No Chinook Chapter 10
No Chinook is my first book, originally published in 2008.
As I stood outside of Shawn’s place, I wondered just exactly how many people lived there. I didn’t know any of them. Maybe it was four or five, but it could have easily been twice that. The total number wasn’t important, however. The only thing that mattered right now was how many of them were inside right now. I wondered how many of them knew as much about Shawn as I did. It was a ludicrous idea, but I couldn’t help but feel that they were all probably going to hear what was about to happen.
I knocked. It took a minute, but then a girl answered the door. I recognized her, but it took a second of squinting to focus on the name. We said, “Alice,” at the same time. I was guessing and she was helping me out.
“Hi,” she said. “You were at that party.”
“Yeah. I remember you,” I said. “You were reading that Anne Sexton book.”
“Don’t remind me,” she said. I was still outside. “I failed the damn test. I really don’t know what you see in her.”
“I’m sorry about that,” I said. “If it’s any consolation, people don’t know what I see in my girlfriends, either. Is Shawn here?”
She let me in. Alice was wearing pyjama bottoms and slippers. I don’t think I woke her up. Her black hair was done nicely in a ponytail, and her makeup was done. She held her tea mug close, as if she was gathering comfort from its warmth.
I thanked her and went upstairs. I couldn’t wait for him to come to me. Thankfully Alice didn’t stop me.
I knocked on his door. I didn’t hesitate like I used to. I was always a little unsure about knocking on Shawn’s door. I think it was the thrill of it, but that was gone now. He opened it, and he looked the same. I didn’t know what I expected to be different, but nothing was. His face was clean, he’d clearly tidied up his room this morning, and he was dressed sharply, as if I caught him on his way to work.
“Hi,” I said, sounding unrehearsed. He didn’t really know what to do, but right then I felt good that I’d come. For once, he wasn’t in control.
He tried to speak, but I put my hand on his cheek. My thumb pressed against his lips, and he shut them. I didn’t look at him with love because there was no love, but it was a look of affection he didn’t question or fight. He might have been confused or angry, or maybe he’d been dreaming about this moment, but it didn’t matter to me. I closed his door.
My other hand pressed down on his other cheek and I held his head in my hands. I looked at him in a way he’d never seen, and his surprise would have been more apparent had I not been slowly moving him toward his bed. His hands were on my forearms now, letting me guide him to the edge, until the back of his legs bumped up against the mattress and his knees buckled as he sat down. I let go of his face and let his hands touch mine, and for a moment I thought of leaving him like this.
“I want you to know something,” I said, taking off my jacket. I didn’t have anything to say to him, so I didn’t say anything. I just took the back of his neck with my right hand and pulled his head up. I was right above him, and if there were something to say, it would have been right then.
Instead, I lowered him onto his back and crawled on top. Shawn looked confused, perhaps waiting for when I’d speak. I was fine with his unease. Without it, I might not have been able to kiss him like I did.
There are fast and hard kisses, and kisses so wide and messy that one can’t help but get dirty, but when I kissed Shawn on his bed then, it was one of those kisses that was going to last for several minutes. It lasted long, but there wasn’t much movement. It was as simple as having my lips on his lips with the kind of pressure that didn’t suffocate but certainly left no room for negotiation.
His hands emphasized his confusion. They didn’t know where to go, and he was shifting from my shoulders to the sides of my ribs to my hair and back. I finally let go of this kiss and he gasped for air. I could have left him here and a point would have been made, but it wasn’t the one I was going for. Simply kissing him wasn’t going to be enough.
He was tugging at the bottom of my shirt, and I took it off, showing him that he was definitely going to get lucky. I kissed him again, shorter this time, but harder. I kissed his neck and he moaned. I hated his stubble and was happy whenever I’d catch him within a few hours of shaving. His face was smooth this afternoon. I could feel his feet rub up against mine. His hands were on my back and when I kissed him again it was as if he’d woken up and was finally ready to accept that I was in his life and wanting what was going to happen.
I’d made love to Shawn enough to know how he worked, and with that template I was comfortable taking over and doing everything right. I knew he liked to have his nipples licked while his pants came off. I knew that kissing the side of his stomach made him crazy. And I knew what he hated, too, like when I used to go for his cock before his boxer briefs were all the way off. These are small things that only a few people in the world knew, and I took my time with them. I savoured Shawn. I did not want this to end quickly. It took me nearly twenty minutes to get us both naked.
Sex wasn’t work with Shawn. He liked things done slowly, and for the most part, so did I. Still, even at the pace he enjoyed, Shawn didn’t play it by ear. He had a formula for sex. I knew this from the beginning, when he did things in the exact same order three nights in a row. It was as if he’d been taught in adolescence that there was only one way to fuck. I used to entertain the thought that he had a different way of doing things with everyone that he had been with; that at the beginning of every new sexual relationship, he would map out a game plan and stick to it. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that when Shawn took my finger in his mouth and massaged my inner thigh, then scooted down a bit so that pulling on my cock would be comfortable for his arm, that’s likely exactly what he did with Mark and everyone else he’d ever fucked.
