Was joining the fire department something you felt obligated by tradition to do, or was being a firefighter what you truly wanted for yourself?
No, it was probably one of the few things in my life that I never felt any sense of obligation toward in any way. It was just what I wanted to do. It was what I’d always wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I think I was mimicking siren noises before I even learned how to speak, at least, that’s what my mother’s always said.
Was it by choice or chance that you, your brothers, and father all work at the same station?
That was by choice, but not mine. It hadn’t even been my choice to work at my father’s station. At the time, it just happened to be the only station hiring, which is why Alec, Jane, and I all ended up at the same station house. Jasper and Emmett, though...they had their sights set on Station 12 from the get go when they joined the fire academy.
Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing that you all work together?
In the beginning, when it was just me and my dad, it wasn’t really either. It just was. But over the years, I’ve come to learn that it’s not really a good thing in our line of work. Tension runs high, there’s too much risk of getting injured, and sometimes it’s impossible to leave outside family bullshit at the door when you enter the station house for your shift. It makes it hard on the other guys you work with. While it’s not really all that detrimental to our ability to function as a team, it adds unneeded stress to an already stressful job.
What really makes me think it’s not a good thing, though, is that it’s completely fucking distracting to have someone in your family at a fire scene with you. Your focus isn’t split evenly between yourself and your crew mates the way it should be. It’s focused on your family, and that puts yourself, and everyone else, at greater risk of getting hurt. Again, just more stress added to an already stressful job.
In the scene where you ran into the building to save Bella, a woman you didn’t even know, you came off as fearless. Have you always been that way? Driven by instinct? Or has there ever been a moment in your career where you would have paused before entering a building in that condition?
I’ve always been that way I think. I don’t remember there ever being a time when I froze up or had to contemplate what I should do. When there’s been someone in need of help, I just responded. By the way...there’s no such thing as fearless. I could have pissed myself that night when I was going up the stairs. When you’re screaming at shit you imagine up in your head, you’ve blown right passed being afraid and gone straight to terrified insanity. Laugh if you want, but shit, sometimes it’s scary as hell inside blazing buildings.
What was it like for you when you first came out of the coma?
Terrifying. When I first realized I couldn’t move my legs, that I was paralyzed, I thought “This is it. My life is over.” I don’t think I can even begin to describe what losing control of half of your body feels like. Nothing else mattered at that point, because without my legs, I was done for. All I could think about was that I’d never fight another fire, I’d never have the family I always wanted, and I’d die some lonely, old, bitter man one day.
Truth, since you woke up, how much time have you spent crying? It doesn’t seem like you release much emotion. It seems more like you have a tendency to bottle it up and hide it away from the world.
I’ll admit...I’ve cried a bit. It wasn’t like I could hop out of bed and get everything that was building up in me out in some kind of physical way. There was nothing for me to do but cry that shit out or be poisoned by it.
I touched on some of the mental aspects of your recovery while in the hospital, the depression, the helplessness, etc., but I know there are is quite a bit more that hasn’t been brought into focus. What would you say was the hardest part of your struggles during that time?
God...the humiliation. It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t have any control over anything when I was in the coma, but once I came out of it, and still didn’t have any control over anything...that was...mortifying is the only word I can think of to describe it. I mean...you can rationalize the fact that some stranger is seeing you butt ass naked, and tending to your needs in ways you wish nobody would ever have to in your adult life, because they’re just doing their job. It isn’t any less embarrassing when your own family tends to those needs, but when that person isn’t really either...not family, not stranger, not even friend...just something undefinable somewhere in between...there isn’t anything you can do to rationalize it in a way that makes you feel comfortable with it. Having to look at that person every day, knowing they’ve seen every part of you and your situation that you wish could have been hidden from any living soul...it’s humiliating.
Is it true that most rescued victims don’t offer much more than a thank you in passing? Even if their rescuer was injured while trying to help them?
Firefighters all over the world get hurt every day trying to help people, but it’s not every day that those people try to help them in return. Someone saying thank you while we’re on scene is a pretty common occurrence, but anything more than that doesn’t happen all that often. In the years I’ve been in the department, we’ve gotten a couple cards and things like that, and some families have added our station to their Christmas card list over the years, but there’s never really been any kind of effort to get to know any of us beyond the job we did for them. Once we’re out of sight, for the most part, we’re pretty much out of mind.
