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04.20.01 2:44 a.m.

"Every time you find yourself, you lose a piece of me."

 Dry Erase Board in scene shop 

Oh, I have been a busy muskrat, thus your lack of journal entries to read. Now you are getting one. Be happy.

I have been exceedingly busy with the play, three essays for my global politics class, and a twelve page paper on gender identity for my child psychology class. I made my sacrifice, much as it pained me.

So, I have gone on two kinda-dates with Kate. One was eating at a dinner and seeing Quills and the other was eating Chinese food (they're good because they are open) and going to the Cubbyhole Coffee house. The later date was brief, but cuddly (not kiss-y, you'll please note). So, we are on playful, good, but pretty unspoken terms. I visited her surreptitiously several nights ago and she seemed sullen. But she was playful, sweet, and bright on the phone today. I will just sit back and let things happen. I am happy whenever she is like this to me and am thus trying not to over think it and just enjoy that someone I care about is nice to me.
She is coming to my play tomorrow. More owing to her love of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" than to see me (as I have a wee tiny, non-speaking role). She will be bringing The PseudoMom, her mother, though she is not sticking around after the show. If Kate doesn't want my head to implode, Kate will remain and make me feel appreciated.
Oh, so you want to know more about the dates, do you? Well, fine. Be that way.
The day before, I had been doing lighting for the play. For six hours. While I was on the catwalk, unscrewing and moving lights, I had the bad luck of knocking into one that swung loose and knocked me on the side of the head. As any techie knows, all lighting is secured with metal wires, so it caused no serious damage to itself or my head. However, it did make me decide that I had worked quite hard enough for the day.
I signed out before rehearsal started (I do have a very small, non-speaking role. I feel I can generally be spared) and went home. Zack told the director that I had stomach flu, thus necessitating my going home.
What does this have to do with my first date with Kate, you are undoubtedly asking yourself. If you'd be a little more patient, I'd get to that part. Oh, here it is. The next night, when I actually had the class but also my date with Kate, I wanted to leave early in order to make it to the movie on time. I went to the director and he insisted I looked pale and sickly and was free to leave whenever I wanted. So I did my only scene in act one and bolted.
I called Kate and informed her that we could get together sooner. She recommended the Cubbyhole for some tea, which sounded lovely.
When I got there, I learned the sad fact that the Cubbyhole's hours have changed, and they are no longer open on Monday. Thus I had to call to change the meeting place. But she was in the shower. In the shower? She was showering because she was going to see me? Really? Neat!
In case she did not get the message, I remained on the side street of the Cubbyhole. I was lounging on top of my car, eating an apple and an orange, and reading Marabou Stork Nightmares. I think I witnessed a drug deal going on, but I think I qualify as a fly on the metaphorical wall, and it didn't much matter to them what I had seen. Quite fine with me, I was just ecstatic to be here, to know I would be seeing Kate soon. I was having slight, pre-first date jitters, which I don't recall having had in a very long time.
She did get the message and we made a diner across from the mall the meeting place. I got there a few (dozen) minutes before her, giving me ample time to pick out what I wanted to eat, how much time we had to eat, and make two trips to the bathroom to make sure I looked nice.
When she arrived, I was blown away. She seemed so collegially comely, in a long tan skirt, purple turtleneck fleece and hair like a Smurf's chess board (blue and black). She insisted I looked very different with glasses, but I got the distinct feeling that she liked how I looked.
We talked quickly, and only slightly awkwardly. At one point, we fell into a little reunited lovers/Casablanca ad lib where I called her Ingrid. She said I seemed so into it that I looked like I was on the verge of crying. What can I say, I was exploring my muse. As the case may be.
Kate made several references to this being a first date, which came as both a relief and shock to me. It seemed like she wanted this to be clearly defined as much as I did. Good-o.
Kate did not much enjoy the movie we saw, Quills. She thought it was contrived and was dissatisfied with the ending. I certainly can see her points, though I still liked the movie (not as much as I did the first time I was it, so I may be inclined to attribute some of my original enjoyment to the atmosphere and company). I also liked that I held Kate a little during the movie. I wasn't sure how to handle a last kiss, so I asked her if it was appropriate and she hid her head in her turtleneck in mock fear. So, as she gave me a long, fond hug goodbye, I gave her one on the cheek.
The second date occurred the Thursday thereafter. Again, we sought to meet at the Cubbyhole. When I arrived, much to my shock, they were closed. Blasted coffeehouse never opened. Oh, wait, it opened in half an hour. That'd due.
Kate arrived, on time, looking nearly as stunning as on the first date. I informed her that the Cubbyhole would be closed for half an hour more. So I gave her an Easter basket (an abominably ugly orange basket, family sized peanut butter M&Ms, and a rose bud I found on the ground) and several posters for my play to put up at her school. This being done, we got Chinese.
At the restaurant, she made me take off my glasses, because they had transitioned to sunglasses in the heavily overcast daylight and she insisted that it made me look stupid. Then she insisted her hair was so ugly that people beat it up, thus why it was black and blue and began mock crying into her arms. Are we all clear on exactly why I adore this girl? Good.
I asked if she wanted anything to eat and she said no, she had just eaten. Then, as an addendum to that statement, she said, "Are you getting the greasy ball things?" I asked if she meant fried wonton and she affirmed that she believed that was what they were called. I told her that I had no planned on it, but that I would happily get some for her. She ingratiatingly nodded yes and I did so.
When they gave me my order of crispy chicken and fried rice and her fried wontons, can stated that "these are not the greasy balls [she] wanted." She further explained that the greasy balls were more not like balls. I think she just wanted the crispy noodles Chinese restaurants give out freely. However, she decided that she would make due with what she had "as long as I ate, like, most of them." She ate quite a few and some of my crispy chicken to boot. And she drank out of my Cherry Coke though she could have had a beverage of her own. See, guys, that can be significant. She wants your germs.
After this, we finally made it to the Cubbyhole, were we cuddle-played on the big sofa. At one point, I tickled her side and then held her against me and kissed her cheek several times. This was okay because "I had her trapped." Right, prisoners of war are required to let their captors kiss them. It is in the Geneva Convention. Under the bit about Stockholm's Syndrome Sufferers.
However, she needed to get to a play on campus. Another long hug goodbye (with her rubbing my back), another kiss on the cheek.

