I think I started missing Casey long before we were dating. As the manager of the restaurant where we both worked in our early twenties, I was there at least 6 days of the week, while he was only scheduled for 4 or 5. Once the season (and our infatuation) heated up, the restaurant was a lot duller on the nights when Casey wasn’t waiting tables.
I’m not sure if he started picking up “doubles” before–or after–we started seeing each other that summer. I know that it meant that we could accelerate our flirting–because there was a lot more downtime on the lunch shift, and more importantly–less witnesses.
Casey crossed the line one afternoon with the comment, “Nice legs.” I had worn a skirt to work that day, but that didn’t give the staff the liberty to treat the boss like one of the summer girls. I flatly ignored his comment (but inwardly glowed.)
Once safely into the month of August, Casey and I advanced our “relationship” into the next level–with a secret out-of-town date. After that, I made sure to schedule him whenever I’d be at the restaurant; while he made sure to pick up as many extra shifts as possible.
On my mid-day breaks, I would head up to the Top of the Mast lounge which was closed during the day. I had long ago discovered that its cushioned benches made for a perfect napping spot after a late night at the bars and before a long evening at work. One of the hostesses downstairs was a good friend, and I’d have her send Casey up to the me on some errand so that we could steal a few private moments together.
By the end of August, Casey had unofficially moved into my apartment. In September, after most of the staff headed back to college, we were inseparable, spending literally every waking, working and sleeping moment together.
When Casey’s father invited him for a game of golf one afternoon, we were taken aback. How could we manage that long apart? But we forced ourselves, and it was truly one of the most agonizing afternoons of my life. I had no idea that I could miss someone that much.
When my old college roomate got tickets to Genesis, a second parting was forced. I adored Phil Collins–and my friend–but I didn’t want to go anywhere without Casey. Embarrassingly, I don’t remember a single thing about that night, except for the pit in my stomach.
The next month, Casey and I hijacked our relationship out to Steamboat Springs for the winter. There were a few lean weeks before the season started where we survived on cheap noodles and love. But once the snow started flying, we both got jobs–only they weren’t at the same place.
Casey worked at the restaurant on top of the mountain, while I taught skiing to preschoolers at the bottom. In the evening, I was a waitress at an upscale restaurant, while he bussed tables across town at the Mexican place. Occasionally, we’d grab an hour together between shifts, but mostly we saw each other in bed.
Eventually, we got used to it.
So much so, that 25 years later, it takes three days– instead of 3 hours–before I really begin to miss him.
Oh sure, I notice he’s gone right away especially when I’m the only one putting the kids to bed, or cleaning up the dishes or locking all the doors.
But it wasn’t until last night that I truly “felt” his absence–right in the pit of my stomach.
And this time, it was a good thing.
Because it means that underneath all the thoughts and responsibilities and roles that separate us–even when we are together–the love is still alive.