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04.12.02 9:25 p.m.

April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire.


  -T.S. Eliot  




Previously in Xenology: I toiled in the fruitless book mines. I sought to end my relationship with Kate. Conor is largely amusing. Venessa disappears for months at a time and seems to be thinner every time I see her. I observe and try to interact with Sara(h) the Scarf Girl.

Bark Ode
I have reached that level that I think most people eventually reach at whatever job they have (secret agent and performance artist in San Francisco excepted). I find it tedious. I think most people would consider working in a library a generally tedious activity, but I do have the privilege of servicing nuns and the mentally infirmed. You know, I thought about changing the prior sentence, but it is remarkably descriptive.
I'm not about to quit or anything of the sort. It currently seems like a decent amount of money and I am a capitalist whore. Plus, it has the added advantage of harassing strangers who have no idea what I am talking about, playing with the crazy, all the free movies and CDs I can order, and the ability to delete my friends' $120 fines. I am merely aware that the honeymoon period is over. At least until I find some new way to exploit the library for my entertainment.

Rekatepitulating
Contrary to popular opinion, there wasn't one massively traumatic incident that made me realize that I couldn't be a friend to Kate. It wasn't when we kissed. I could and did recover from that, though it hurt that she thought she was doing something that meant nothing. It wasn't our final conversation. I wasn't exactly shocked by her attitude or the fact that she had been with men after me. I damned well expected it, though I had hoped it would be a great deal more to her after all we went through together. But it wasn't any of these things, except in very small ways. It was more like arsenic, which I realize is a terrible thing to say save that it is the best way I can see it. Humans can eat arsenic and not die. They can be exposed to it every day, and nothing apparently happens. However, with every contact it absorbs into them. None leaves one's system. Eventually it builds up to such a level that the body just gives up and one keels over. Now, there is two ways of finishing this analogy. One is that Kate is arsenic to me and I am trying to stop exposure so I do not die. Another is that our friendship absorbed so much that it is fatally ill, if not dead. I am going to leave it up to you which ending fits this closing of a chapter.
 
the dreams of a soul.
It is certainly not that I hate Kate. I don't, at all. I couldn't ever. She has hurt me, in my opinion, and I do admit there is resentment within me owing to this. But there is also forgiveness and affection, whether or not the world feels it is warranted. You can't let someone as close as I let her, see as much of her soul as she showed me, and then hate them. I don't think she is a bad person. In fact, I likely think she is less of a bad person that she thinks herself. You are always your worst critic. However, as it stands, I do not see a way that she and I can be friends and not end up lashing out at one another until we are both a bloody, poisoned mess.
Yesterday, before my last class, I saw Tina and Kate walking from their apartment. They walked by M and I without a word. I accept that this is the way it will have to be, though Tina speaks to me when we are outside the company of Kate, as she speaks to M. She is being respectful of Kate and I cannot fault her that.
After this class, I was looking for M. Instead, I saw Kate. She looked clearly at me and, apparently, reversed direction. I don't know if this was anything more than my perception of the event, but it seemed like she was going out of her way to avoid crossing my path. She should not have to alter her routines merely because I may be fifty feet away, if this is what she is doing. This was not and is not my intention. Inconvenience isn't my modus operandi, especially when it concerns Kate.
I readily, though somewhat embarrassedly, admit there are times that I want to embrace her as my friend again. In the short term, the concept fills me with warmth. But I know this isn't for the best. This isn't what I need in my life right now.

Anatidae, Dhampirs, and Laughing Gnomes
So, to continue on from the last entry, the day after Emily and I played psychic, we were to hang out with dear Conor.
Unfortunately, he got in later than we had been told he would, so Emily kept calling his house, as she was getting no answer. Evidently, his parents were, indeed, home and merely not answering. More over, they were growing increasingly irked that we were being quite so insistent. I don't really understand it.
In the interim between when we were supposed to hang out with Conor and when we actually were summoned to him, we called Zack. He was something like busy, though I was unclear on this. He merely couldn't hang out right then and was told to use ye olde numbers of summoning (pager numbers) when he could play.
When we got to Conor's house, it seemed apparent that his parents had no issue with us. Umm... good, though unnerving. We were expecting a lecture. Especially after having accidentally calling his house too late a few week ago.
We scapped him up and inquired after his life since we had last been together. He informed me that his sweet girlfriend Siri no longer was privileged to possess that title. He claimed that that break-up was quite amicable and they had the best conversation of their relationship immediately after they ceased to be lovers. I suppose this is a good thing, as they certainly seemed like a perfectly photogenic couple. Not enough photogenic couples in this world of superficiality.
We had no specific plans. Emily's theory held that, wherever one found Conor, one might well find adventure. This has yet to fail us.
We quickly happened upon the dirt mall. A dirt mall is what happens approximately ten years after a legitimate and popular mall falls into utter disregard. Soon Bedouin merchants move their collected goods into the parking lot and begin selling. In this case, bootleg sunglasses, beef jerky, cassettes from the eighties, and farm animals. These people congregate every weekend. I largely disregard them, as it is usually like walking around, alone, in your creepy neighbor's basement. You don't really know what is there and you are likely better off not knowing. However, accompanied by two friends (one of whom has mastered a deadly art), it seemed like a wonderful way to spend an hour or so.
As could be expected, we wandered about mocking things loudly, though inoffensively. It really was spectacular junk. Objects that should have long gone extinct or been banished by a person with ill will to a Goodwill. It wasn't even kitsch, just dreadful.
We went to the inner market that takes place in the rotting husk of a Service Merchandise. It was slightly claustrophobic to be in this dusty, enclosed space with these creatures that seem to be missing a chromosome somewhere along the line or who look like they stepped out of an exploitative early eighties movie wherein forty-year-olds were cast to play high school freshmen. I mentally narrated it in a soothing, nature-show-host voice to keep things in perspective. I was Jane Goodall, I rationalized, not the creature pensively thumbing an oversized belt bucket featuring a confederate flag wielding demon skull.
Once, while peering at a vast selection of videos for a dollar with Conor, Emily approached me with something behind her back and said, "What is the most horrific thing you can think of?" I gave it a moment thought and replied, "An Olsen twins video game." Emily retorted, "Wrong! It's Dancing Grannies!" and produced a video cassette with a photo of elderly and pained women doing strenuous dance. This was a close second to the Olsen twins.
We continued to give the wares and their sellers quick glances, hoping to find the exceptions to the rule. While looking at some old books, largely of a conservative religious nature, I was shocked by a pair of small hands on my shoulders. My brain gave a quick once over of whom I could know who would be here. As I turned, I was greeted with a fierce hug from Venessa.
 
