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03.04.01 4:56 p.m.

"Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you... Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think is necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question ... Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use."

-  Carlos Casteneda
    



Where to begin and where to end?
I will start at the beginning and, in reaching the end, I will stop.
Yesterday, I saw my friend Kendall. She has been one of my closer friends long before this psychological incarnation. She knew me pre-Jen. (As I was explaining last night, I judge time on the basis of who I was dating at the time, much as time was judged BC. "It is year 12 in the reign of Augustus.") I barely knew myself pre-Jen.
I was visiting with her owing to the fact that I told her I had a dream about her and this led to her confessing she was attracted to me. Before you think I am a worse hypocrite than I have made myself out to be, I agreed to see her before I decided I wanted to be alone. I try my hardest not to break promises.
After having my epiphany the other night, I was less than looking forward to being around someone I cared about who was attracted to me. I thought no good would come of it and I would lose my stomach as I did once before. I did not, however, engage in reverse peristalsis when we kissed.
I will not dwell on the events of the day, but to say that, by nightfall, we had reestablished to feeling nothing but friendship. Much to our mutual relief.
We went to a tiny Chinese restaurant in Tarrytown. We were there with Kendall's friend Jesse and a couple that I will call Ben and Steph (as that is, in fact, their names). Steph was about on my level of off-handed, fanciful quips (there was an on-going story developing between us about how the Chinese food establishments bred her to fool Americans, as she was blonde haired and blue eyed, and how the owners of the place were going to feed us dishwater tea). I must say it was refreshing and inspiring that I am not alone in being as I am. I wish I could speak to her again and become her friend, but it is unlikely as she goes to college... um... elsewhere. (I couldn't figure out where the city was where she attended college).
After dinner, Kendall brought me to a bar in Croton to see a concert. This was quite a trip for me, thoroughly lessened by my being in a half-asleep alpha state whenever I was in a car and not driving.
I am currently sick, you see. I need my rest.
I am not used to bars, as I do not drink and have no interest to. Had I, I would merely get a bottle of delicious wine and enjoy it with friends at home, not strangers in a place with no atmosphere and overpriced drinks.
I lamented naively and to the great amusement of those around me that I thought bars had little bowls of peanuts. And rats. I could do without the rats, but a tiny bowl of salted legumes would have been nice.
I, as established, am not a bar person. After drinking my ginger ale (ordered under the clever assumption that it looked more like alcohol than a coke and even had ale in the name. Thus I would be incognito as someone who has no interest in getting smashed.), we watched a cover band which really was of little note (save that I liked the guitarist's style and the singer got better as she got drunker). I could little pay attention. First my attention was caught by the indoor koi pond the bar had. I sat by it for ten minutes, stunned by the fish. Would they be so beautiful if their condition were different? Here they were, trapped in a small, open tank in a minuscule bar situated on the edge of the Hudson River. Surely they had some sense of how close they were to such a vast and different existence. Freedom?
Then I remembered that goldfish only have memories of a few seconds. So the situation is constantly new and shocking for them. Worse, any moment, a lush from the bar could drop his cigarette or drink in their open tank and they could die. Precarious mortality. Yet they swam (as though they have a choice. I am fairly sure goldfish need to swim constantly or they die), because the tank was a constant adventure to them, they didn't know they had seen it and their brother fish a million times before. Even if I rescued one, which one would it be? Would it remember where it had been? (Obviously, no.) Would it die the moment it hit the frigid, PCB-addled Hudson? (Probably) There was nothing I could do that would matter here.
After fully realizing their condition, I returned to the bar to be less than thrilled by the singer's rendition of an Alanis Morisette song. As my attention waned, I looked to the mirrored wall to the side. Wherever the mirror split, every light was made a rainbow. I slowly rocked (to the beat of the music to appear less conspicuous) to watch the rainbows dance for me. I wonder how many others have realized that the mirrors made rainbows?
I shook my head, realizing the cigarette smoke (my main allergy) was getting to me and I need fresh air. So I stumbled out of the door, sans any manner of warmer clothing than my velour shirt. The shock of cold perked my right up, but my lungs still craved the crisp freshness of the night air. I wandered around quietly, see what there was to see. I ended up, predictable, at the edge of the pier, staring into the water. It elicited memories of years of vacations in Lake George. A sharp pang darted through me as this invoked the memory of Old Kate (Old Kate I am still much in love with, New Kate, the one usually mentioned here, is just a very close friend. They are, however, the same person).
For a moment, I nearly let my mind say, "I wish Kate were here with me." But instead, my mind said, "I am glad I am here to see this." I hugged myself tightly, to fend off both the cold and the abyss of nostalgia, and returned to my stool at the bar yet again.
This time the girl was crooning something which was a pale replica of Creed's "Arms Wide Open." It was hilarious to me that she chose to sing a song about being a father, which I shared with Kendall to see her smirk. Not surprisingly, my attention veered again. Surprising, it was to the femmes occupying the bar.
I passed quick glances over many. I rolled the thought of attraction through my mind. It didn't fit. Yet I still looked, appraised, considered. Necks, lips, arms, eyes, lashes, fingers, teeth. Intrigued, but not attracted. Then what? Why?
Then it fell upon me, the curtain opening. I saw the bar exactly as I saw the koi pond.
It's going to be an interesting month.


reading: Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins, Child Development: A Thematic Approach
listening: snow falling on my roof
wanting: a goldfish
interesting thought: I am in love with humanity

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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