I think that sometimes a lot of people forgot where I came from when I was growing up. I think people thought of me as Shawn Hunter: Big Scary Guy. And then Shawn Hunter: Lady's Man. And then Shawn Hunter: Cory's Friend. All appropriate names, I suppose, when I think about it, but when I was young and still living in the trailer park, I expected to be called Shawn Hunter: Trailer Trash. But that never happened. I was a guy with an identity and friends, and of course I owe it all to Cory.
That stupid Cory Matthews. So many times I tried to break away from that stupid guy, but it just never worked. When I wasn't friends with him, who was I? When I wasn't listening to him gripe, complain, and gush about Topanga, what else was I listening to? Nothing. I was nothing without stupid Cory Matthews. So, eventually, I stopped trying to break away. I became his Shawn and I loved it. It was the best time of my life.
When stupid Cory got married to Topanga, we drifted away and I latched onto Angela. Fine. So I latch. But I don't seem like I latch, so it's all good. I guess.
That was my life for college. Cory, Topanga, Angela, my half-brother. That's all. I was a latcher. And I was happy, kind of. Happy in that suburbia way. Not happy in the trailer-grown way.
So when Topanga had a baby, I took that as my chance to stop latching. I got myself a trailer (a crappy one, I admit) and left Philadelphia. Of all the people I had to leave, the hardest to part from was Cory, that moron. He tried to cling on to my leg while I was leaving. "Shawn!" he bawled. "My Shawny!"
"Get off, Cory!" I kicked him lightly on the elbow and he yelped and backed away. I explained to him all that about the latching. I don't think he really understood (Cory, the King of Latching), but he said he did and that was good enough for me. I told him my cell phone number and I drove away. I was on my own, finally.
The first couple of months were the hardest. I spent a couple of weeks in Idaho, climbing mountains and camping out and stuff. That was nice. I had heard somewhere that that kind of thing is supposed to clear the mind and the soul. All it really did was teach me how to fire a gun. I hunted my own food. It was great. I finally felt like my own man.
At night, when the stars would come out, I lay on the roof of my trailer and I stared at the stars, just as I had done when I was a little boy. If I concentrated hard enough, I could hear the distant sounds of my parents fighting, of the parents down the street fighting, of the young boys across the way fighting. And then, if I concentrated harder, I could make it go away, just as I did as a child.
I read a lot on my trip. In Kansas I read a book about parenting. It said that love was the most important thing for a small child. So I thought about that for a while. I think I was exposed to a lot of love. My dad loved me, and my mom loved me, but I think the difference was that they didn't love each other. So instead of learning from them, I learned from Cory's parents, and, later, Cory and Topanga themselves. Needless to say, I had fantastic teachers. But for some reason, I just couldn't love like that. It just came down to me again. My fault. My problems.
I talked to Cory about making sure he loved his daughter a lot and that he loved his wife a lot. He said that he did. Then he also said that he missed me. What a moron. That stupid idiot kept talking about how his little girl wanted to meet her Uncle Shawn.
Eventually I made it to California. I got there, I stood on the beach for an hour, and then I turned back. I didn't need to stay there. I already knew that my return trip would be trying enough. I wanted to get back. I was done with being alone for a while. When I got back, I would go see Cory and Topanga and the little one in their new house and car. I would find a place to park my trailer to live for a while.
Even though I would be alone still, I knew that I would be with Cory. He would never turn me away, and I doubt Topanga would want him to. They've got so much love to give; I knew that going back would be enough to replenish my lack of love.
It was a long and easy drive home. It took me two weeks, with stopping and starting and debating. Every night, even when it was raining, I spent a half an hour staring at the stars, thinking about my past and reconciling it. But the funny thing is, as I neared the west Pennsylvania border, I found myself thinking towards the future instead of to the past. I wanted to get home. Finally I let go of the past and allowed myself to be excited about my future.
I arrived in front of the Matthews home at three P.M. on a Sunday. Judging by the dress of the little girl out front, they had just gotten home from church. I strode (I strode now because I was buffer and leaner for having camped for so long) to the front door and knocked boldly. I was more excited than I had ever been.
Cory opened the door and his stupid grin spread across his face. I latched myself to him, enveloping him in a bear hug. He was chubby and stubbly and happier than I had ever seen him. I knew he was excited because I could feel his pulse through my tight grip. "Shawn!" he bawled. "My Shawney!" It had been three years, two months, and eight days since I last saw him. Topanga came to investigate the loud noises from the door and, upon seeing me, joined the hug. The three of us embraced on the doorway for five whole minutes, crying and smiling. It was the best homecoming I could ever have wished for.
I spent the next couple of weeks in his house, getting to know his little girl (she reminded me of Morgan; very smart and sassy), talking to the pair about my adventures. Cory seemed impressed that I had lived on my own for so long. But only impressed. Not jealous. Cory knew his place. He was a family man and he could never not love his family enough to leave them. Instead he would watch movies, read books, and listen to my stories and he would live through them. And then, eventually, he would share them with his family. He was a husband and a father through and through.
And that's what I mean when I say that people forget where I came from. I'm not a family man, and I could never be a family man. That doesn't mean I'm not capable of love. It means the opposite in fact. It means I'm a latcher. I latch myself to those I love. What this trip was about, I think, was learning that the attachment was only emotional. I could be physically away from Cory and still love him just as much. I guess since all my relationships have always been tested, I thought it was time to test my relationship with my role model, the ridiculous Cory Matthews.
At night, back in Philadelphia, I would lay on top of my trailer and look at the stars. I remember so clearly what they looked like when I was a little boy. In a way they were more marvelous then, because I had so much more to look away from. But now... They're just lights in the sky. Familiar, comforting lights in a sky. A dull ache in the back of my mind. The real brilliance was right there in Philadelphia the whole stupid time. I'm an idiot.