Thomm Quackenbush, author

03.15.02 3:10 p.m.

The passions that drive us should be ones we respect and admire. To feel contempt for one's own motivations is a vulgar thing. Too often, it seems, I've succumbed to less than admirable compulsions driven by this furiously reprehensible machine of mine. So many things inside that I can do without - desires and urges and whatnot. So extraneous.


 -Jhonen Vasquez  




Previously in Xenology: I did not see Sarah for three years. I meet Dawn at a PSU meeting and she informs me she works at some old houses, a fact I ignore until this entry. I decided that Scarf Girl was an object of study.

Ides of March
My mother just came into my room and asked if I had a nice night last night. I told her, "kind of" without making eye contact, eyes firmly fixed on the letter "s" on my keyboard. She asked if I had a shitty night last night. My voice cracked as I said, "kind of." She asked why, as the tears started to break from my eyes. I told her I didn't wish to discuss it right now.
The day started out in a very nice fashion, actually. No, wait... it started out badly. The Badger accused me of plagiarism, because I forgot to cite a website in my description of Margaret in Richard III. Which, I suppose, is plagiarism though my subjective definition of the word leads me to think of someone copying a paper wholesale, something I wouldn't do. It also turned out that Emily accidentally handed in the same paper for me twice, so I had to be cloying to get him to grade the right paper.
After class let out, I met with Emily at the campus coffeehouse. As I had yet to have breakfast, I suggested that we get something to eat in town and walk around a bit. We ordered lunch from the Moonlight Cafe. I noticed that Emily was distinctly unhappy and pestered her to tell me why (I assumed, of course, that I was the cause). She began sobbing; telling me how hard all this was for her and how I was lucky that she was willing to do this, because most girls wouldn't. She stated that she thinks I like Eileen and Sarah better than her because I write about them in this journal. I explained that I have no other outlet to show my fondness for them, so I use my words. With Emily, I can spend time with her, hold her, just smile in that right way. I think she understood, but I don't know if she believed me but it is the truth.
We walked to the old church where Conor, she and I hung out last weekend. She proceeded to continue to weep and tell me how hard all of this was for her. I mostly let her weep, as I felt she needed to vent and let me know these things. Once, after the break-up, when I needed to talk to Kate, she yelled at me that I couldn't talk to her about these sorts of things. But she was the only one I wanted to talk to, because she was the source of my problems. While I don't think this is exactly the same situation, I acknowledge that she needed release. Catharsis.
She told me she had been keeping these feelings buried deep inside of her for weeks and they were killing her. Of course, I told her that she was always free to release them and share them with me. I welcomed it, in fact.
She cried for the duration of our meal. I could break her from her sadness for moments, but never for very long. Finally, I comforted her by reminding her that I was not rejecting her and this break, if that is what we are determined to call it, was caused by my needed to clarify issues in my life. In no way does this mean that I don't love her and don't find her attractive, as I do very much. In fact, my love is part of the reasoning behind this decision, because I was not and am not sure that I can be with her and treat her as fairly and as lovingly as she needs. She told me to remind her of this whenever she gets depressed. And to tell her she is being stupid, though I may skip this half in the sake of not making her cry more.
At about the time Emily was regaining her happiness, I saw a small, pale form emerge from the old library across from us. The form waved at us and I recognized it as Dawn. I walked over to her and engaged in friendly banter. She asked which way we were walking and, as we had no direction in mind, we went with her to this new wooden bridge over a shallow pond. I had never seen this area, possible because I had only visited the old houses in the night.
Evidently, Dawn is taking an ornithology course at New Paltz and told us that the area we were in was excellent for bird watching. As though they heard her boasting, several chickadees flew to the reed near us and began singing. Soon afterward, a large swan swam circles thirty feet from us.
We sat and spoke of idle things. Dawn told us how one week every month, she is in charge of security for the houses, a fact that I made sure to remember as there were reputed to be several ghosts in residence. The whole area had the picturesque quality of a reproduced diner painting. Emily and I were definitely taken with the spot, though her ADHA kicked in and she asked if we could leave. I kissed sitting Dawnie on the crown of her head for sharing this location with us (an act that I think unnerved her) and went on my way with M.
