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06.10.02 1:19 a.m.

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.

 -La Rochefoucald  

Previously in Xenology: Emily and I enjoyed a nice relationship. Owing to illness, Conor was dismissed from Bard. Kate and I clashed and parted and are only reconciling now because she will be gone for six months. Todd died.

I couldn't write for most of the day. It wasn't for want of desire; I desired to write very much. I just couldn't really get the words onto the page (or screen, as it were). Writing is a very organic process for me, as I am sure I have lamented time and again. My body has to be in the proper chemical, spiritual, and spatial place to cause words to flow. Even now, it feels a bit stilted. I watched a few scenes of Waking Life in hope of jump-starting my creativity; the flow from my brain to my fingertips. However, then I couldn't stop watching or turn it off. It seemed sacrilege to consider it. Even now, I would rather put it back on (I got to the end or I wouldn't be writing this) than write. But I feel I should write to detail the on-going matters. Though even now, I cannot write all that I want.
isn't she cute?  
She is careful to read how I miss her. The hat is careful to sit on her head cutely.
So, to my other love, Emily. It is sort of strange. Of course, it will not sound strange to you, because it stumbles about largely in my head alone. My head doesn't translate well into English, preferring pictures and words with no vowels. Nonetheless, I will give it a shot.
Recently, there has been this missing of Emily on my part. It's not like a "Aw, she is fun. I like to have her around. She smells good, like a triangle." (Though, of course, this is the case). It is as though there is a lack. When I am at my computer at night, I feel that she is lying in my bed and am slightly startled to find my bed vacant when I turn to pat her affectionately.
See, this is coming out wrong. You are thinking, "Aw, romantic. The silly boy loves her and misses her and doesn't know this is normal." I do know that all this is normal, but there is more. I have great experience at missing people. I have an honorary doctorate in missing people. I am damned good at it. This is different. This is like when twins are separated. I was intensely in love with Katie. I ached for her when she was gone for long periods. But, as long as it wasn't more than a week, I was generally content. With Emily, we are not talking about an ache, but an M shaped hole. It is as though something I am very used to is missing, akin to the sensation of not wearing a ring that has not left one's finger in years. One keeps trying to reach for something that isn't there.
I've got it! It is this new claddaugh Emily bought me. It contains some sort of enchantment laid upon it by an evil shaman! That must be it.

Several days ago, Emily's master had given her $30 to take me out to dinner and relax. She had been rather stressed by this whole concept of "supporting herself without outside assistance," as is reasonable. We decided to include Conor in on our comfort food express, because we missed the lad. He is a form of comfort food.
Over an overly salty and tasteless meal at Ruby Tuesdays, we discussed our lives. Since I am anally retentive about chronicling my and Emily's respective and mutual lives, we will only concern ourselves with dear Conor here. He will, we hope, be returning to Bard this coming fall. I told him that I would likely be working there this summer and he was enthusiastic. I should enjoy this, he said. I agree. I should.
As the food gave us more dehydration than comfort, we decided to continue our adventures together by trying to raise the dead. However, Emily was concerned about her car and decidedly frightened by our options of cemeteries. Evidently, conjuring up spirits is fine, so long as it is done away from headstones. I convinced her that proper necromancy require us to at least be outside and we chose Glenham.
We stopped back at my house before continuing and I told M and Conor to raid the Magick Cabinet while I tended to other matters. When I returned, they had taken various candles and holders, ignoring the incenses, oils, powders, bones, teeth (M's wisdom teeth), hair (mine from my last real haircut), stones, poppets, feathers and wind instruments. Possibly a wise move, though I was hoping they would be more adventurous in their raiding. It was like a psychological experiment. They also declined to bring any of my books, as none that I was experienced with delved into necromancy in any depth. Possibly Summoning Spirits: The Art of Magical Evocation, but I haven't been able to really study that at any length. The only desired item they could not find was my old Ouija board (bought at the yard sale of the caretaker of a cemetery, for what that is worth), which I keep in my closet.
Loaded up with a lot of wax and ceramic, we found a spot over a hill that granted us light enough to see the Ouija board. If only I had a Ouija Board: Glow-in-the-Dark we wouldn't have to be quite so selective. I am sure the forces of darkness don't mind if the board is glowing because it has been exposed to ambient lighting or if they are in possession of it. I'm sure glowing would make it easier for them.
We were not having great success with the board, and less so with the candles. We eventually forgot about the candles, conceding defeat to the wind. The board was fond of gibberish and wasn't much able to give us information that we requested. I tried to contact Todd, but the spirit we spoke too was nowhere near flamboyant enough to pull off a convincing Todd impression.
Then, suddenly, in response to our requests to prove that we were in contact with something, the board floated three feet above the ground and began glowing a dark red. The wind picked up to a frenzied pace and we watched, mouths agape, as a bolt of lightning burst a hole in the ground, out of which walked a figured dressed in a luminescent white robe. That, or I went to go get my jacket from Emily's car because there was absolutely no sign. On second thought, I am pretty sure I got my jacket.
We packed up shortly afterward, deciding that they other side wasn't up for playing. When we arrived back at my house, we ended up watching Hedwig and The Angry Inch. It wasn't horrible, we didn't think. We waited and waited for the pay off, which we were sure would appear any moment. And we waited. Then the movie end. We were understandably furious about having been forced to sit through this supposedly artistic movie dealing with controversial issues in a humorous way only to be basically told, "We are artistic, we don't need an ending." Emily's theory was that they needed to have the movie done by a certain day and thus threw together some stock footage and a song, hoping that would be enough. I decided to use the power of DVD's to summon the audio commentary. Clearly they would explain what they were thinking. Nope, they talked about how the lighting was like it was when the show was on Broadway and chit-chatted about not wearing pants and being hosed down. Infuriating.
Bad transvestite movies are the punishment for occult foreplay with no climax, kiddies. You be careful with your Ouijas, or you'll be subjected to meaningless artistic pretension.

