Shawn oozes his way into your life through email and texts and phone calls, first with his bad takes about books he definitely didn’t finish and then everythingallatonce, like a fire hydrant stuck open. He’s an intense guy--creative, smart, fiercely loyal; quiet, loudmouthed, sweet & sensitive & funny & foul. Stubborn. Bad at taking no for an answer but always shocked to hear a yes.
So it starts with him not understanding the fuckin’ reading but acting like he does and then takes a sharp detour into art and music and fuck-knows-where and his favorite graphic design magazines from the mid-90s & by the time you come up for air it’s a few weeks later you’ve got a couple thousand messages in the thread & every day he’s sending you a “good morning sunshine” to the point where if he forgets it feels like something’s missing.
And at the end of the day when he’s all show-weary and adrenaline flushed and babbling your ear off about art & politics & concepts he wants to execute & the scope of the universe you've stayed up past the point of sanity so you say, “I gotta get off the phone, I open tomorrow,” he busts your balls for hanging up on him, says something like “fuck ‘em, take a nap behind the counter” and you laugh and hang up. Follow up with a simple “goodnight handsome, had fun talking :)” dropped in his inbox to which he instantly sends back a black heart and a rose emoji, which would be so ungodly pretentious from anyone else you’d roll your eyes until they fell out of your skull but since it’s Shawn you lay awake staring at it for another hour, aimlessly cycling between social media apps & your messages like a tiger pacing its cage until your elbow hurts so bad from laying on it weird your force yourself to stretch out and actually go the fuck to sleep.
(The next day by the time he sends you his morning greetings you’ve been at work for almost four hours on two-hours-less-than-optimum sleep so you respond with a picture of the giant buyback you’ve been dealing with since you walked in the door--coated in so much dust & fuck-knows-what it makes your skin crawl--and he sends back his view from his hotel balcony. Crossed legs in worn-out plaid pajama pants, socks showing dirt on the bottom; scenic view of the parking lot & the treeline that’s barely thick enough to hide the piles of dirt and new construction happening behind it, cigarettes, coffee, ashtray. Wireless mouse parked on a hotel magazine, Lightroom open on his laptop screen. It’s casual, domestic; intimate & chaste & wholesome at the same time & that’s the first time you wanna ask so what is this? but don’t, just sit on your thumbs instead so you don’t blurt something via text you might both regret.
“Just working on some fun pics,” is what he says.
“Better than having to endcap all these Westerns nobody’s gonna buy,” you reply, and life moves on.)
(While you’re in line at the donut shop on break you reopen your messages to stare at the picture even though there’s nothing in it, just Shawn’s gross-ass socks and his laptop with a TMS sticker next to the touchpad. It’s just comforting, in a way. You can’t quite put your finger on it. But it’s nice.)
And all of it’s something you can never put your finger on, something that dissolves whenever you try to look directly at it but seems so sharp and clear when you look at it out the corner of your eye. He’s the clown king of mixed signals. He’s a rock star. He’s going through shit. You sell books and records and used DVDs to a city that’s mostly out-of-towners and make sure you’re scheduled on mornings to go see other summer tours at the amphitheater, and go out to eat alone so often you’ve developed a first-name relationship with every bartender in town whether you’re drinking or not. You’ve got a good life, your art & your job & your coworkers that are now friends. You don’t have any expectations of him. You’re just here for a good time, whatever the hell that looks like.
(So when he says, “Tour’s ending,” you say “so?” cuz tours end all the time, even if maybe you shoulda said “yeah?” and asked how that makes him feel, but you’re not his fucking therapist. And it’s late at night again and you’re feeling a little cheeky now that he’s progressed to sending you the occasional selfie which you always just respond to in kind cuz you know he’s fishing but you don’t know for what because if nothing else, M. Shawn Crahan is afflicted with Terminal Vague Disease.
So, so. Maybe it’s a dare. Maybe your mouth’s writing checks your ass can’t cash.)
(And on the other end of the line he shifts in your ear, full of an energy you just can’t place. “You should pick a day and come out, I’ll buy you dinner.”
And you just hum & say “yeah, we’ll have to play it by ear” and start telling him about this shit you saw go down in the Walmart parking lot.)
But it happens. Against all odds, it happens, even though you were half-expecting to have driven seven hours one way to end up at another kitschy hipster diner alone. But you don’t. You park at the hotel and walk the few blocks to “someplace nice” he scoped out last time they were in town, one of those places that does high-market versions of regional specialties and makes their own ketchup. Cloth napkins, real candles, $14 drinks in Mason jars. It’s absurd & a little pretentious but y’know, so is he and the company’s good so you’re not complaining.