M and I ended up at a shop that sold spiritual items. Not really a magick shop, though there was that sort of merchandise as well. Emily was getting a little sad again, I think, so I found a clear rock that had the word "Love" engraved in it. I handed it to her and told her she now had my love. She cooed, pleased, though she returned the rock to its basket and was trying to find one to hand to me. I ended up buying some soft, brass bells on nylon yarn and covertly slipped the rock in with them while M wasn't looking.
Emily complained to me that she feels books are bad merely because Llewellyn Publishing publishes them. I started to say that Llewellyn does publish a few good books, when the man behind the desk asked her why. She because expounding on how they are poorly written, had dubious scholarship, only function at the beginner level, and the cover art all looks the same. The man kindly asked her to give him a list of books she thought were good. At first, I thought he was telling her, essentially, put up or shut up, but M and he evidently know one another.
Outside the shop, I gave Emily a big hug, slyly putting the clear stone in her pocket. Later, she discovered it when I told her she had a pocketful of love. I am sly, but I wanted to be there when it was discovered. I told her she could just look at the stone if she began to wonder if I cared for her. She was very appreciative.
We returned to campus early, so I sidled over to some people playing guitar. Few things please me more than someone playing guitar and singing well, especially on verdant lawns on warm spring days. I saw Kate sit down thirty feet from M and me and ignore us. I am not necessarily bitching, as she is in a no-win situation. Were she to come up in greet me, she might fear verbal reprisal and Emily's scorn (you know, more so). As she did not, I am unhappy that my friend did not greet me. But I am acknowledging that I think I understand why she didn't. Or, perhaps, she was just being bitchy, but that seems too pat an answer.
Eventually, I went to class, though my classmates were far too disruptive and irritating, so my teacher dismissed us early so we could play in the sunshine.
I set my bags down outside and lounged in the sunlight (well, the sunlight defused through a few trees. Xen and direct sunlight aren't good friends), waiting for Emily to come out of her class. I read further in Summoning Spirits, figuring that any inquisitive parties would at least have an interesting topic for discussion. It's a very good book, by the way. Significantly less scary than it sounds and by an author I enjoy.
While I was lounging and reading, I noticed Scarf Girl walking by. I still had a few more minutes before I would determine that Emily was long gone, so I did not follow her. I lacked the confidence to do so, despite my assertion to Emily earlier that I was in Solar Power Messiah mode, something that happens easily with spring.
Cindy, a friend who actually is a big fan of the journal, appeared. I pulled her over and told her I was waiting for Emily. Then I mentioned that I saw Scarf Girl walk by. This intrigued Cindy and she asked where she is. I stepped onto the sidewalk and saw Scarf Girl standing about a hundred feet away. The fact that Cindy was there and knew these stories was motivation enough for me to try to approach Scarf Girl. But what to say?
I dashed up, not exactly running, with Cindy in close pursuit. I needed her to make me seem less scary. I told her that I had the urge to exclaim "Scarf Girl!!!" until I realized she wouldn't know this referred to her. I tapped Scarf Girl on her wine color jacketed shoulder. I said, "Excuse me, could I ask you a question?" SG smiled shyly and said I could. "What, exactly, did the platypus evolve from? I mean, everything has to have come from something, right?" She suggested that it was the product of a beaver and a duck. I asked how the poisonous elbow spikes and the electromagnetic sense fit it, unlike most things on earth. She thought for a moment and then dramatically said with appropriate gesticulation, "Maybe it's from outer space!" I was impressed with this answer. Scarf Girl wins my admiration. I conferred with Cindy, who seemed equally as impressed. I told SG that she had a pleasing answer and introduced myself by name. She smiled and gave me hers. "Sara." she said (though she didn't distinguish it had no "h," but I don't want you getting confused because she shares the name of a main character). I grinned widely and pronounced this a good name, which Cindy seconded. Before leaving, I asked, "You are the girl who always had on a scarf when it was cold, right?" which isn't a terribly good question but a Scarf Girl sans scarf is just a girl and I needed to be certain. She seemed confused, as I likely tipped my hand a trifle too early, but I don't think she was too terribly freaked out.
