‘The Lurking Shadow’
Although I’d graduated at the end of 2008, I re-enrolled in just the one class in 2009 – the Novel class again, because I thought it would help to keep writing. In 2007 I’d adapted one of my screenplays into a novel. In 2008, I’d gotten twenty thousand words into another adaptation. I thought being in the Novel class would push me to keep going.
I also went back, on a volunteer basis, to work with the school’s publisher, although this was standard – former students returned to oversee projects that had carried on from one year to the next, and to help oversee and mentor the new students.
Unfortunately, the school was in a transitional period, as they’d incorporated a degree course atop of the diploma course I’d done. I didn’t understand the politics going on in the bureaucracy, but the publishing arm suffered. There wasn’t the same structure and zeal in the projects they were working on. It discouraged me from ‘Overload’, because I didn’t want to put in so much work if it was just going to go nowhere.
Sure enough, later in the year the publishing arm informed authors that their projects would not go ahead. It was disappointing, but I’d also expected the worst to happen, because that’s the way my whole adult life mentality had been.
Early in 2009, I was contacted by a self-publisher to whom I’d sent my résumé. They agreed to take me on in a freelance capacity. Best of all, I could work from home, and all materials were either mailed or emailed to me. Still, typically, I was scared of being able to handle the work. What if I wasn’t up to it? What if all my education wasn’t enough?
I was sent a manuscript assessment to perform, and then a book to edit. They were overjoyed with my work. If nothing else, I was thorough. I couldn’t be anything but thorough, which was perhaps the OCD driving me. Or maybe it wasn’t the OCD. Maybe it was just me.
As I threw myself into my work, my relationship, and school, the shortness of breath receded to the background. Often, it would be on my mind, but I’d self-talk my way through it, or lose myself in my work until I forgot about it.
Finally, it seemed I was moving forward.
I’d left a barbecue full of my own friends where I was respected and liked to meet Allie at her friend’s party. The party was full of the crowd from the days of her marriage. Her ex was there, as the hosts were amongst his best friends. When I bumped into him, he seemed slightly confrontational. He’d always been courteous previously. He might’ve been uncomfortable with me stepping into his territory. I wouldn’t have blamed him. Of course, I could’ve imagined this all – another possibility, given the way my head worked.
I stood by Allie’s side for about twenty minutes, not saying a word because I didn’t know anybody, until the traffic through the hall dissected me from her group. Then I stood in the hallway, just a couple of metres from her, all alone, staring at pictures on the wall showing her and her ex during happier times (if there were such things) in shots with the party’s hosts.
Whenever Allie came to things arranged by my friends, I stayed by her side and ingratiated her into conversations because she was so nervous about fitting in. I thought this was a harder scene than anything she’d ever had to face. This was her and her ex’s crowd from another life. I felt discarded.
I mulled over what I was doing here. I stood there for about fifteen minutes, just alone, looking at pictures, looking at walls, people sidling past me like I was invisible, Allie oblivious to my existence. For all she knew, I could’ve gone.
So I did. I left.
It might’ve been (and probably was) a selfish decision, but it was a decision that was the culmination of everything wrong with the relationship, feeling like I was nothing but a convenience, and otherwise taken for granted.
So that was that.
I regretted – as would everybody who’s had a long-term relationship that has failed – what could’ve been. Maybe if things were different, or I was better and more capable, we could’ve gravitated closer to the other’s ideals and compromised and existed and lived within that common ground. Whenever we’d done that throughout the relationship, the compromises never held, and the common ground dissolved.
Or maybe, as with all things, it was just me.
Maybe I was too much of a misfit to make things work, to connect in a meaningful way with anybody else after so many years of a dysfunctional and insular life. Maybe Allie was right to have all her reservations and reversions and qualifications about me.
Maybe, ultimately, the reality was that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I participated in ‘normal’ life, I was just not ‘normal people’ and never would be.