the waif.
I was, to put it mildly, shocked. I had not seen her in about six months, at the very least. She looked very similar to how she appears in my head. Pretty, though markedly underweight. A nearly-dressy black jacket and pants. Made-up and powdered. I asked what she was doing there and she smiled widely and just said, "shopping."
I looked over at Conor, quickly recalling that the two of them had issues that went quite a bit back. It was the summer of 1998. I don't even think I was officially with Katie at this time, though we were getting to know one another. Conor, Venessa, and I had gone to a sleepover at Flynn's. It got late and the tension between Conor and Venessa became acted upon. He later found out that she had misled him as to her age and was thereafter more than a little skeeved by the whole situation. As such, she still leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
The situation, luckily, did not get to the point where there could be any clash. Venessa's announcing that she knew where baby ducks could be procured quickly and efficiently defused it. This look of innocent, yet ravenous delight permeated both M's and Conor's eyes and they darted in the direction Venessa was walking.
As she said, there were tiny, waddling, yellow puffballs of quacking goodness for less than five dollars apiece. Evidently, according to the state law posted, the baby ducks had to be purchased in increments of six. Both Conor and M were on their cell phones, beseeching their parents for permission before I could turn my head to point out the likely bad logic of getting pets from the dirt mall. I turned back to talk to Venessa and suggest we both appeal to the forces of common sense and irked parents and was startled to find that she had disappeared. I looked around at surrounding booths and was still greeted with a lack of Venessa. Strange girl, that one. Both sets of parents denied the purchase of any water fowl, by the way.
After leaving the dirt mall, bereft of quacking pets, we decided we needed food and a movie. However, we weren't specific enough, so we ended up being ill-nourished by Denny's and Blade II, respectively.
Over food that was not pancakes (the traditional Denny's fare), I was able to convert Conor to my thinking that New Zealand had serious issues, stemming from the fact that the creator of Meet the Feebles was allowed to direct The Lord of the Rings. For any of you that are new here, I am not a huge fan of Lord of the Rings. I am merely a huge detractor of Peter Jackson touching anything even vaguely good ever. If this were not convincing enough for Conor, and it might have been, I informed him that New Zealand had changed the name of one of its cities to Middle Earth. Certainly there are identity issues when a country becomes so fixated on a movie (though, granted, it was their economy for quite a while).
After glutting ourselves with greasy food, we went to see Blade II. I had enjoyed the first movie, in a mindless sort of way. It, at least, had an original view of vampires and dhampirs (though it neglected to call Blade a dhampir, only vamp geeks would know he was one). This sequel, as is so often the case with sequels, was decidedly less interesting. A character that damned well should have been dead was miraculously alive. The plotline was insipid. The ending was remarkably unnerving and frightening, though I am sure the director was going for "romantic." The high point for me was the actor who played One in The City of Lost Children portraying a vampire.
After the movie, we went to Zack's to watch yet another movie. After Emily informed us that she had not seen Army of Darkness, our decision was made for us. AoD is a cult classic, at least in my opinion. (Shhh! I can too have a cult of one!) Granted, it is poorly made, but it is supposed to be. Near the end, Emily started saying how he should accidentally go too far into the future. I knew this is not what happened. He ends up in his own time and blows away another Deadite while working. It's a good ending. Only that is not the ending that was on the DVD. No, in this ending, Ash drinks too much potion and... ends up... too far... in the future... We all looked accusingly at M. Clearly, she had manipulated reality to change the ending but didn't have enough energy left to alter our memories. Clearly.
Before we left, Zack took us into his basement so he could play us some David Bowie songs from early in his career. I was expecting terrible music and I have to say that this was far beyond any of my expectations. The first song was an unoriginal tune about loving someone until Tuesday. The last line is spoken, "but I might stretch it 'till Wednesday." Dreadful, but well within the parameters for an early David Bowie. The second song was the real gem of his collection. David Bowie singing about finding a laughing gnome that sounds like Alvin of the Chipmunk, replete with puns about his cousin the "metri-gnome." It was atrocious. We loved it and could hardly stop laughing.
Just as we were leaving, Zack remembered that he hadn't yet given M and I our Christmas gifts. I received an Invader Zim t-shirt and a hunk of blue metal that Zack said was his first sculpture. M got a sweater from Salvation Army that Zack had been wearing. We were both very pleased and hugged him as thanks.