On Monday night, when I got home from the first date, I was talking to Eileen on-line. I told her that I had gone on a date with Kate, figuring she would tease me a little, but would ultimately be happy. After all, she was one of the people who wouldn't let me forget that I do love Kate. This was a fulfillment of her prediction. Instead, she was quite angry and began telling me "we all know whom I should really be with." Then she got off-line.
This irked me quite a bit and I had been having quite a nice night up to that point so I fired off an e-mail telling her that I wish she wouldn't play games like that with me. She got angry with me for the letter, except her anger seemed more long lasting. I was irked, I told her why I was irked, she understood, I was no longer irked. Problem solved in my eyes. But she was still angry, and I suppose I understand why.
After the MHPN meeting (described below), I saw her at Barnes & Noble. As she was still one of my best friends and I still thought the world of her, coupled with the fact that I do so rarely see her, I went over to say hi. She greeted me in kind, but she seemed distracted with her friends. As I did not perceive much of a mesh between these lads in old navy nylon and myself, I left her to her own devices.
A few days later, she IMs me, stating that I didn't deserve more than a hello and she was still mad. I told her I just presumed that she was busy with these boys and was leaving her be, but that I wish she wouldn't stay angry because she means a lot to me.
Yesterday, after downloading the Edwin McCain MP3 of "I'll Be" (a subsong of our nonrelationship), I called her to ask her if she was coming to my play. She seemed very friendly and happy to hear from me to the extent that I had to say "Eileen? I am talking to Eileen, right?" So I think we are good now. I definitely hope.