I was gleeful, as I had already had a very nice day with Emily and had now completed a mission objective. Scarf Girl has a name.
After I arrived home, I was told I had a call from Melissa. This was decidedly unusual, as I knew for a fact that Melissa had work Thursday evenings and should either be asleep or at work. I called her back and she informed me that she just needed a few days off. Certainly can't fault her there. She asked if I wanted to play Risk with her tonight. As I had no other plan for the evening and felt I should pack as much goodness into this day, I told her I would love to.
She asked if there were any friends of mine that I could invite, "Co-nor?" "Sah-rah?" I asked if was really willing to drive an hour or so to pick up Sarah. She responded, "Dude, I drive there every day for work. I'm a driver. I drive." I called Sarah and asked if she was willing to play Risk with us. She was a little confused, but was willing.
On the way up to get Sarah, Melissa shared her distaste with the Marist College students. Evidently, to protest the five crosswalks within a thousand feet, they walked in front of cars going fifty miles an hour. Darwin would have hordes to say about these people...
We got to Sarah's apartment with little trouble. I was growing increasingly anxious. I think I blathered about nearly anything to Melissa. I can't remember. I know that when I saw Sarah, I was... stunned, but not nearly as much as I expected. She looked like a normal girl done-up by the fashion-conscious staff of a teen serial drama. She wasn't a goddess or a manikin. She was distinctly real, which was a little jarring. I sprang from the car, as though trying to catch a (pretty, but substantial) fairy before she disappeared.
She didn't exactly disappear. I hugged her and told her she looked different, but in a nice way. She told me I looked older. I suppose that was a compliment.
Melissa wasn't feeling well, so we left her alone for a few minutes to recover. Sarah showed me around her apartment, but I was reeling. This is Sarah. I was seeing Sarah. I could touch her, and what a pleasure it was. Sarah. Her hair smelled the same, which was possible one of the best things. I know it seems little, but it was so reassuring and inviting. It was like an exotic flower and I was xenophilic (which, evidently, isn't a word but still makes sense).
She seemed less bewildered than I was, though it was still present. She didn't quite know how to process my existence in her world. For three years we had been apart and grown. We had a definite presence in each other's lives, I suppose, but this was almost incongruous. We had said for a while that our seeing one another would cause dimensions to shift. As I was seeing her, touching her, I expected something almost cataclysmic to occur. Instead, we just spoke of I can't remember what. She showed me Polaroids of her friends, the men in her life. None of them made a real impression on me, they just seemed like the two-dimensional characters I was seeing. I recognized some of the names from Sarah's stories, but I associated them with the characters I drew mentally rather than the ones on the celluloid.
I told Sarah that she looked like two very different people in one body. She was the Sarah I had met so many years ago, strong and sweet with the soul of an artist. Then there was another Sarah, who was physically very beautiful but not someone I really knew. Which Sarah I saw seemed to depend upon the light.
Sarah was preparing to sing at my request, so I went down to get Melissa. Melissa yelled at me for having left her in the car so long when she was trying to do something nice for me. I apologized profusely, not at all expecting that reaction. Sarah was worried that Melissa would now hate her, though I assured her that this would likely not be the case. I did not get to hear Sarah sing.
On the drive down, I had to hold Sarah's hand while we were exiting the Red Hook town limits to make sure she wouldn't vanish. She condescended to let me, for her part.
I thought I would have so much more to say, but I realize now that there was too much. And there were actions. What needed to pass between us exists in actions and adventures as well as words. Words have passed between us in spades. The flow of communication has usually been steady, as we are both verbal, communicative souls.
Melissa had to stop at a payphone to try to find more people to play with and a place to hang out. It turned out that it was M paging Melissa. She wanted to know if I was safe and to know if she could join our revelries. As we did not yet have a set location that we could give her, we were to call her back.