The Trojan Platypus
Sitting on a rock on campus Thursday, I decided to forward the cause of getting to know Sara(h) the Scarf Girl. The first step was to open my little face pendant and take out the thought I had written on the paper to manifest. It clearly wasn't working. I unrolled it and looked down, seeing my mistake. "Find new consort tomorrow." Of course, following my logic, I should have known that tomorrow will never come (no matter what copper-haired, pupilless orphans tell you) and that was preventing the thought from manifesting. Go with it. Accept the reality with which you are presented. I ripped the bit of paper up and let the wind take it.
I had to replace the paper though. As such, I drew a purple platypus on a piece of paper with tiny UFOs circling it. On the other side, I wrote "For Sara(h): http//xenex.org" I folded this up and put it in the pendant with the explicit instruction that this needed to be delivered to her as soon as possible.
Ten minutes later, Sara(h) walked by as I spoke to M. I turned and called her name and she walked the five feet to my loft rock. I informed her that I had something for her, launching myself off my stone perch. I opened the pendant and gave her the paper. She unfolded it, smiled shyly, and gently uttered, "Space platypus." I had forgotten I had labeled him for fear that my sketch was indecipherable. We smiled at one another in a congenial fashion and she told me that she was going to keep it in her pocket. I nodded, appreciatively. Seemed like a good place to put it.
Mission objective completed. Granted, it isn't as though she is a new consort yet, nor do we have any evidence that she will be. I really don't know anything about her, save that there is something in the way she carries herself or her aura that appeals to me enough that I have pursued this course of action. Which, frankly, seems a little silly when though of objectively. But, as I have given her the address of this site and journal (so, in theory, she is reading this right now... Hi?), she can know me. In as much as any of you actually knows me.
Later, I spied her (or someone that looked enough like her at two-hundred yards) sitting under a cherry tree. Given the time of year, it should be no surprised that it was drizzling pink petals onto her. She seemed alone, but certainly not lonely. Granted, I couldn't make out facial features so I am going by body language. It was such a stunning tableau. Everything just froze for a moment. It seemed that, if I got any closer, everything would have become pixilated. But for that one moment, as the petals fell on this almost complete stranger and the sun made her glow despite the shadows, it was... perfect. One moment was enough. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.

Serendipitous Siri
 
Flynn took her shoes and made her stand in the snow while I took this.
Emily and I were walking around town, after she had submitted her application to be a substitute teacher next year to the board office. We had no specific destination in mind. After we made use of Starbuck's facilities, that is. Emily, however, was distracted by the smell of coffee and decided to purchase a cup of their expensive corporate terratogens.
I sat at a table, admiring the charcoal art on the walls but more admiring the fact that a sketch of shoes that looked a lot like something one of my classmates did when I took an art course was being sold by them for $800. I suppose someone will eventually spill coffee on it and be paying it off for months. I looked in front of me and my brain suddenly registered that it knew the creature in my live of vision. It was Siri, Conor's ex. I would very much like you to know that I had no seen this girl for many, many months. Until I started mentioning her in this journal. Clearly you are screwing with my life so you can have better stories. Well, that's just sad.
We spoke at length, though hardly at depth. I mentioned that Conor had told us that they had split up and it was mutual and amicable. Judging by her chagrin, it was not mutual. I think she very much still wanted to be with him. Especially when I mentioned that they made such a cute couple in my head. A wistful "we were a cute couple" was my reward.
Around this time, Emily derided me playfully for being so rude as to not play introducer. Is it my fault I want them to be self-reliant? (I am joking)
Siri's father was sitting on a chair behind her, reading some paper. Or, at least, giving the appearance of reading the paper. I think he was half listening to us and actually edged her out abruptly just as we began arriving at a good conversational level. Isn't it always the way?


Soon in Xenology: The unnerving fifty-first way to leave your lover. Apartment hunting (Cliff & Malachi).

last watched: Pulp Fiction
reading: Good Omens
listening: Negotiations and Love Songs 1971-1986
wanting: to be able to unlock my broken e-mail.
interesting thought: I have known people my whole life and not felt as happy in seeing them as I do when I annoy Sara(h).
moment of zen: finding the badminton bunny.
someday I must: climb a mountain.

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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