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03.12.02 10:12 p.m.

He's lived as long as he possibly can
given the circumstance
'cause he's protected himself from the world
he never gave it a chance

and he says: here in my security
I've put a limit on my self-potential and my possibility

She's seen these walls and they never change
everything's in its place
her relationships so neatly arranged
down to religion and race

and she says: here in my security
I don't make a move unless my friends approve
I do what's expected of me

And as I grow older
and there's so much that I do not know
I'm drawn to those who are bolder
and go where no one dare to go

And I sleep and I dream of the person I might have been
then I'll be free again
And I speak like someone who's been to the highest peaks
and back again
And I swear that my grass is greener than anyone's
'til I believe again
Then I wake and the dream fades away and I face the day
and I realize that there's got to be some hero in me
There's got to be some hero in me
There's got to be some hero in me
There's got to be some hero in me

They've been suppressing their every desire
they do nothing on a whim
she's lost her sparkle and he's lost the fire
their future looks very dim

And I say: here in my security
I've simply let myself go
I've developed a co-dependency

And as I grow older
so many places that I've never been
time's tapping my shoulder
I hope it's never too late to begin

 -Jeffery Gaines  

Previously in Xenology: I tried to date Eileen and ended up her friend. Emily and I went on a break. We all watched bad movies. I hung out with Conor a lot. My car suffers an expensive malady every time I try to drive to Sarah. M attains the rank of black belt. I greatly regret having been kissed by Kate on several occasions.

Death Before Dishonor
I don't always feel like a terribly good person.
I just finished conversing with Eileen. It is our monthly conversation where we both say far too intimate of things, given that she has a boyfriend and I had a girlfriend, and then we pretend that we are only very good friends. Okay, we actually are very good friends who have a unique interest in one another. Usually she acts innocent and loving and I behave in a completely aware, yet overfond, way. Which, frankly, feels right to me.
Ordinarily, this has been a good sort of conversation. It still is a good sort of a conversation. It affirms our closeness to one another, the depth of our friendship. She makes me blush furiously and I do the same to her. It helps me feel attractive when I haven't exercised in a week and my hair is a mess.
But this is the first time since these conversations became a dependable mainstay that I have not been in a very committed relationship and it made me uncomfortable. Not the conversation itself, which made my face delightfully flush, but my reactions to it. I had to make abundantly sure that she was still with her beloved Jared and happy. I had to make sure my words and the feelings behind them were not disrespecting their union. She assured me that I should say what I please to say, essentially.
Gods, I swear I can almost smell her sweet tea shop scent around me right now.
I am not going to go off and be with Eileen. That is asinine. Not because it is Eileen, as she is every bit as wonderful as I say in the conversations and as I am sure Jared will attest, but because that is not the sort of relationship I am supposed to have with her right now and not what I need.
I am pretty much single because I have some evaluation to do of my self and my relationship with the world with which I surround myself. Maybe this was part of it, frankly.