Over the course of nearly an hour, we tried to add members to our Risk party with no luck. We decided to get a hotel room and hang out there, because Melissa suggested it. Sarah seemed particularly interested as this meant the consumption of alcohol.
I started feeling a little like the third wheel, as it seemed evident that Melissa and Sarah both shared the mutual interest of drug culture. As I drink very little and never to get drunk, do not smoke, and do not do any drugs, my contributions to the conversation seemed degraded to suggesting stories for Melissa to share with Sarah. Of course, as I chose to view Sarah as my friend, I felt I was missing something.
We sat in the hotel room for a little while; critiquing the soft core porn that HBO was showing and talking. About drugs, if I recall correctly. Evidently, people using acid can sync up and transmit thoughts to one another. And there is a level of consciousness that users eventually achieve that is simply called "it." And you can realize that someone you just met is a person you are going to love until the end of time or that your best friend in the world isn't someone you even vaguely like if you do acid with them. Use of acid bonds people together in a way that nothing else in the universe ever can. Evidently. So they say. I, clearly, do not have "it" and can't share this bond with anyone, becoming a psychic eunuch. Huh.
Of course, both Melissa and Sarah feel I should do acid because I have the proper mindset. Only I have absolutely no interest in letting my brain, which can hallucinate the puffer fish in my room moving and can cause me to become paranoid that something is outside my window looking in, have any real hallucinogen. It has taken twenty-one years for me to start feeling at home in my brain and an earthquake would likely mess things up a little. So, I'll keep my mind expansion to meditation and magick, if it's all the same to those who want me to be psychologically addicted to substances that fuck with my brain's biochemistry.
I did try to understand the conversation in terms of altered state of consciousness. I tried to participate on my level, as I wasn't going to let myself be left out. Just in case you've had a hard time grasping my feigned ignorance of drugs up to this point, I am pretty damned familiar with quite a few drugs (though not from direct, personal experience). I was the mascot of my older brother's stoner friends. They called me Garth, because they were a bit off. Also, please let it be known that I am quite all right with other people using drugs, so long as they are not doing it to hurt themselves or others consciously and they are not trying to pressure unwilling parties. I asked whether either party knew if the United States government was still experimenting actively with LSD in a military capacity, something that I philosophically (not pragmatically) understood. The US government actually created LSD in hopes of making the perfect soldier, one who would be remorseless and hyper-intelligent. Of course, they ended up with more compassionate toy soldiers and lunatics. Still, our government has never let a few deaths stop them. I am not a prig, I really seek to understand the experiences of others and find them fascinating. So long as they are diverse.
Melissa decided to call her friend Matt to come over, who has quite a large crush on Sarah given the pictures of her I have on this site. (By the way, Melissa says Sarah doesn't look anything like these pictures, so you really have no means for judgment. Sorry.) He, of course, dashed over with all due haste. He is also is a large proponent of drug culture, so I saw that this would make me feel more welcomed here.
In the interim between the call and his arrival, Melissa and Sarah tried to get me to drink more Mike's Hard Lemonade. Because it's fun to try to pressure people into doing things they don't want to do and won't do. Fun and educational for the whole family. Though, to their credit, they only tried once before understanding that I was irritated with this line of sophistry.
Matt came to our window, I believe while marijuana was being discussed. Sure, it was potentially a tiny bit unwise to be so loudly discussing various illegal substances with the window wide open, but the sirenous Sarah chain-smokes Camel Lites. Concessions had to be made, especially as we were technically in a non-smoking room. As he didn't wish to be interrogated by the police for entering the window of two maidens and their psychic eunuch, we let him in.
Eventually, Risk was played. I was on a team with Sarah, officially because neither of us had played before and unofficially because I only wanted to watch to understand the rules. Plus, it gave me the option of rubbing Sarah's back when I got bored and was in need of human contact in a very technical sense. My jobs were to give Sarah the little men (once she named them so she would actually want to fight to keep them alive) and help strategize. I was poor in terms of strategy, because I felt points should be given for occupying a country with diamond mines or Bjork.