Strawberries and Pizza
Yesterday, there was a Strawberry festival in my town. Most of my town's festivals seem to revolve around produce, despite the fact that there are no farms in my town, it is actually a city, and most denizens believe strawberries come from a market or, at best, a strawberry tree. I had told my younger brother that I would take him, but was feeling largely unmotivated, as my father had just plucked my computer from the edge of doom. (My virus checker decided Windows was a virus and thus started to destroy it.) As such, the computer needed to be petted and coddled.
Once there ("there," of course, being the train station, the ideal place for all your festive needs), Bryan broke away from me deciding that I was cramping his style. A style which seemed to consist of treating the poor, unwashed environmentalists as a captive audience for his half-evolved opinions about everything but strawberries. His departure from me did not much affect me. All I wished to do was look at the three booths selling poorly made, faux tribal goods and take in the majesty that is a man-made peninsula jutting into the Hudson River that is actually ten feet of dirt on top of an old landfill (or so Pete Seeger informs me, and he is an old folk singer thus not given to anything less than the truth). Completing this in less than five minutes, I wandered about, avoiding having to touch any of the sweating hippy people who were sunburned a painful shade of vermilion. They could be contagious, basting in their juices like that.
I received a page from Emily and, calling her back, she informed me that she wanted Zack, Conor, and me to come to her parent's house for a swim. Of course, when she called Conor, he profusely apologized that, while he very much wanted to go swimming, he had to attend some event with his family. Zack did not answer his phone, to no one's surprise. I told M that I would call him, should there be any new developments.
As I turned around, I saw Zack approaching me, as I expected. To my way of logic, the fact that I had hung out with him at this festival last year coupled with the mention of his name would force him to appear. Hey, it worked, didn't it? I told him that M had just called him for a swim. He pondered the goodness that is swimming, but would be unable to do so as he was invited to a make-your-own-pizza party at Dezi's. As we walked to the prone Veronica and Zack's dog Sadie, he informed me that I could easily be invited for the price of a pizza topping. I asked if this extended to M, which it would if she could provide a topping. I called her and informed her of the condition, and she told me that the mothers from the picnic she had just left forced all their left-over food onto M. She could provide many meals, especially when informed that Dezi possessed a trampoline.
Veronica asked if I had scissors in my magical backpack. I raised an eyebrow and told her I lacked such an implement. She revealed that she was doing a photo project on destruction that resulted in creation. In this example, the scissors would be used to destroy Zack's pants and create shorts. They both had the word "eggs" written in pen on their wrists to remind them to pick up eggs to destroy in order to make baked goods. I have to say that I am completely in favor of any photo project that results in baked goods.
We wandered together, trying to find earrings for Veronica. I ended up finding a rather simple and pretty silver ring with a pink opal in it that I bought for M. I am likely a good boyfriend to have, because I think it is fun to buy people presents. Especially presents that are the same color as the lips of the recipient.
After getting the best lemonade I have ever had (recipe time! One half lemon, squished. Ice. Water. Wee bit of sugar. Leave squished lemon in cup. Drink.), Veronica and Zack convinced me that Sadie was far too tired to walk back to Zack's house before the party and I should extent the use of my car to her. I am a humanitarian, at least when it comes to Zack's dogs, so I happily agreed. And, as an added bonus, I found five dollars under a car on the way to mine. See, that's an omen.