A few nights ago, my friend Nancy informed me that she had been mulling it over at great length and that she had decided that she was actually in love with me. That she didn't merely have a crush on me. I extended to her the courtesy I would hypocritically deny her peers, and chose to believe that she knew exactly what she was saying. She has spoken to me for many months (since the trip to see "As You Like It") and has read the journals religiously (she dons special robes and scented candle and says "Xen Nex" twenty times while skipping on one foot and eating a sugar coated strawberry... you mean you don't? What kind of a cult member are you!?). She knows me well enough and is a very intelligent girl, mentally and psychoemotionally.
Perhaps I wish she did not love me, as that would make all of this real. She loves me, thus every move I make affects her. I know where she is, I've been there and some would argue I am there. Meh. I can hurt her so easily or I can make her day with a word. Though, as I am a score of years and her mother is a lawyer, I'd wager a larger sum on the former. In another life...
She is coming down tomorrow around 11. We are going to go to an Earth Day fair being held near my house and are hanging out until my play at eight, which she will be attending. Her parents, too, will be attending and will drive her home. I have it all worked out.

My friend Zanna has been behaving oddly toward me since Nancy took such an interest in me. Originally, my pet theory was that she had a crush on dear Nancy and perceived me as a rival suitor. This was very nearly how she was behaving, even insulting me, much to the anger of Nancy. However, I have rethought my position. I currently believe that I was at least partially right about the jealously part of the equation. I believe, though, that it is not a romantic situation at all. She merely feels, quite incorrectly I hasten to add, that she is losing her friendship with Nancy to me.
Really, the soap opera in no way needs a lesbian love triangle.

The other night, I held a meeting of the Mid-Hudson Pagan Network at a local Denny's. It was fun; Nancy came in order to hang out with me. As I was walking out so one of my friends could show me her new truck, I saw two girls sitting in the waiting area with prominent pentacles. As I walked back in, I realized one was an acquaintance I knew from having done Rocky Horror a few years back (which I personally didn't enjoy doing, but another story for another time). We chatted briefly and I returned to the meeting. When I walked back out on the way to the bathroom and saw the two girls there, plus a friendly looking male, I invited them to join us in the back (I figured that they were waiting for a table to open up and thought it was only right to invite them to our abundant table where they would be very welcome). The male asked if another Pagan (actually, said Pagan has renounced Paganism according to one of her friends who I talk to, but we will accept the title for use in this) was back there. He said it in an off-handed, playful manner so I responded in kind that she didn't like us and several of the people back there didn't like her, myself included, so her not being back there was fine with us. At which point the old acquaintance began berating me that I had no reason to hate her, "that [she had] heard the issue from every side but [mine], but [I am] wrong. [I] just fear her strength" blah, blah, blah the claw is our mastercakes. I thought she was joking and was amused at her act until it occurred to me half way through the rant that she was serious. It seemed very rehearsed, I wonder if she thinks of it often? I would hope she has better things to think of though.
After she was done and I responded dismissively to her deciding exactly how I thought and felt based upon the testimony of someone who believes I am capable of summoning demons and would waste my time and energy sicking one on her (obviously, if I could harness unholy minions, I would use them at parties and to fetch me books), I shrugged her away and went to the bathroom. They were gone when I left the facilities. The lesson here: Listen to your bladder before you listen to your sense of charity and friendliness.
Otherwise, the meeting was quite nice, if not particularly note worthy. The next may be a psychic energy night at a member's house and yard (as it is so very nice out now), which would be excellent and certainly of note.

I saw a documentary about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Did you know about it? So few actually did. It made me so angry and made me feel so impotent. I cried audibly at what I saw. Afterward, Zoey saw me and I explained why he did not get a more enthusiastic greeting. He said he respected me more for caring about this. Kate told me later that day, over Chinese, that she actually thought less of me for it, though she may have been kidding. This warranted my writing the following letter to her several days later, because her saying that bothered me so much.

