When Shannon called near the end of the semester to invite me over for a snow party, I balked at first.
“No bonfire,” she said. “I really want you to come.”
She was standing in the snowfall playing her guitar when I arrived.
“I want to play with you in the snow again,” she said.
We played again, letting our music blend.
When we ran out of song, she called my name and walked toward me.
“I want to talk with you,” she said. “It can’t wait.”
I felt hollow in my stomach. Does any good every come from those words?
When I turned to look at her, she was gazing at me with her sad half-smile, and her eyes were soft and misty.
I felt nervous.
“Great party!” I said.
I was just stalling for time. She was going to say something, and I knew it would be heavy, and I was just trying to postpone it for as long as I could so we could enjoy being together in the snow just a little longer, if we could.
“Let’s sit and watch the snow fall,” she said. “It’s like magic.”
She watched the snow, and I watched her. She looked so beautiful, so young–like a child lost in the wonder of it all.
“Do you know,” she said, “ever since what happened to Corrinne, I’ve been thinking about my own death.”
I gasped. It was so sudden.
“No, don’t,” she said. “It’s not like that. It’s nothing horrible. It’s peaceful, really, to know I’ll face that final radical moment soon. I don’t really know if I think it’s the end or not, but I don’t feel afraid.”
She looked at me.
“I know about your mom. I know about her endless love with Dante. Sometimes I wonder if you believe that you’ll share something like that with me.”
I hadn’t really let myself think about it. I decided early, as soon as I realized I was drawn to Shannon, that I wouldn’t analyze it–that seemed somehow poison, or something. That would ruin the magic of it. I’d decided just to enjoy it, as long as I could. I tried not to think about its end–Shannon’s end–and what that meant. I tried to just see her, who she was as a beautiful spirit, and not worry that this form of hers would be ending soon.
But as she said those words, I knew she spoke the truth.
“My mom and Dante had an amazing love,” I admitted. “That’s what I grew up in.”
“I know,” she said. “And those are the loves that form us.”
I thought about what I wanted.
“The thing is,” Shannon said, “you’re not really like your mom. I think you need to breathe the same air as the one you love, to share your life with someone warm, who you can hold.”
I didn’t want to admit that she was right.
“I can’t be that person for you,” she said. “Even if I could, I mean, even if I were younger, I couldn’t be that person for you. Not for that kind of forever.”
“I want you to see someone else,” she said. “Don’t stop seeing me. But I’m not going to be around always. And you should keep looking. You should be looking now, in college. Because there are a lot of radical people here, you might just be into some of them.”
I didn’t say yes. But I didn’t say no, either.
“I know you get a lot of people asking you out,” she said. “Next time somebody does, think about saying yes. For me. OK?”
I don’t know why I felt so sad, but I did. My throat hurt.
“I’ll think about it,” I whispered.
“Want to know a secret?” she asked.
She leaned in and whispered into my ear, “My butt’s freezing!”
“Mine, too!” I laughed. “Do you want to go in?”
“Not just yet,” she said. “Let’s stay out a little longer.”
We watched the snowflakes drift down. There were thousands and thousands of them, each a microcosm of individuality.
“There are different kinds of forever,” she said.
We looked out into the infinity of the snowfall.
“This right here, for example, this very now… it’s a kind of forever,” she said. “And I’m happy to be sharing it with you.”
It was one of those nights that marks a person. I’ll carry this inside, always.