They Still Breathe Fire
Emily invited Conor and me up to see movies at New Paltz with her Saturday. New Paltz, like I assume many schools, attempts to promote free social programs for the students to keep them away from the banes of drugs and alcohol. In this case, it was a free showing of X-Men and Rush Hour 2. Hardly the pinnacles of cinematic achievement, but it was a fun way to spend a Saturday night.
I went to pick up Conor after I got out of work. He was upstairs getting ready, so his sister Margaret let me in. She is about fifteen, though she can (unfortunately) pass for twenty. As such, she is an object of lust for quite a few hormonally "gifted" male. Not to me, of course. She is perpetually 12 to me and my best friend's little sister. Not terribly appealing.
Margaret went up the stairs as an older woman approached the door. I felt comfortable enough to answer their door, because I am Xen and socially confused. The woman smiled at me, but seemed suspicious of me. I figured out why when she introduced herself as Margaret's cousin. She thought I was a misguided suitor of dear Margaret. I quickly corrected her by introducing myself as Conor's friend. Her defenses dropped and she told me her name was Gail. Ah, much better.
Conor walked down the stairs and it occurred to me, not for the first time, that I had never seen his bedroom. We had been friends at least six years and never once had I seen it. I actually couldn't figure out where it fit in his house. Begrudgingly, he agreed to show me. It turned out that the only was to get to his room was through the bathroom, up a staircase that I always presumed was a tiny closet for toiletries, in the attic. I have to say, it was cluttered with books, notebooks, CDs, and sundry other goods. I loved it and it completely fit him.
On the way up, Conor invited me to an adventure game at Bard next weekend. Quickly, it occurred to me that not only would I get a chance to return to the college where I had done Summer Scholars for two years but I would be able to use this as a chance to see Sarah. My beloved, sweet, darling Sarah, whom I had not seen in three years. I immediately agreed to go with him. He further explained that this would likely be quite bad and he would not put his name on it. Duly noted, as it was not wholly my point in going. In addition, he stated that Siri was displeased with Conor's creation of "ghouls" within the game, basically people who are completely enamored with Conor's character and were given the attributes of the ideal female for him. Siri was fine with being one, of course, but both her and her character had issues with new ones. My real life is complex enough without RPGs.
I mentioned to him that, on the way to pick him up, I had seen a presumably attractive woman on the other side of the road's railing, looking at the sunlit mountains. I told him that I wanted to stop and know this woman, but didn't. He confessed that he thinks it is the nature of the world that you never stop for these "perfect" women. He related a story from Flynn. A friend had told Flynn that he would soon meet his soul mate while they were both looking at the sunset. One afternoon, Flynn was shocked by the beauty of a sunset. He pulled off the road to take pictures of it. However, he saw that there was another car behind him that pulled up behind him. He presumed that the car needed to pull up, so he left. Quickly, he remembered what he had been told and turned around. Of course, the car was long gone.
Conor and I arrived early at M's apartment in order to get something to eat. As it was a nice night with an impending thunderstorm coming, I requested that we walk to the cafe I liked. It would give us a chance to catch up. Conor asked M to come to the adventure game again and I played up the "beautiful campus" aspect and she quickly agreed.
We got our food from the Moonlight Cafe (Conor and I independently ordered the same thing, because we are cool) and decided to eat outside. Not in a particularly scenic area, of course. We just sat at the nearest bench, which overlooked a busy intersection. This made sense to us. Don't argue.
After devouring the excellent food, Emily the Full decided she wanted ice cream from a shop down the street. Because, see, she wasn't terribly full. Except that she was.
Emily insisted that I get a cone just as enormous as hers, as it would cancel out her guilt. I pointed out that I lacked enough cash to complete such a transaction. So she paid for my ice cream in order to appease her sense of guilt. She asked me if she could dip my chin in her ice cream. I considered the request and told her she may only if she licked it all off. This was distinctly less kinky than you are likely imagining. Once we were outside, I presented my chin for dipping.
Tasty chin  
I have a tasty chin
She shoved her cone hard against it and let out a peal of laughter, not likely understood by the other people looking on. Then she suckled my chin as Conor took pictures. Not sufficiently, however, as I had to return to the shop for napkins. The people in the shop looked at me so I explained that I had had my chin dipped in ice cream. They seemed not to understand the words at first, then broad grins broke forth. I am glad Emily's strangeness brought these people joy. M said it was the most fun she had had in a very long time and tried to do it again. I had only agreed to once, though. You have to take a stand somewhere.
I suggested that we take out ice cream and check out the old stone houses. As I said this, Emily said the same. I teasingly admonished her for thinking out loud, as she wouldn't initially admit she was mocking me.
Dear god, that was a lot of ice cream. Five big scoops of some very peanut buttery concoction. Which quickly began to melt. Soon, my hand was covered in dippy ice cream. I was holding it away from my body and trying to prevent the dripping while still eating it. Initially M thought I was just holding a scoop of ice cream, because I am clearly that weird to her. Finally, Conor and M decided it was like I had killed some white-blooded rodent and was trying to eat it. See, that makes a lot more sense than holding a scoop of ice cream.
So happy she died
