I got back from yoga Sunday afternoon and had a meltdown because there was no sign of Shannon. The boxes and suitcases were gone from her bedroom. Her toiletries were MIA. I started to cry because I didn't have a chance to say a proper goodbye. I opened the refrigerator and took an inventory of the food she left behind: shredded vegan cheese I will never eat; her homemade pesto that I definitely will.
Shannon's LAPL contract is over and she's moving back east. Thanks to a series recording that she programmed, the DVR is amassing episodes of The Jersey Shore. I watched for the first time yesterday to get a sense of the world to which Shannon is returning. Not only did this show fill me with existential anxiety, but as I watched Snooki get punched in the face, I worried for Shannon's safety.
No more Shanny asleep on the sofa; no more happy nipples to greet me when I walk through the door. Other things she left behind: the amazing bike rack she bought for my birthday (with the help of some friends); a cabinet full of tea; the tinfoil star that she made for our Christmas tree; the construction paper happy birthday banner that's still strung across our living room all these weeks later. Neither of us had the heart to take it down.
A few weeks ago, while we were both at work, she wrote me an email that said, "Meghan! I got you a present today and I don't think I can wait until Christmas to give it to you because I am excited!"
The gift, it turned out, was something I'd already purchased and devoured a few months prior: Lorrie Moore's latest novel, A Gate at the Stairs. The copy Shannon gave me was better though because it was signed by Moore, my favorite writer.
"Tell you what," I told Shannon. "I want you to have the one I bought for myself. It will be your Christmas present."
It was good to see her curled up with that book on our sofa these last few weeks.
I was sitting on the same sofa Sunday afternoon, staring at the tinfoil star, cursing myself for not getting back from yoga in time to say goodbye, when Shannon came running through the front door, breathless.
"You didn't leave!" I jumped up. "I thought I missed my chance to say goodbye!"
"I forgot my jam in the fridge." A few nights ago, Shannon made jam to give out as Christmas presents. I'd had some on toast that morning. This moment marked the end of homemade jam.
"Are you crying?" she asked when she saw my face. "I'll be back next month!"
It was true. She'd be back in mid-January to finish up the last few weeks of her work contract.
"Yeah, but that's not the same. You won't be living here!"
So we hugged and kissed and I got the closure I thought I needed. She ran back out the door, her arms now laden with strawberry jam, and I thought about the first time we met: on the street in New York, 2005. I was on vacation, and we were standing outside a club on the Lower East Side with a group of our mutual friends. Olivian had mentioned that Shannon was applying to UCLA's library program. It was summer and all of us were shining with sweat. My hair was frizzy from the humidity and the subway ride. Shannon had been riding her bike, and wore impossibly short shorts that I would see her wear again, years later, prancing around our apartment. She looked like my kind of girl, someone I could be friends with. She told me that she liked my dress, which was red and I thought maybe too flashy considering that all we did that night was stand around on the street, never setting foot inside that club. But I thanked her for the compliment. I wouldn't see her again until a year later when she showed up in my Los Angeles apartment with her boxes and lavender-scented cleaning supplies.
The apartment felt so empty Sunday night that I rode my bike to the Sunset 5 and watched a movie in a theater full of strangers so as not to be alone.