How do you feel about what Bella’s doing for you?
I don’t really know what to feel about it. Most of the time I’m grateful for what she’s doing because she’s not just trying to return a favor or sticking around out of pity. She’s trying to be my friend and that’s something I’ve never had someone try to do as a result of me just doing my job. Sometimes I have to ask myself why the hell is she doing it when, before the night of the fire, she had a life of her own and now she’s seemed to stop living it. She had friends and her family and a career, but ever since I woke up, it’s like she’s put everything in her life on hold and that makes me feel guilty. Then there’s the embarrassment I mentioned earlier when she’s witnessed or helped me with things that make it uncomfortable for me to even look her in the face afterwards.
The whole situation is confusing, but at the bottom of it, I appreciate her. Even if she didn’t do anything more for me than come around to visit or something, her being around makes it a little easier to just...deal. She’s the constant reminder I need that, at the very least, some good came out of my reckless decisions that night.
From what we’ve learned so far, we only know of you having been in a relationship once, with Jessica. Is she the only person you’ve ever dated?
Ha, no, she’s not the only person I’ve ever dated. Maybe the craziest, but not the only. Not counting high school faux-mances (and I say this because back then we all thought we knew what we were doing, and making it to the three month mark meant something, but then you get dumped because you spent your allowance on some hot concert tickets or something stupid instead of on her) I’ve legitimately been in a relationship with three other women. In between those though, I’ve dated a number of others on and off...it just never led to anything more than a few dinner dates or a movie or two.
Have you just not met “the one” or do you think your career has negatively impacted your love life?
Hm...I can’t really say that my job hasn’t been an influencing factor in whether things did or didn’t work out with anyone in my past, but I don’t think it’s necessarily been in a negative way. I mean, yeah, two of my past relationships didn’t work out because my job got in the way, but the thing is, the job is who I am. If they don’t get that, then they don’t get me. It sucked to find that out six months or a year or so into dating when I’d thought there might have been a chance for the relationship to last, but it is what it is. My job might have been the reason things didn’t work out, but in the long run, it wouldn’t have worked out anyway because it wouldn’t have mattered whether I did, or didn’t, sacrifice my career for the relationship. One, or both, of us would have always been unhappy. Based on that, I’m more inclined to believe that I just haven’t met “the one”.
It seems to me like you have a particular type of woman in mind. What is it that you are looking for in “the one” that the others haven’t had?
You know, a lot of guys out there have a list a mile long of what they look for in a woman...and I’m sure at some point I had one too. But when you’ve had the mile long legs, the bedroom eyes, the cute personality, and whatever else you can think of, but it still didn’t make you happy, you start crossing things off your list that you realize are nothing but complete meaningless bullshit. Before I ended up in this wheelchair, my list boiled down to one word: acceptance.
If I’d met a woman that could have accepted the fact that I didn’t just do my job to earn a paycheck, but because I love to do it, I would have been happy. Unfortunately, if I never return to that job, they’d have to be accepting of a lot more than just my lifestyle of being a firefighter.
In the chapter 20, you hesitated in calling Bella a friend. Why was that?
In truth...I didn’t know what the hell to call her. There is no single word to describe what she is to me. When I think of the word friend, I think of the guys at the station, or people I occasionally get together with. I don’t think of someone who’s there every damn day front and center. I have family, I have friends, I have acquaintances...and then I have Bella...who doesn’t really fall into any of the above because she’s less than one but more than the other two. Friend just didn’t seem to cut it, but I couldn’t come up with anything else that suited her, and it kind of pissed me off that I couldn’t.
One of the readers had a very specific question for you. She seems to actually be dying for the answer as to whether or not you have ANY thoughts of Bella that are NOT purely platonic in nature. So do you?
I’ve never really understood the whole “platonic” notion. It’s the black and white of it that gets me. I don’t understand how every relationship is supposed to fit in some predefined little box of either platonic or romantic or familial. Bella and I don’t fit in any of those boxes. We just...are, and I’m pretty damn content with it.