I dropped them off at the market to get eggs and returned home. Emily, wearing nothing but a bathing suit, was turning about in my tiny room. I walked in and was informed that my slip to her mother earlier in the day about Emily not feeling well had resulted in her mother refusing to help Emily with her bills, as she feels M doesn't work hard enough. This is a bald-face lie, as Emily is the hardest worker I know. M's mom should learn to appreciate having such a nice daughter. M was a little irked at me, but receiving the opal ring seemed to defuse this. One must appreciate well-timed jewelry.
She is skilled in the arts of kneading.  
She is SuperM, kneading dough faster than a speeding bullet!
I lent her a pair of shorts and a shirt, as her students at the picnic had soaked her clothing. While I like how she looks in a bathing suit, this may not be something I want to share with my friends outside of a pool setting. We arrived slightly later than we expected, owing to my forgetting on which road Dezi lived. I figured I'd eventually guess the right one. The giant trampoline in the backyard was a pretty good indication.
Annie, Dezi's sister, seemed delighted by the variety of vegetarian food Emily brought to the party. No one seemed very delighted by my green peppers, but I did only have two of them. M's garlic toast had grown hard and brittle since she had left the picnic and Dezi's microwave either didn't function or exist to reheat M's bean medley. I improvised by deciding the beans were a sort of dip for the brittle toast. Emily seemed content that I was right.
We socialized a bit. Emily seemed to really hit it off with everyone there, though she insists they only liked her because of the sheer poundage of food she brought in her wake. Not that she is gregarious and charming. Nope, it's the beans.
I obsequiously asked Annie if M and I could go jump on her trampoline. She scoffed that it was more than encouraged. We flashed blinding smiles that pierced our ears and sped to the trampoline. I had never been on one quite this large, so I was justifiably jubilant. Emily reminded me that she uses one of these at her gym, though she still felt the joy. I seemed to be a guarded natural with trampolines. Mainly the kinetic of making other people bounce and fall, but that is a skill of sorts. When I got off the trampoline and tried to jump, it felt as though my legs didn't work. Like some deity had His/Her thumb on my head, preventing me from leaping into the clouds. We have got to get one of these. Hey, you want to help? Send donations to the Give M & Xen a Trampoline Fund, because twelve feet of my backyard is a terrible thing to waste.
Mmmm... pizza  
Zack is making us pizza crust while M is seeing if you are giving generously to The Fund
After we had temporarily exhausted our welcome and bodies on the trampoline, we went inside to see about making a pizza. We had seen Zack make masterful feats of culinary delight. We just wanted to create something palatable. We weren't very good at getting the dough as wide as we required, so Zack helped us through most of the process. But we did pick the sauce and toppings. That's kind of like making a pizza.
It was a long wait until our pizza would be put in the oven, so we socialized a bit with intermittent trampoline breaks. During one of our breaks, Zack came out to inform us that everyone really seemed to like M. I do believe Annie said "Love." Here exact word were something to the effect that everyone loved M and she was so much better than the girlfriend I used to have.
All in all, it was a really good party. We stayed through dessert because one cannot leave once an iced cookie appears on the scene. We also got to watch Zack and Dezi play for a bit in the basement, though eating took precedent. (Gods, I could go for some of that pizza right now.)
Before dropping Emily off, I enticed her to sing for me in my dead neighbor's driveway. Well, she was in the driveway when I enticed her to sing. It wasn't as though I have a fetish for dead neighbor's driveways. Though I think my neighbor would have liked being serenaded by M. Anyway, what began as her shyly singing in the car turned into her belting songs from Rent, using her headlights as a spotlight. No wonder people like her so much.