For these reasons and others, Shawn never surprised me in bed. He got hard at the same time no matter what, and he always took pretty much the same amount of time to get off. This repetition never bothered me, though. It was a comfort to know that he was a sure deal, that in his routine I was just as much a focal point as he was, that everything happened in a way that felt natural and right, and that it would always end the same way.
He naturally went from stroking and sucking me to asking if I was ready. It was the first thing he’d said since I got here, and I knew it was more from habit than to actually say something about me being here. I turned over and put a pillow between my head and my hands, and Shawn found his way on top. Like he always did, he kissed the back of my neck as he moved his cock into me. He took it slow, taking the opportunity to move his hands around my back and around to my chest. I let out a few choice gasps, but for the most part, the two of us were either moaning or silent.
I didn’t think much while making love to Shawn, but what crept through were random thoughts of other times I’d made love. Flickers of memories of Kate, of Carly, and of a few one-night-stands in college flew in and out as Shawn thrust and moaned. I never really forgot about any of these experiences, and just about every time I had sex with him, they would appear. Shawn kissed my back and upped his pace a little. I reached back and gripped his thigh. I loved the feel of his legs.
It never takes Shawn long to come, but it doesn’t for me, either. Just from Shawn’s touch, I get close. I could feel it building since the moment he kissed me back, and I was on the verge when I could feel him start to buck. His right hand on my shoulder blade, and his left on my ass, holding me in place. My hands begin to dig into the mattress. It’s amazing, when he comes. It’s bested only by its consistency.
Trimmed, clean fingernails dug into my skin. I was right behind him.
We came pretty close together, and I collapsed under him. In the haze, I heard him cry out for a second, and it was nice. I tried to look back with my face in the sheets, but I only got a glimpse of his face. It was a great face.
Shawn laid on me for a minute or two, catching his breath and allowing his quickened heartbeat to sync with my own. After that, he fell to my side and we held each other and slowly kissed. It was as it had always been; as if it just might be something that would never end. Making love to Shawn felt like something I could see myself doing for a living.
He asked what I was thinking in his tiny whisper.
I said, “I feel like smoking.”
“I feel like this is perfect,” he replied.
“Because you came back. You’re here and this is all going to be okay.”
He sounded like a hopeless romantic, and it was a little sad to think that I might have said the same thing not too long ago.
“It is, is it?” I asked, not really meaning it to be a question.
“For a while there I was afraid, because it seemed like you’d got over me and I had lost you to Kate, but that’s all over now and you’re here.”
“You think I’m here because Kate dumped me?”
“No, I’m sure you’re not, Scotty,” he said. “But Kate was just a reason for you to get away from me for a little while to think things through. Even if you don’t see it now, you’ll figure it out eventually. You were mad at me, but you got over it and you’re back.”
“And you know that I left Mark. I mean, Kate must have mentioned.”
“Sure,” I said. I didn’t want to get into how I actually found out.
“Am I missing something?”
I sat up and started looking around for my clothes.
He said, “I’m not really sure what I said just now. Weren’t we okay? I was okay.”
I didn’t answer him.
“Scott, I don’t get it. One minute you’re all over me, and it’s great, but the next you’re bolting for the door? Talk to me.”
I found my jeans, but Shawn grabbed my arm, so I had to look at him.
I said, “You don’t get it, and I don’t want to waste my time telling you.” I shrugged his grip off of me and put my jeans on. Sensing that this argument might leave his room, Shawn found his as well.
“So, what? That’s it? You’re leaving? This doesn’t make any sense, Scott.”
“Shawn, I’d like this to have a little silent dignity about it.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“Nevermind,” I said. I began to walk, but he grabbed me again. I turned back to face with with a look of impatience.
He asked, “Can you at least explain to me what I don’t get here? Because I thought I had everything figured out.”
“Jesus, Shawn. You’re as smart as you are and you still want me to spell it out?”
His face told me that he did.
“All right,” I said. “I’ll tell you what you’re missing. Yeah, I was pissed off when I gave you that ultimatum and you stayed silent. But really, I was just kind of confused as to why you wouldn’t pick me given all those pretty lines you used to feed me, but also because of what you said to Kate about us. Shawn, I’ve never been your boyfriend. I don’t get why you’d say that.”
“It was wishful thinking,” he said. “It was me fast-forwarding to now when you and I got back together.”
“There is no us, Shawn,” I said. I sighed, but this was true. “There never was.”
“What was that, then? What was coming to my place and making love? Tell me what that was.”
