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02.10.01 2:50 a.m.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."

 -Martin Luther King, Jr. 

With Potential

NOTE: This entry was created on 3/17/01 from a letter written to Eileen.
I feel you need an entry. And perhaps, in this entry, I shall come out as a jerk. Or perhaps not. Rather up to Eileen.
But I will tell you now, I have no intention of ever, ever, EVER being a jerk to her. She is amazing to me as a person and I am utterly joyful to know her on the level I do. I have been trying, lo these past 36 hours, to be her friend as she requested. Be the greatest fan of her life, you know. But you know what I think? (See, here comes the jerk part) That she doesn't actually want me to be only her friend.
She want to have the "with potential" title attached, as she only dropped it out of fear of what I felt for her. But more so, what she felt for me. Fear is no reason to abandon potential.
This doesn't come out of nowhere. She dropped numerous hints to this extent, that she would regret long before her twentieth year dropping the suffix.
I liked the suffix, even if it was going to take a while for the potential to blossom. To quote Anais Nin (fearful, though lovely, author that she was) "The time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Not to mention Buttercup and Bubbles!
Maybe she will say "No, really, I just want to be friends." And I will be hideously embarrassed to have been so sure. But at least I risked it. I'd rather regret telling her all of this than regret not doing so.
You know what I blame for all of this? February. A better author than I (Tom Robbins) put it best when he said:
They say February is the shortest month but you know they could be wrong.
Compared, calendar page against calendar page, it looks to be the shortest, all right. Spread between January and March like lard on bread, it fails to reach the crust on either slice. In its galoshes - and you'll never catch February in stocking feet - it's a full head shorter than December, although in leap years, when it has growth spurts, it comes up to April's nose.
However more abbreviated than its cousins may look, February feels longer than any of them. It is the meanest moon of winter, all the more cruel because it will masquerade as spring, occasionally for hours at a time, only to rip off its mask with a sadistic laugh and spit icicles into every gullible face, behavior that grows quickly old.
February is pitiless, and it is boring. That parade of red numerals on its page adds up to zero: birthdays of politicians, a holiday reserved for rodents, what kind of celebrations are those? The only bubble in the flat champagne of February is Valentine's Day. It was no accident that our ancestors pinned Valentine's Day on February's shirt: he or she lucky enough to have a lover in frigid, antsy February has cause for celebration, indeed.
Except to the extent that it "tints the buds and swells the leaves within," February is as useless as the extra r in its name. It behaves like an obstacle, a wedge of slush and mud and ennui, holding both progress and contentment at bay.
James Joyce was born in February, as was Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, which goes to show that writers are poor at beginnings, although worse at knowing when to stop.
If February is the color of lard on rye, its aroma is that of wet wool trousers. As for sound, it is an abstract melody played on a squeaky violin, the petty whine of a shrew with cabin fever. O February, you may be little but you're small! Were you twice your tiresome length, few of us would survive to greet the merry month of May.

Does that explain our affair? I hardly think so, although it feels quite a bit better to blame an increment of time than her or me.
In fact, can we not blame time for all of this? Age, specifically, is the dastardly culprit. I say we execute the scoundrel age and live as Endless. "So shalt thou feed on death that feed on men and death once dead there's no dying then."
Now to Erikson, our dear dead psychotherapist. Yes, it is another discussion of his stages of psychosocial development. No, it has nothing to do with identity versus identity confusion or intimacy versus isolation. No, we shall go straight to the final stage. Integrity versus despair. (I should very much like you to know that the movie playing in the background said "integrity" as I typed it. It was meant to be. Every little thing she does is magic.) This stage usually occurs when one is in one's twilight year, but needn't be confined there. It roams and, as a famous Roman, conquers. The point of this stage is you look back at your life and either you are content with what has happened, with your life, you feel you have been accomplished and your life was rich, or you are wrought with regret. If only I had done that, hadn't done that, if only I had let myself love and be loved freely, why my life would have been something grand. Of course, if you are in your waning, hardly a sliver of you left in the sky, there is not much you can do. However, she is but a bud on the tree. She has time. "Even now the moon grows more swollen and the stars throb deep in their black pockets."
If she despairs now, a phone call or letter can alleviate her strife. She said that she would regret quite a bit sooner than twenty. She needn't regret at all. To call back to her letter, she worried about the effects on my passion on her life. But I tell you, very plainly, that she shouldn't worry if that matters.
She sees a handsome lad. So long as she does not try to date him, I have no quarrel with her realizing other people are attractive. I see and appreciate several lads and lasses each day, it doesn't mean I want to be with them. It is nothing that I much feel guilty for, because it is nothing more than "She is cute. How nice for her." To paraphrase Jimmy Carter "I have not lusted in my heart."
As for her occasionally getting drunk, my provisions are merely that she doesn't get drunk every weekend or get out of control when she gets drunk.
She definitely should not feel that I would look down upon her for doing so. "Have they not condemned you? Then neither will I." I think she is responsible and would not do anything that would hurt herself.
My feelings for her are not a cage nor are they so fickle. People make mistakes, that is the nature of being human. And (this is presuming a romantic relationship, I am still in possible jerk-mode), that only things that would affect my feelings are her doing heavy drugs (unlikely) or her cheating on me (or with me).
Aside from that, I practically insist she lead the life that makes her most happy. I care for her for who she is, why would I seek to change her?
However, if her knowing that I care for her as I do negatively affects her, gives her guilt she never had before, by all means I insist she keep me at an arms length.
Right now, I think she is almost trapped by her fear. She has made this decision to have me as nothing more than a friend, but she is not happy with it. She doesn't want to stand by it or reject it. In other words: ta (a word I gave her to signify "I don't know").
She is at square one, only square one has gone and changed on her. Because she does genuinely and, I am guessing, deeply care about me. Maybe she doesn't know how it is she feels for me, in what context, and that's fine. "I have so much love to give, I just don't know where to put it." "...Depends on not denying emotion." Ooh... has she become Roger to me? How odd.
Do you know why I haven't changed the page about her? I have yet to begin feeling different. If she truly wants me only as a friend with no potential ever of more, it will evolve in that stream. Much like the story, the rest is not in my hands.
She said it made her feel better to know the page hadn't been changed. Why do you think that is? Maybe after getting this far, she does think I am an arrogant jerk and wants nothing more to do with me, even as a friend. Maybe she is crying because I have hurt her so, though that was never and could never be my intention. But maybe not.
Maybe some of what I have said rings true and makes sense. Maybe she feels lighter because I figured things out which she has yet to voice. I guess we will see.
But know, truly, that I care for her deeply and am lifted at the thought that my life contains her within. That I can lift a receiver off its cradle, dial seven numbers, and hear her voice.
And I think that it is requited.

reading: the words "Love: the waiting game?"
listening: Kizmet purring
Eileen's devotion
interesting thought: I am rarely as grateful as I should be.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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