His hand finds your waist while you’re waiting for a crosswalk to turn and you lean your head into his shoulder, warm & solid in the summer evening. The shirt he’s wearing brings out how bright blue his eyes are and he smells good--mint & spice & smoke & cool water--and you can feel him relax into you, for just a second. None of it’s lost on you. Every part’s appreciated.
At the end of the night he says “I’m grateful to know you,” after the crisp shirt that brings out his eyes’s been traded for the Gucci socks and dirty white work shirt covered in barcodes & gloves that reek like one thousand deaths. There’s still paint smeared on his face & you’re both thrumming with adrenaline but you gotta hit the road cuz you need to be back home by tomorrow to make it to work on time and he hugs you so tight your feet practically leave the ground; transferring you his filth & sweat & god knows what else. It feels perfect to hug back--wet and gross and crushing and perfect. Sincere. Your fingertips sinking into the small of his back.
He kisses the top of your head and squeezes your waist gentle, before you leave. You thank him for the good time and he just says “the pleasure’s all mine” and that’s it; you’re walking away, heading back to your car, settling back in for the long drive home with the windows down.
The next morning--defined loosely, since the alarm to make it to work at two goes off at noon thirty--you wake up in your own bed to a text that says “fuck, I wish I would’ve kissed you,” sent 9:38 AM.
(Later when you’re chatting about last night’s dinner he sends a selfie, all sleepy blue eyes and sneer and gas station cigar hanging out of his mouth--“This is the face of a man who fucked up.”
You send one right back as is custom, one of those things you’ve both been doing that falls into a space that could maybe be called flirting. “This is a face that shoulda been kissed,” you tease and the two of you never mention it again.)
You never outright initiate but it’s like every time you show interest back he retreats, redirects, doesn’t know how to handle it.
(He’s a walking contradiction. It would be a shock if you only knew him onstage or in pretentious artist mode, but the more you talk the more he shows his soft quiet belly, his scars. His therapist and his worries and his anxiety, trouble sleeping, feeling like he’s let his family down. Like tragedy’s following him. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis but maybe it’s something bigger than both of you.
One night you talk about Jungian archetypes and tarot and you say you think he’s the Tower--destroying everything to build it better, even if that means things are terrifying & unknown right now. The clarity will come. Ripping down shit that doesn’t serve him in the name of growth & self-actualization.
And he says, “Really? I don’t get that at all.”
And you ask “why, which one do you think you are?”
And he says, “The Hanged Man. Or the Lovers.”
He doesn’t elaborate.)
He’s self-conscious of his smile.
He says shit like “I don’t want to burden you with my problems” then talks your ear off through rustly cell phone connections, reaching out for some sort of comfort but always standing just too far away for you to touch. He worries about everything and then in the next breath says he feels like this is where he’s supposed to be. “Y’know, right here. This room, this conversation this--.” A sentence he leaves hanging.
And you say, “Me too.”
Some nights he says “I wish you were here” and you just hum agreement, not wanting to push cuz it feels good to be wanted, whatever that is. You just want to soak in it. You don’t say you have a crush on him. Your heart beats practically sideways for a week.
The band’s got some time off, a few weeks before they go overseas. Shawn practically shows up on your doorstep with an “I was in the area” when he definitely doesn’t have a reason to be, it’s not like you live in some bustling metropolis. It’s just a tourist town for people that can’t afford anything more exotic. You appreciate it nonetheless.
He gets an Airbnb which you don’t spend any time at. He doesn’t spend time at your place either. You’re just...out--coffee, dinner, art colony, downtown; playing tourist in your own town--and when your hands touch and he doesn’t let go you ascend spiritually into a distant astral plane. That’s all it is (holding hands, a hug goodbye, resting your heads on each other’s shoulders playfully when there’s a lull in the action) but he’s smiling like he’s in on some big secret.
The way his arm naturally seems to find your waist should be illegal, along with the way the corners of his eyes crinkle when he laughs and how it takes him a minimum of four trains of thought to answer a single question.
He doesn’t kiss you, not even when you’re standing on your front porch with your head rested in the spot between his shoulder and neck and his arms fully around your waist, bodies pressed together, feeling his warmth radiate through his clothes and the sharp heavy wanting in your gut, the way your hips are touching and you can feel him through cotton and denim. But god, you want. You fucking want. But he doesn’t let on. He kisses your cheek and says goodnight and you’re so spun out it makes your throat hurt so you just go in the house and sit alone in the quiet, his scent still on your collar and all down the front of your shirt.
