during a rainstorm said as much. Blue paint chipped from the withered brown coat beneath, which the former owners threw a coat over. Mice raced through the walls, and the inflatable furniture embarrassed me. But it was ours. No more evictions. No more cops sent by landlords. No more none of that. Dad told me to be thankful we had a home, and how some kids sleep on the streets, so I knew nothing other than gratitude and an insatiable desire for tantalizing Shannon. I’d wanted her lipstick to stain my pillowcase.
Shannon’s house had eight bedrooms and three bathrooms. The smooth white paint on her home and white fenced yard left me wanting. It was as if we lived on different sides of the tracks; her on the wealthy side; me on the working impoverished side. I thought gentrification was a bitch. My father said something about redlining. I didn’t know what it meant at the time. All I knew was our home was different from Shannon’s. Much different.
I’d watch her through my bedroom window as the fresh air and my passion pulled the blinds either way. She’d leave it open, knowing I was peering between the curtains as she stripped nude. She must not have cared that I was a total loser or that my father was a drunk because she left the window open.
My mother, I called her Angie, left with some cowboy she’d met online. He turned out to be a registered sex-offender and left her for a younger girl; mom died by suicide. I’d have gone to the funeral if she’d have gone to my first day of school. I overslept her funeral, so I guess we’re even.
I’d been throwing dirty sweatshirts over my shoulders every day this week, wearing them around town. The washing machine is broken again. And we don’t have enough coins for the laundry mat — even the warmth of the sleeves felt better than none.
My father told me to make good decisions through his glassy eyes as he’d spit tobacco in an empty Coke can. Willingly going to a place I’d get made fun of for six hours didn’t seem like a good decision. Kids would call my mother the trucker whore and my dad, the town drunk. I’d punched several boys in the mouth and slapped one girl clean across the cheek for saying as much.
That was ten years ago. Now, I wear three-piece suits and smoke menthol cigarettes. No, I hadn’t gone back to school. I’d opened my own business of sorts. I mean, it’s not exactly legal, but bankers get away with crimes every day, so we’re even.
I’d sent my dad to treatment with drug money. God…help me. I do see the irony in this, but I had no choice. And I’m not sorry. Pot is a plant. It grows for free, and I sell it at a reasonable price. But no one has the weed I got. And I made sure of it.
After a stint in the army, I’d moved back to Washington State where it’s legal at the state level to sell pot. Sure, I didn’t have a license, but it was all legal, except the whole part of not being licensed. Almost every day, I’d wondered what happened to Shannon. Like where did she go? Or why didn’t I at least wave hello? When the light turned green, I paced across the street with my thick black hair styled in place.
“Excuse me!” I said of the woman who bumped me.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, turning around to pull her bangs behind her ear.
“Shannon?” I said.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
I couldn’t tell her I was the loser neighbor who she most certainly believed jerked off to her at night. I felt my cheeks turn red, and my eyes crinkle as if trying to make out the lines under her eyes. “No, the wrong person,” I said.
Shannon fit her sunglasses over her eyes and shrugged.
I stood stroking my chin, staring her backside down as she continued–as if I were back in that room, staring her down, watching her sleep from my window. Butterflies fluttered my stomach. I wanted to go and talk to her to suck up my guts and kick myself in my nuts. Are you ever going to talk to this chick? My self-consciousness did a number on my self-esteem. She faded in the crowd for another day to see.
I went back to my childhood house on Bicklton. The blue and brown paint still chipped, and the front porch rail crooked. The front yard fence still jagged, and the birch tree leaves remain scattered among thick grass. It’s still a shithole. And Shannon still lived across the street in her mansion. Her same bed pressed against the corner wall with a large TV in the other corner. And several leather couches. Shannon’s bedroom tripled the size of mine. After my father left the army, the anxiety disorder kicked his ass, and he took it out on me. I’d plenty of scars to prove it.
My dad died last fall and left me the house. I couldn’t stay in that house of horrors. Mom died by suicide in that house, and dad died of a broken heart in his bed.
I still remember pushing the door open and seeing his eyes slammed open, and his mouth clenched shut. His skin had turned purple. I didn’t cry at the funeral. You probably think I’m an ass, but I was actually happy for the guy. It’s like the sun could smile in Heaven if you believe in that kinda stuff. I sat on the curb, hugging my knees, sobbing for dad and mom.
“What’s wrong, dude?” a woman said.
I raised my head, drying my eyes with my palms. “Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying.”
“Funny,” the woman said. “I’m Shannon.”
I stood to my feet. “I’m just…I’m…”
“Hey,” she said, crossing her arms, crinkling her eyes. “You’re the guy who used to watch me at night, aren’t you?”
I cracked a nervous smile. “You knew?”
“How could I not have, you drooled over me. I thought it was kinda cute, actually,” Shannon said, playing with her hair.
“Wanna get something to eat?” she said, throwing her arms around my neck, kissing me.
I couldn’t get a word to roll off my tongue.
Shannon gave me a cocky wink and a confident smile. “Come on, dude,” she said, pulling my arm. “I’ll show you the inside of my bedroom.”
(© 2020 Andrew Cyr)