“You’re full of mistakes, Shirou. You’re probably on the same path, heading in the same direction. The difference might be in how far you can go. What matters is where you end up, and how far you came, right? Even if your destination and your result end up the same, if you manage to walk a little further afterward, I know you’ll get your proper ending. – Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works]
About a month ago, I saw Caitlin.
I was at a meetup that she’d roped me into attending a year prior, and that a few friends were going to this time; still being the analytical type (as you all well know by now), I had a certain sort of apprehension about it. Even so, I wondered if there was a certain sort of possibility. This was a bridge I genuinely cared about rebuilding, and I’ve at least somewhat adapted to the fact that dynamics aren’t static. It’s no longer a specific aim of mine every time things fall apart with someone, but there is precedent that things can get better. (See: Stacy. Amusingly enough, Yuki also fits here, even though at the time I was just looking for resolution and not something vaguely resembling a friend.) Now, I had been intending to apologize for my part in the way things ended up since before she stopped speaking to me, so I had a few things in mind to say to her if an opportunity were to arise. Still, when she did appear, I saw her and immediately muttered a string of curses before plotting a course for the opposite direction. I fell into old habits – ducking away anytime I saw her, yet somehow hoping chance would bring me close enough to say “fuck it” and attempt speaking. I’d gone from holding a level of apathy that adolescent Spencer would have dreamed of (see: Ramona) to reverting to the habits that started with adolescent Spencer in the first place.
A few days later, I took a risk and made a last-ditch effort anyway. This was the entirety of what I said to her:
“I’m sorry about before.
That was all I really wanted to say the other day. At least, it’s the condensed version. I actually wanted to take 5 minutes to say it in person, but I didn’t have the chance. (Or maybe just the nerve. Idk.)
Anyway, instead of rambling any further I’ll leave it at that for a change. Hope you’re doing well.”
And I do.
It brings an interesting idea to mind about fear: how much of an immediate, involuntary reaction remains even after facing its object? How much of my fear – one that I know is about an abstract – is tied to each person that could represent it? After all, I didn’t get any better in a broader sense after resolving things with Yuki, and she was where it started. Perhaps dealing with Ramona – admittedly one of the more devastating – doesn’t affect my attitudes toward the others in the slightest. Perhaps I have to face each of these spectres individually. Perhaps I have to keep facing them until they no longer hold meaning to me. What do I have to lose? I’ve already lost them. Fears are a thing to be conquered, and after all, I spent years hopelessly staring at them every time I was in a position to run into Emma (and occasionally just hopelessly staring at Emma when I was in a position to run into Emma)… Caitlin makes me feel exactly the same, somehow, and how will I be able to overcome that if I don’t push myself to address it – to address her?
…At least, this is what the version of me that started this quest would have done, and I’m sure there are a still a few out there who think I would still do that. After all, I know of at least one who still seems to think all of this is about her for some reason. (Again: this is actually about slowly, systematically killing the version of me that’s prone to those sorts of patterns. I’d say something about reading the hidden meanings within the hidden meanings, but for those of you actually following along, this has actually been pretty overt from the beginning.) Now, as much fun as I admittedly had with this, the truth is I’m really not quite so fucked up anymore. As for anyone still adamantly convinced otherwise, it’s none of my business whether they acknowledge the possibility that people like me get better, or simply end up looking for a high point somewhere near the Seine.
Truthfully, I initially wrote this one for my own amusement. I was thinking about the difference between what I do now and what I would have done before (mostly because of that exact contrast in my reactions) and really wanted to see if I could convincingly build an entire work around it. (The act of writing one of these with a specific idea of where I want it to go, instead of just letting it evolve as I go, is an experiment in itself.) You’re seeing it almost entirely because of my friend Neil, who’s been helping me edit these, and who pushed me to finish it after seeing the tale I’d been toying around with. (…ok, and also because the Javert reference was too wonderful to simply discard.)
All of that said, no matter how of an exercise this might have been, there’s still a point in it. It’s not as if using someone as a measuring point is new for me, and all of it raises a question that’s worth asking. The people who recall that feeling of being alone are more or less equivalent in that sense, so what makes my reaction toward one any different from another? Extent? Time? Opportunity for something resembling closure? The only real distinction that comes to mind is that, context be damned, I was more or less in love with Caitlin. (“Was”? Who am I kidding with my past tense?) Even if we include friend-loves (which I obviously am, since this is Caitlin I’m discussing here), there are only about four others that come to mind that I could say that about. (Emma, Stacy, Amber, Roxanne, in that order. I swear, I’ll get to Amber at some point…) Ramona, on the other hand, was more a blend of infatuation and commonality that would get to me a lot before embarking on all of this. To that end, I can’t quite tell if this is some temporary god mode, or if Caitlin just embodies a different sort of weakness – if this is yet another feeling I need to address in order to progress any further, one that I haven’t needed to face until now. In a broader sense, though, I suppose between her and Ramona the question is ultimately which one is the exception, and which is the rule.
“I need to get stronger, so I can see the clear blue sky after the storm.” – K.R., Log Horizon