I put on my shirt. It felt crumpled, but warm. “It was what I needed.”
“It was what I needed too. I need you, Scott.”
“No,” I said, “You really don’t.”
“I love you.”
Even though he’d said it over the phone, I was still surprised. It stopped me and made me sit on his bed and look him dead in his pretty brown eyes. Here in this moment I felt I could do anything in the world.
“I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” I said. “I’m not saying that it isn’t a really sweet notion, and I’m not saying that I never wanted to be with you. I really did for a long time, and for most of that time I believed it could actually happen.”
“It can. It can happen now.”
“Fuck, Shawn. Just shut up, will you?” My head jerked. Before this moment, Shawn had never outright asked me to be with him. I can’t say it wasn’t flattering, and I can’t say I didn’t consider it.
“Shawn,” I held my ground, clenched my fists. This was harder thank I thought it would be. I took a breath, and I remembered that poem. My favourite.
“Shawn, let’s face it. I’ve been momentary.”
I said, “This wasn’t an experiment.”
“I know that. Maybe it started that way but…”
I said, “I give you back your heart.”
“Just let me say this, okay?”
He didn’t know what to do, or what I was doing, so I kept going. I sat down next to him. I said, “I give you permission. Shawn, listen. You loved Mark. You had this thing with me, and maybe it was a sort-of love, but it doesn’t matter. You loved him. He’s the sum of yourself and your dream.”
“Scott, all I wanted was…” I wouldn’t let him get a word in.
“He’s solid, Shawn. The fact is, I really don’t know how solid I am. I’ve got to figure that out, and I really can’t see myself figuring anything out if I’m with you.”
Shawn sat silent, finally getting what had been brewing inside me this whole time.
“I came over here tonight to try to get over you, because I’ve never been good at getting over anyone. I mean, I still think about that girl from high school I told you about. I don’t know if this’ll work, but it’s the best thing I could think of.”
Shawn was either holding back tears or fists. Neither would have surprised me at this point.
“Look, Shawn, I know this is hard right now. But I think you really loved Mark, and maybe you were looking at me as some kind of escape from commitment or being an adult, I don’t know. But Mark really loves you and…”
“How do you know?”
“How do you know that Mark really loves me?”
“Can’t I just know?” I really wanted to hit him.
“It’s not like I don’t miss him,” Shawn said, and I let him keep going. “Parts of me wish that I’d never done it. I mean, yeah, there was something really strong there, and that’s what made me go quiet before. But after you left, I realized how much I couldn’t accept losing you, and if there was any chance of getting you back, well, that’s what I’d do.”
I began to close up. I said, “But what you’d realize Shawn, is that ultimately you would have grown tired of me and moved on. I was this idea in your head that isn’t really me, and that’s because you and I never got each other on my terms. I am lots of what you don’t know, Shawn.”
Flecks of Shawn got that. I could tell because I could see right through him.
“As for me,” I said, knowing what I wanted to finish. “I am watercolour.”
I hugged Shawn, and in the middle of this embrace I whispered in his ear, “I wash off.”
Shawn didn’t cry. He didn’t cry because he never did, and I never expected him to. In the end, we all become who we are, who we’ve been, and who we rarely say we want to be. Shawn, in all his handsome, selfish, and satisfying ways, whispered in my ear that he doesn’t want me to ever get over him. “Please,” he said, as if I were holding something tangible that belonged to him.
“That’s selfish of you,” I said, comforted by his one quality that would always likely be more charming than not. “But it’s all right. I probably won’t.”
I kissed him, not with thunder but with all the implications of goodbye I knew how to express, wrapped up in a hug and a kiss. I cried a little, but I tried not to let him notice.
He didn’t try to stop me as I left his room. I inched down the stairs, put my boots back on, and left his giant house.
It was just as freezing outside as it had been since the end of the Chinook, but it was the first time all winter that I’d really felt the chill. I didn’t feel happy, relieved, or even tired. I just felt cold.
I realized, and I realized, and I realized. In the end, I found that most of my epiphanies led to nothing. Much like my spectrum, each realization became less meaningful every time a new one came around. I thought that it might be nice to go a little while before I begin learning new things about myself again.
That’s why I walked the same route to the LRT as I always did after seeing Shawn. It occurred to me that I should find another route to set my mind off course, that I could erase sections of memory that always held me when I walked this street. I thought that if I found a path I’d never taken, I’d be able to clear my head of Shawn, Kate, Carly, Mark, everyone. Maybe if I travelled somewhere new. Maybe if I met some new people. Maybe if I reinvented myself somehow.
But I didn’t, because the path I took no longer signified anything. I kept straight down the same path I had taken every other time. I climbed the same steel staircase that seemed to lead straight up to the clear, wide Calgary sky.