Katherine and the Kiwis
As I have detailed herein, Kate and I are keeping a dialogue open between us. Recently, owing to the fact that she will be leaving for the land of sharks, Kiwis, and Peter Jackson soon, she has sought to plan one final meeting between us before she disappears from these shores for six months. To her considerable surprised I was not wholly averse to her suggestion. I admit that I am decidedly guarded about the scenario. I cannot boast that I wholly trust her and would rather not be in a situation alone with her. As such, I have agreed to meet her at a diner and then walk around the grounds of one of the local mansions. That way, there will be none of those awkward silences and I will be that much closer to a stone or stick should matters get out of hand.
I am still not wholly sure of Ms. Kate's intentions. I don't think she really understand them herself. I think this comes a lot from a place of loneliness more than one of repentance. This is not to say that she did or did not mean the words she said earlier. Merely that they may not have been as altruistic as they might suggest.
The closing of this semester seemed to end her friendships with a great many of her friends. Julie departed, leaving a crushed Chris in her wake. I am not sure where Kate stands with Julie, but I doubt Julie cares much. Tina is desperate to move out of the apartment. I've heard no mention of JB or Jeff in Kate's epistles, and I do not know that they left her on the best of terms. I do not think Kate was ever special to JB, whom Kate revered occasionally. JB came to Kate years ago, escaping a dorm full of drug addicts that actively and passionately hated her. JB, however, became an addict, though not to as heavy of drugs. It's a confusing situation for Kate. JB represented the opposite of me, and that must have been appealing to Kate post-break-up. However, JB built such walls around herself that she couldn't like Kate. The more Kate tried to befriend JB, the more I think it created a slight distaste within JB. Affection is weakness to JB. When they moved into an apartment together, finances were thrown into the mix exacerbating the situation. Kate, who was convenient to JB as a means of transportation and dependence, became carless and a constant fact of life.
Note how the flowers match her hair. That's not an accident.  
Kate and her technicolor dreamhair.
Kate is literally going to the other side of the earth to run away from all of this. She has a few weeks left and she seeks to contact one of the only people who shows honest affection for her, even when she feels she doesn't deserve it and when he doesn't wish to speak with her. But I think she knows that I would help her, if she were in need, even if I didn't want to speak to her. I think many of the other people in her life would just leave her and forget.
Kate is a lost little kitten. If left to her own devices, I think she would eventually build a proper identity and be truly happy. Maybe that is what New Zealand will be for her, a way to escape everything negative here and flesh out who she really wants to be. However, there is this pessimistic part of me that says that she wants to go there to get drunk frequently and fuck strange boys with funny accents on the opposite side of the earth from her parents. I would like to think better of her, but I think realism includes acknowledging the voice that consists of growling epithets. There is honesty in that.
Last night at Johnny D's, Emily and I ended up discussing Kate and her wish to meet with me before leaving for NZ. Emily, as is her right and privilege, was playing the opposing side that consisted largely of the following arguments:

  1. Kate has not respected me at all in the past
  2. Kate didn't give a rat's ass about how her actions might affect my interactions with Emily
  3. Kate does nothing that makes her currently worthy of my interest
I didn't disagree with these. My only point was that, once she gets herself solid again, she will be an amazing young lady. But that may take a while. In the mean time, I think I pity Kate a little and want her to know she has a friend. Albeit a friend who would yell at her if she hugged him the wrong way.
She doesn't make me feel safe, she makes me suspicious and friendship cannot progress fully while this is the case.

Soon in Xenology: M's belief in fairies. Trying to hang out with Venessa. Being on a diet. Bust a move. French porn. Dave and the graves. The Pine Bush Carnival. Feelings on Summer Scholars.

last watched: Waking Life
reading: Psychic Warrior
listening: Rent
wanting: No torrential downpours tomorrow so I can go to the Pine Bush Carnival.
interesting thought: My brain, a few pounds of organic jello, allows me to exist.
moment of zen: Enjoying being social in summer.
someday I must: win an alien from a carnie.

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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