Thomm Quackenbush, author

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    Xenology: Crossing the Bridge

    Chris asked when we are free over the week so that we might stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson. The protective insect in my head, safe in its asocial carapace, says we are never free during the week. I am permitted - nay, encouraged - to pester people into hanging out with me Friday and Saturday, preferably in the evenings. Sunday during the day is allowed, but it is fixed beside what is usually a school day.

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    Xenography: Dying Is Not an Art

    Mental illness is not romantic, though many artists reflexively credit their coping mechanisms for driving their art (the world is holistic and everything affect creation one way or other). Those who fetishize our mental illness are the spiritual decedents of the swallowers of lead centuries ago, so they could approximate an arty death by tuberculosis. If they could actually feel what went into that novel, painting, or album, if they had to live with the mental illness that treated this art as one avenue of therapy, they would be more careful with their genie wishes. Instead, they are hayseed tourists hucking peanuts at the freaks, jealous that they are not weird enough to be in the show.

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    Xenology: Eidolon and Daemon

    The difficulty with a mental illness - and something they should teach you on the first day of mental illness orientation - is that you are usually the person least able to explain how long or intensely you have been feeling something.

    Feeling the last barbs of an anxiety attack I abated, I ask Amber if she believes that I am more neurotic than when she met me. She need think no more than a second before she pronounces that I am much better than I once was.

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    Xenology: Good Riddance (A Series of Masks)

    I love No Such Convention. It is, as I am not shy to say, the weekend when I usually feel the coolest. I receive a kind honorarium and, this year, a hotel room like all the other guests. I did not ask for the hotel room, but I was told one had been acquired for me and for the weekend I was about to have, I would prefer closer and more impersonal accommodations than staying with my saintly mother-in-law, who would be working a schedule opposite Amber and me. I think it best that I always be provided a hotel room in the future.

    No Such Convention requires my primary mask for the weekend: an affable and slightly eccentric author. In acknowledgement of that, I wear a long black coat with bright red lining, which I feel makes me resemble a party magician. I am downright jubilant when I arrive to the convention Friday night, ahead of Amber who still had things to pack to bring.

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    Xenology: She Would Not Want to Be Burned

    Melissa would not want to be burned, of this I am certain. One of the formative experiences of her life, the way she told it, was the night she hotboxed her car with Glade air freshener. The propellant in the cans is nitrous oxide, the same gas dentists use to make you numb and apathetic that they are prying teeth out of your jaw. It induces a pleasant, half-dreaming state.

    It is also keen to facilitate combustion.

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    Writers Panel at No Such Convention 2017



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    A panel with writers J.M. DeSantis, Natalie Van Sistine, and Peter Tarkulich, moderated by Thomm Quackenbush at Vassar College's No Such Convention 2017.

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    Artists Panel at No Such Convention 2017


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    A panel with artist Dezi Sienty, J.M. DeSantis, KEZ, and Peter Tarkulich, moderated by Thomm Quackenbush at Vassar College's No Such Convention 2017.

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    Xenology: Melissa Remains

    The day after I learn Melissa is dead of a heroin overdose, I am awash in dissociation. I am aware this is occurring - I know my mind well, even when it is not working well - and just accept this numb fuzziness as part of my processing. I feel as though I am something other and outside my body, caring for the whims of a curious and illogical being who I pretend is actually me. This avatar in the world, this shell, he is processing Melissa's death. I am calmly watching and making sure he isn't going to break over all this, then getting worried when it seems he isn't becoming the right amount of distraught. I could barely hold it together when Todd killed himself and he got on my nerves about as often as I liked him. I loved Melissa and, aside from a few crying jags when I think too hard, I am continuing to live as usual. At the moment, because of the dissociation, I am not able to remember things well, but I know enough to know I am handling this too well.

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    Xenology: Melissa Dies

    I get out of work and I turn on my phone. I harbor this slight paranoia that massive things occur while I am indisposed teaching and that, for whatever reason, I need to know these things before bridge the five miles between my job and my home.

    There is a text and a voice mail. Texts are easier to deal with, so I check that first and find a message from my mother, asking for information because my father and she are going to have their wills made up. I roll my eyes, because I do not want to think about mortality Valentine's weekend.

    I click the voicemail, tap my phone to speaker, and set to driving. It is a voice I do not immediately recognize. Telemarketers seem curiously unaware that they are not supposed to call me.

    "mwmmshfh Melissa passed jjfhaseigj didn't rhehstihsghf from Facebook."

    I pull my car to the shoulder and replay the message. "Hey, Thomm, this is Krista. Melissa passed away this morning. I didn't want you to find out from Facebook."

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    Xenology: The Saddest Lines

    Early in our friendship, Daniel asked me what message I had for him. In his experience, new people joined his life to give him some pseudo-cryptic information, the closest I believe he came to religion or a belief in predestination. Once they said it, I assume they became less valuable to him and he had more of an excuse to fade away.

    Then, I told him that I knew of no message I had for him. I just liked being around him. I wondered then if that was an antidote to his leaving, my inability to give him some sort of missing puzzle piece.

    Now, when his leaving has ceased to be my future but my past, I feel an obligation to find a message for him from our collected time together. I will address him directly, though I know from his statements and experience that he does not read things I write about him. He does not, after all, trust writers and is write not to. We remember what we can and assemble what we cannot, just so long as the story still holds together. Still, it would be disingenuous not to put this out in the ether.

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