Either he’s scared of you or wants to keep you wanting and as fucking sick you are of mediocre middle-aged men trying to play games with your head it doesn’t matter when he does it. Maybe it’s cuz it’s real and not some jackass named Greg trying to get in a dick-measuring contest over indisputable Megadeth facts.
His second-to-last night there you end up making out desperate in the front seat of his rental car, everything that’d been pent up coming to a head at once and he’s choking on the words “fuck, I wanted this so bad” with his fingertips grazing under the hem of your shirt but when you go to unzip his pants he pulls your hand away and the night ends with your head on his chest in the backseat, both of you still fully clothed, all squished in together; his hand following the curvature of your spine in the dark. Every time he moves it down to slide along the edge of your back pocket and you make a contented little noise he backs off, pulls away, leaves space for Jesus.
It’s maddening in the worst way, but you’re so fucking happy. He presses a kiss to your forehead in the dark and you smile against his chest, snorting a little laugh. You can feel him smile back.
(His last night in town you invite him back to your place to watch a movie--just something to wind down & spend time together, you don’t care, he can pick--and he hems and haws like there’s any other reason he’s in town in the first place, dancing around the subject like the fucking clown he is. He’s got “you know I gotta get up early tomorrow” and all his other excuses locked & loaded, all his stupid bullshit, trying to retreat because you said yes and maybe that scares him a little. A lot. More than anything. And you just said “c’mon Shawn, it’ll be fun” and promised to make popcorn--which you did in an attempt to appeal to the showman-slash-imagery part of his brain that’s running the constant film of his life that he can never quite turn off, which ended up ignored when he slid his fingers into your hair and kissed you on the mouth hot & desperate & unmuddled & trapped the moan in your throat before it could break, and he was the one to pull your hand to his zipper this time and accepted a handjob under your ratty heirloom couch blanket while you kissed along his neck. He shuddered when he came, letting loose a breathy “oh shit” and catching you in a heady kiss before you could even wipe your hand off. It was perfect and gross and weighty all at once, then later on your front porch he kissed you so soft & sweet & close-mouthed & tucked your hair behind your ear & said goodnight and yeah, he did have a nice time, thanks for inviting him over. Hopefully he wasn’t any trouble. Maybe you could do that again sometime. And you told him he’s not, and it was the truth.)
(That was the kiss you had before he left town the next day after one last breakfast out, your chin nestled in his hand and his thumb smoothing over your cheek, just the gentlest press of your lips together. The barest hint of tongue. Everything chaste & soft & so fucking backwards knowing you jerked him off to some art house movie less than twelve hours ago and in hindsight would’ve given anything to climb the rest of the way into his lap and get creative, y’know. Fuck the movie.)
(His eyes sparkled when he walked away, all crinkly around the edges. Catching your fingertips for one last second. Saying just, “bye. I’ll catch you later.” Like he was just stepping out for the afternoon and not going home to pack up for fucking Europe.)
There’s no regret-texts after that, no real discussion, he just seeps into the corners of your life sending emails and calling you “hun” and “sweetie” and “dear” in the safety bubble of your text messages, wishing you good morning and keeping you up at night on Facetime cuz that’s easier than international calling. He says, “I wish you were here,” when he’s somewhere in fucking Budapest or wherever and you’re back home in bed, wiped out from the day. Not trying to look hot or anything. Just...being, comfortable, uninhibited but apparently that’s doing it for him.
“I wish I was there too,” you say, yawning into the collar of your t-shirt. And you know it’s risky but you say, “miss you.”
And he has the audacity to fucking say “you don’t want me.” After all that. The chasing him for months, the late nights, the texts you have to keep clearing cuz you talk so much he’s slowing your phone down. “Sweetie” and “honey” and “dear” and him traveling to see you and then somehow evading every attempt to put his dick where your mouth’s at. He’s rude. He’s stupid and rude and stubborn and unlovably pretentious and you’d cross an ocean to give him just one kiss. “You don’t want me, I’m old and fucked up.” To your ears, that sounds like a dare. You’ve never been one to walk away from a fucking challenge.
And you’re just like “okay idiot, watch this” and that’s that.
It’s still another two months before you see him with his shirt off.
Nothing about him is easy.