I knew a guy who was in a pretty bad car crash years ago. He wasn't badly hurt -- it messed up his back but in time he healed up -- but for a long while afterward he wouldn't get in a car. Even when he did get over that little phobia, I could see his teeth and fingers clenching when as the speedometer would rise. It seems like even when you're done with something, sometimes it lingers on.
I'd be lying if I said my time at the Inn was all in the past. It's true that I don't mope about it anymore, don't get angry or frustrated with the way things happened with Alia or Sean and Erica. But "not moping" and "getting back to normal" aren't the same thing.
There's two ways this affects me. One is the obvious psychological doubts I have about myself. Every so often I wake up in the middle of the night wondering who exactly Todd Casey is supposed to be. My mind wanders while at work, thinking about people back in Connecticut.
I doubt myself, I wonder whether I'm ready to get back with Alia when she comes back, or if she'll want me, or if the last few years have driven some kind of wedge between us. These thoughts are fleeting, though, and usually there's enough going on that it gets pushed out of my mind. But there's something else that bugs me.
Call it a rut. It was a pre-existing condition that led me to the Inn. I've been so into my boring daily routine that whenever I've got some free time I just sit and vegetate and feel bad about myself. It isn't healthy. I'm not the "sit and wait" type, even though the wait is just a little longer.
That's where Shelby comes in. Shelby is a girl who's worked at the store with me since the holidays. At first I wasn't that close to her -- I haven't gotten that close to anybody lately -- but as the months went on, I found myself spending more and more time with her at work. Time goes by and I find myself acting more and more like myself when I'm around her.
We talk a lot, about movies and music, we have a lot of the same tastes. What really worried me was how attached to her I was getting. She's cute and funny and everything, but with everything between me and Alia I know I'm just off-limits.
So that kept me from getting too close to her. Until a couple weeks ago, when she had her 19th birthday party (oh, so young...) and pretty much demanded I appear. I did and by the end of the night, it was just me and her drinking on her couch. In another lifetime, there would've been nothing to stop me. Only a few years ago, an opportunity like that couldn't have come up without me making the most of it, and I was sure she'd go along with it. This includes a certain percentage of the time I was with Alia, back when I was a cheating bastard. But I'm not that anymore.
So we begin to drunkenly converse, and she asks me why, if I'm as great a guy as she thinks I am, am I single and lonely?
I make up a story on the spot -- a half-truth -- about how I have this "long-distance thing" going on, and I'm just waiting for the right time for her and I to be together, and all this semi-romantic BS. It was in that moment, being as honest as I can be with another person, that I finally put into words how much she means to me, and how much it would mean for her to come back to Toronto and for us to get on with our lives.
And I just keep going, and I spill out all my insecurities, my frustrations, my fears that it won't work out between the two of us and I'll be left with nothing. And she just listens and takes it all in, and when I'm done, she thinks about it for a while before saying, "Well, you know what? Even if it all crashes down on you, you can start building it up again, you know? That's what you've gotta do."
and that was that. Suddenly, I felt like I was really connecting to someone completely independent of the Inn and everything else, getting back to being a person. No sex, no drama, just... a good friend.
So anyway, I thought I'd share that. Maybe you'll understand why moments like those are important, or maybe I'm just rambling.