We ended up lounging on a stone table in front of a church. Emily and Conor said the entire scene, with a large towering building, a stormy night, and many overhanging wires resembled Back to the Future when lightning strikes the clock tower. Conor then said it was too bad there was no clock tower. I pointed up, to the large clock on the building. He did a double take and was decidedly pleased.
We ended up playing around, running tiny races and such. Emily decided that she wanted to teach me some self-defense to protect myself. I don't know how much of what she taught me was absorbed. I was mostly trying to bite her.
Of course, in proper fashion, this became Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter. Conor was the announcer.
Tasty M  
I am the Vampire Xen!
As I am not much of a fighter, I asked if I could throw fireballs and teleport. Conor ruled this just. Nonetheless, Emily defeated me and self-narrated the FRIENDSHIP she was doing. So I mimed ripping my mask off and eating her. In return, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and I mimed inflating and blowing up. She was clearly ruled the winner. We are huge dorks, you understand.
Emily was lying upon the stone slab, being dramatic. I was sitting next to her. Then the church bells began chiming an eerie tune. Logically, I tried to bite her neck whenever the chimes rang out. She fought me off deftly, Conor chronicling this all with his disposable camera.
Later, but not much. I lay upon a bench and made kissy sounds, ala Twoey in Little Shop of Horrors at M who was standing over me. Emily kept saying "no" and insisting that I would regret this. I continued to make the sound, as regretting being kissed (especially by former love interests that I am still interested in) doesn't sound at all like me. She must have been thinking of someone else. She gave me a quick, fearful peck on the lips and began crying because she was so happy/sad. I prepared to ask her to stop crying, as that would definitely prevent interest in any encores or repeat performances, when I saw a flash go off.
happy/sad M  
Conor had taken a picture of Emily making her crying face. I love Conor so much. This made Emily start laughing instead of crying and all was defused.
We decided to head back to the college, as the storm was all the more looming and the movie would be starting soon. The wind was blowing hard, which had the desired dramatic effect. Expecting the rumble of thunder any moment, I was disappointed when the only rumbling came from my pager. It was my mother, suggesting that, as the storm was so bad (Ooooh, scary wind!), I should spend the night at Emily's. I tried to gently explain that this was not a good idea, finally using Conor's presence as an excuse.
The building where the movie was to be shown was locked tight when we arrived. Luckily, one of us spotted that someone was exiting the library. Clearly, this could be our entrance (the library is connected to the Humanities Building and the Lecture Center).
It is a little weird walking around an empty building that you have never seen empty before. It was dark and almost desolate. There was a distinct wrongness, as though we were trespassing. I told M to wait, as I had to go to the bathroom. A thought occurred to me, and she asked if she could see what a boys' bathroom looked like. I saw no reason why not. It's a good learning experience. She studied it and pronounced that it smelled. I explained that it because boys pee on floors because they think it is funny. She was also impressed that our graffiti was "real." She told us that graffiti in the girls' bathroom was supportive and emotional, as opposed to our crudeness and vulgarity. I think I am getting the raw deal here.
The room where to movies were schedule to be were empty, save a curly hair man in glasses fiddling around with some wires. He was enthusiastic that we had shown up, as no one did the prior night and he ended up going home early. Good that the college funds these programs to keep the kids out of bars. I see how well it is working.
The man told us that we could put Rush Hour 2 in early, if we wanted to. And, should anything go wrong, we were to play with the wires on the back of an expensive looking set-up. He was going to go to his office, evidently, and leave us. Okay, I good with the level of trust strangers invest in me.
We ended up mocking both movies severely. Both movies, especially to me, were gay love stories that just weren't allowed to be fully realized. It's a lot funnier if the gruff protagonist with metal claws is actually suffering from unresolved homoerotic fantasies with another male character he tries to feud with. It's like how you punch the person you like in kindergarten. (I never did, I don't think.)
After the movies, we went back to M's apartment where we began playing video games. An hour and a half later, we realized we should be getting home. We tucked M in and began to walk up the stairs. The storm was raging. Conor and I quickly consulted with one another before asking M if we could spend the night for fear of being destroyed by static electricity and droplets of water. She reticently agreed, though I know she was pleased to have company. I spent the night in her bed in a not wholly friendly way, but nothing I regretted. Conor, at his insistence, slept on the floor, covered in his coat.
We ended up playing a lethargic game of Truth or Dare, which was just truth because dares involved energy. I can barely remember what we asked, though I firmly recall making fun of the Cat Man who is having his body reconstructed to look like a tiger, only he looks like a complete ass.

Soon in Xenology: The classroom visit. Jenks's crumbling empire of dirt. I love Emily. I get rained in. We hate Nextel. Sarah's letter. Sarah is actually seen. I get a witness to DwB idiocy.

last watched: X-Men, Rush Hour 2, 9.11
reading: Summoning Spirits
listening: Little Shop Of Horrors
wanting: to have proper spaces for those in my life.
interesting thought: embers can set whole forests aflame.
moment of zen: walking through falling ice that I could hear but not see.
someday I must: get rid of the Christmas gifts I have for my friends. (Zack, Eileen, Sarah, I am looking at you!)

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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