I think, eventually, Sarah won. Melissa and she had formed an alliance against Matt early in the game and he was quickly dispatched. I took to criticizing the cartoons Cartoon Network chooses to show at 3AM.
Our goal had become staying awake until we could get the complimentary Continental breakfast at six. We watched various shows. I don't know exactly how, but we happened upon Saved By the Bell: The College Years. The night got more surreal as it went on, so it feels like to me that we were discussing how everyone in our generation watched the show, thus we made it be on a 4AM. Along with Pappyland, which was clearly only on for the stoners awake this late. Children do not watch television that late/early. Sarah grew tired and said she was taking a nap for ten minutes, only she kept forgetting that she was supposed to be sleeping and thus participating in the conversation. I was sitting on the bed with her, as I am fond, but I started getting sleeping too. I crawled until the frighteningly crispy comforter (which we threw off the bed) and the sheets and took a nap with her. Eventually we awoke briefly and ended up sharing a pillow rather than my using my nearly numb arm. Close against her, I felt like a friend to her. Connected. Pity we both lost consciousness again. I awoke briefly and put my arm around her without waking her. I was... content. If you'll note the prior entry's "wanting," you note how much this is something I needed.
I finally awoke to Melissa and Matt discussing if they should wake us up. I don't think they were happy that we had fallen asleep for ten minutes that turned into an hour and a half. I was.
We didn't end up getting any breakfast, as the French toast smelled like wet dog. For the sake of time, Matt drove Sarah home. I was a little uncomfortable with this, as I had said I would drive her home and she had just met Matt, but Sarah said she was okay being his passenger and it was her choice. It might have been for the best, as I would have likely had to crash on her sofa for a few hours before I would be good to drive home again.
On the way home, I told Melissa that it was weird seeing Sarah. She told me the Matt was going to ask Sarah for her number and "she was the exact opposite of what he expected but a thousand times better." This statement logistically confuses me, but I think I understand. She also said that Sarah was way too into drugs, like Melissa had been two years before. I mentally noted that Sarah is a little less than two years younger than Melissa. She said Sarah was definitely a good person and would grow from this stage of her life and be someone I can relate to more then. I just nodded and looked at how very white the sun made everything this early.
When I arrived home, I was psychologically wrecked. It was eight AM. It was so weird to have been up for so long, I frankly don't know how Melissa manages. My mouth was disgusting, feeling as though I had gargled with an ashtray. My clothing reeked of cigarette smoke and I couldn't stand to be in the same room as my clothes once they were doffed. I didn't want to fall asleep because I felt so alone. I was scared and very sad. I don't know where I really stand with Sarah or if things have changed. I hope to see her again Saturday or Sunday and discover. This hinges on her letting me know if she can, though.
I cried a lot today. More than I think I have in a very long time and never with the sense of relief I expect tears to bring. I can't pinpoint why I was so sad. I am not mad with anyone. Pretty darned fond of Melissa and Sarah, though maybe a little confused. I think I will attribute it to the an overdose of humanity and sensory stimuli and say that I was psychologically drained.
Emily came over to try to comfort me. I told her numerous, very neurotic reasons for my sadness and she, gently, showed me the flaws in them. As though my emotions make sense anyway.
It's been too long.



Soon in Xenology: Jenks's crumbling empire of dirt. I love Emily. We hate Nextel. I get a witness to DwB idiocy. More stalking of strangers. We hit Conor with rubber swords. Unless we don't. I see Sarah again. Unless I don't. Speculation sucks.



last watched: Vertical Limit
reading: Summoning Spirits
listening: Amnesiac
wanting: honestly, for Sarah to tell me that I am special to her.
interesting thought: Human being need sunlight to live in a healthy manner. It causes our bodies to produce vitamin D.
moment of zen: the feel of Sarah's stomach while she slept.
someday I must: have a real experience with Sarah.

Thomm Quackenbush is the author of the Night's Dream series - We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods - published by Double Dragon Publishing. He has previously written for Cave Drawing Ink, Broken City Magazine, Paragon Press, and The Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzations. He likes when you comment.