This may seem small and inconsequential to you, but it is important to me. Thursday, when we hung out, I told you how Zoey said that he thought more of me for caring about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. You told me you thought less of me for it, that "people die" and I shouldn't really think about it. I hope you don't mean that. That you were just joking around. That you wouldn't think less of me because I was touched deeply by something I saw. That you do care that people do hurt, do die. It does mean something. Maybe it doesn't really mean much to you, it's far away from you, but it means everything to those who died and those who survived. It's like American Beauty. Every one of those people was beautiful to me. Their suffering was brutal, horrible, needless, and beautiful. It is like what Rickey Fitts said, at moments like those, it is like god is staring down. If you are careful, you can stare right back. And you see beauty. It does matter. For every person that could have been rescued and was left, it matters. Maybe throwing starfish into the sea so they don't dry out won't solve the problem, but it means everything to that starfish. What I saw touched me just as much as American Beauty did and it was real. Once, not so long ago, you glowed at me that you were proud that I fought to stop child pornography on the internet. That gave me such strength, and even now I think of it when I am seeing a picture of a three year old brutally raped and I remember why I am doing this. Maybe in the big picture, it doesn't matter anymore. That three year old may be thirty now. Maybe she is dead. It is too late to save her; she has lived her whole life with this pain. But every time I help shut down a group or a website, I feel like I have saved a little boy or girl from having to go through this. One starfish. Maybe no one will ever know that they could have been the next victim, never appreciate that I have had nightmares and thrown up more than once over this, but knowing that the little girl bratting to her mom in Toys R Us won't be in the special victims unit tomorrow is enough. Maybe that is a great hyperbole to you. But someone, somewhere, is affected by what I have done tonight. Someone is always affected no matter what one does in life. I don't know whom I am protecting and it doesn't matter to me. I have to care, I have to love people and want to help them, or else I am numb and empty. If you can honestly say you can think less of me for this... well, I'll be crying more than I am right now, because I will have lost one of my greatest pillars of strength. Answer me honestly, do you?

She has read it, this I know as I was speaking to her on-line as she did. But I have yet to receive a response. I choose to believe she does not think less of me, that she was joking.
I need what strength I have.

I gave blood on Wednesday. I have done so twice before and both times actually felt the life draining out of me. But I am an angel, I need to help. This time was no different, Chi drained as readily as the blood did. The nurses were attentive, if threatening.
What impressed me was the girl laying near me, Mary, who whistled as they drained her. I wanted to know her better, to understand. As I sat at the snack table, regaining enough strength, she smiled and glowed. Then she left, stopped, as though frozen, and returned to near me. Where she picked through the stickers to the one that read, "I am spirited, I gave blood." "I need my sticker," she explained to my pleased eyes. Then she left. What an interesting lass she must be. Perhaps our paths will cross some other time.

Speaking of paths and lasses, I saw Irish Bird the other morning. Actually, she saw me and greeted me chipperly. I looked behind me, presuming it was not me she was happy to see. I was frankly too stunned to even extend her the courtesy of a returned greeting. Why must she dash all that I think of her by actually seeming to like me as a person?

Driving to school a few mornings ago, I saw a very elderly man riding a lawn mower. As I waited at the stoplight, I could not bear to take me eyes off of him. I wanted to know who he was and how he arrived at this point in time, where he had intersected my life. Though he will never know he did. He meant a great deal to me in the few seconds I saw him, trying to mow around a sapling. What a live he must have led. What he must think of it. What would he think of mine?

reading: Marabou Stork Nightmares, Irvine Welsh
listening: Jill Sobule singing "Mexican Wrestler" on MP3
wanting: more information about the Jill Sobule concert going on at Bard College on May 5th.
interesting thought: I just breathed a particle of air that has been through the circulatory system of Hitler, Jackson Pollock, Sartre, and the grocery clerk. What the grocery clerk must have done with this air.
moment of zen: the lawnmower man mowing around the sapling.

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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