May 06, 2003

When Fate Intervenes And Shames

When Fate Intervenes And Shames You Deeply

During my second to last year of college, I lived in a party house in Winona known as the Shark Shack, so named because we had a life-sized plastic hammerhead shark suspended on one wall, in addition to a plastic marlin on another and what I think was a large walleye on yet another.

I shared the Shark Shack with four other roommates, and we held a steady stream of weekend parties, using the proceeds to pay some of our rent and other expenses. The Shark Shack was one of the cheapest places I ever lived, which was appropriate considering that it was also a giant shithole. Despite numerous attempts at carpet cleaning, if you walked through the living room with your socks on, chances are the bottoms would be jet black after a few trips to the kitchen and back. You just learned to wear shoes at all times.

During our Halloween Party, I hooked up with a girl (who we'll call Michelle) I met while sitting on the steps, drinking a beer. We talked for a little while, and then we started making out, and then she suggested we go up to my room, and I agreed wholeheartedly. For the next couple of hours, we engaged in certain acts, until her sister knocked on the door and said she was going to a different party. Michelle hurriedly dressed, scribbled her number and address down, and she made me promise I would call. I promised I would call. She then left, and I went back downstairs to re-join the party. I never did call Michelle back, and I didn't think anything of it. It just didn't register that I was being a dickhead. Actually, sometimes when I'm a dickhead even today, it still doesn't register.

The following year, as I put the final touches on my journalism degree while working as a grunt reporter for the Winona Daily News, I had all but forgotten about Michelle. That night had simply hazed over as one of many party evenings, and she had become just another fading face. Besides, I was happily involved in a year-long relationship with a different girl, Jerusha, so I didn't really want to dwell on past one-night stands.

Well, the Winona Daily News decided to assign me a special article in which I would go behind the scenes of the Miss Winona Pageant. At that time, Winona had spawned the last three consecutive Miss. Minnesota winners, so they thought a story about the Miss Winona Pageant would be interesting. I, of course, couldn't imagine a more stellar assignment than reporting backstage, all day, from a beauty pageant. Holy boners, Batman!

Then, I read the contestant list. There, midway down the list, was Michelle's name. Oh, crap. There's an onion in the ointment. Well, maybe, I thought, she wouldn't recognize me. Maybe, I thought, she didn't remember the Halloween party. Maybe, I thought, I could run away to Alaska.

I arrived at the pageant in the morning and introduced myself to each contestant, taking extra care to shake hands with Michelle last. I was astounded when she didn't seem to have any idea who I was. I was also monumentally relieved. From that point on, my job was easy. I wrote page after page of notes while joking with the contestants and having just a grand old time. It was a great day.

That night, with the pageant underway, I hovered backstage, interviewing the women as they prepared for their talent segments as well as when they came off the stage. As I peered through the curtains, watching one of the women onstage, I felt a soft breath in my right ear, and then Michelle, who had snuck up behind me, whispered "You never called me back, you fucker."

I wanted to die. At that moment, I felt just despicable. My face was red and hot with shame. As I stood backstage in inky blackness, Michelle's voice could just have well have been the voice of every girl I ever made-out with at a bar or party and said I'd call but never did. I just wanted to leave the pageant, leave Winona, and never go back. Man, did I feel like shit.

Michelle went on to win Miss. Congeniality.

It was, without a doubt, the most difficult article I ever wrote.

Posted by Ryan at May 6, 2003 02:00 PM
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