Volume 3: Shark Eyes
By Ross Hargreaves
She called the day I broke my arm. I’d finished a long shift at CheapFoods, grabbed my phone out of my locker and under missed calls was her name. Shannon. No message. The last time we’d talked was six months ago when I called her a shark-eyed cunt. Despite this I felt an arousal. Maybe things had fallen apart with Chewy. I called back. Disappointment hit as soon as it went to her voicemail. I stood there in the locker room with a fading erection and left a banal message. “Hey, it’s Tom. I don’t know what you wanted. Call me back if you want.”
I thought about her on the bike ride home. What she had done to me. What did she want? I kept touching my pocket hoping to feel the vibration of my cell phone. Crossing the street where Main becomes Warm Springs, right between the Hospital and a Jackson’s, my bike went down. I put my left hand out to catch myself and both bones in my forearm snapped.
I held my arm because the bones felt like they might rip through the skin. I walked around in circles, sat down in the grass, got up again. Swayed. Blinked several times. The pain was horrible. At the hospital, between shots of morphine, I kept thinking, she’s done this to me. She’s ruined me again. They wrapped me up to keep the bones from moving and gave me a prescription for Percocet. The next day a surgeon would attempt to staple me together again.
The thing about Shannon was I could never tell if she was being serious or not. Her eyes were big black emotionless orbs. It took some getting used to. Once I did, everyone else seemed boring. She wasn’t always stone cold. Things weren’t always bad. She could be bubbly if she was excited, coy if she wanted something. Things that made you plan, dream. Fantasize. She was tall and skinny and had the kind of neck any lusting man would want to leave marks on.
The first time we hung out was Saint Patrick’s Day a couple years ago. She’d been dating this guy I worked with. One of those rich party guys whose drinking stayed cool no matter how ridiculous he got. Friends told me I should have walked away. But some things you can’t walk away from. Some things you just watch rumble toward you, regardless of the disaster. That night, with her hands all over me, she said she couldn’t get enough of him. I listened. I pretended. I became someone she could dump her problems on. Someone she could pretend with too.
She’d been talking about a book club for a while when she told me we should hold the meetings at a strip club. We were at Big City having coffee. The Torch was down the street.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
She gave me a fickle look that I couldn’t read. If a smile broke on her face, she might have been joking. Maybe. I should have always taken her seriously. That was one of many problems that had begun. Her sense of humor was for shit.
“I don’t see why you’d think it’s such a bad idea,” she’d said.
“Well it’s too dark for one thing,” I told her. “And loud. They really blast that music. It would be hard to concentrate…”
“Because of the girls?”
“Because of the girls. Because nobody else would want to do it.”
“Yes they would. My boyfriend would.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“You should have more faith in me.”
It turned out a lot of people were cool with the idea. I joined to smooth things over. The Strip Club Book Club met for the first time at the Torch. The book was some historical romance novel I didn’t read. The group was Shannon, four of her girlfriends, and me. That first day she brought snacks. Cookies and some yogurt soda she’d bought in a Middle Eastern market. The dancers were all into it. In between sets of Poison and Evanescence they would sit with us and derail the conversation. The DJ came up and offered drink discounts and a veggie tray for future meetings.
It never happened.
I didn’t last long in the Strip Club Book Club. The books continued to be 50 Shades of Gray terrible and she would go home to her boyfriend and I would go home alone. So I quit. You can only pretend so long.
“I feel like you’re breaking up with me,” she said after I told her.
I didn’t know how to answer that. So I said, “Sure,” and we were friends off for a while.
During our friendship hiatus Shannon went through her own hard times. The party with her boyfriend got boring so she started cheating with a former Boise State football player who’d graduated into a professional dive bar karaoke singer. The guy liked to sing songs by Godsmack. They called him Chewy because of his habit of making Chewbacca growls while on stage.
She told me over drinks at the Piper Pub. Guilt, I assumed. We got drunk on happy hour martinis. Told me she had no feelings for Chewy. Only that she liked the attention. Then she started talking about us.
“What about us?” I said.
“I don’t know. Where are we going?”
“That’s a good question.”
I’d waited years for that conversation. I’d forced a friendship with her boyfriend so there wouldn’t be bad blood. Took her to the movies he wouldn’t take her to. Tried to be the guy she needed me to be. I’d given up on it, to tell the truth, but the possibilities from that Saint Patrick’s Day came roaring back into my head.
“We wouldn’t get along,” she said. “You can’t stand me. You quit the book club. Never thought it was a good idea. Sometimes I think you hate me.”
“Sometimes,” I said. “Sometimes I love you.” I felt like I was floating in my chair.
“It’s the truth.”
She studied me a moment then smiled and leaned forward. I kissed her. “Okay,” she said.
The next morning she called, saying it had all been a mistake. Then she apologized and hung up.
Over the next month I heard a lot of bullshit from her. She was breaking up with her boyfriend and needed space. Finally she did and we made plans to meet Grainey’s. I showed up smashed. She was already in the basement, dancing. Like there was something to celebrate. All that time I had waited for her, dealt with her, thought we were friends, and there she was, laughing and dancing. She saw me and ran to give me a hug. I kept my arms at my sides. “Tom, why haven’t you called?” Then she said, “I know you still love me.”
That’s when I called her a shark-eyed cunt.
I was at Cobby’s eating a French dip when she called. A month out of physical therapy, five months since I wrecked my bike, almost a year since our make out session at the Piper Pub and subsequent falling out.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Tom. Oh, I must have got the two of you mixed up in my phone. This is awkward. How’s it going? I heard you broke your arm?”
“Yeah, I did. A couple months ago.”
“Are you all better? How are you doing?”
I hung up on her. Threw the rest of my French dip in the trash. Outside the restaurant my bike was parked against a streetlight. I unlocked it.
Sometimes when she got really excited, she would take my hand and drag me behind her.
“Please,” I said. “Don’t hurt me any more.”