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09.06.02 10:57 p.m.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.


 -George Washington  




Previously in Xenology: Xen was a social chrysalis.

Association
2:00 PM My first class on Thursday primarily consisted on my teacher repeatedly asking individual students what they will have wished they had done today if we knew we were to die tomorrow. I carefully considered and decided that I wished I had been more outgoing and gregarious. It is possible that, since I randomly pester people in what I consider sociological experiments, I seem decidedly extroverted. However, this is different than actually engaging someone in dialogue. That actually requires one to put oneself on the line for rejection. However, since most of my class opted for folding laundry or getting drunk, I will try not to feel too terrible that I want to meet people.
The initial focus for this interest ostensibly was a squeaky voiced nymph who reminded me a bit of Eileen. Given that I feel nearly completely estranged from one with whom I had fallen in love, I was predisposed to a small degree of associative fondness. I had no intent to love her or any such foolishness. I just wanted to know her and what made her go happily from day to day.
I did not, however, speak to her save to apologize for having stepped on her sandal. She was flanked by friends and I could not rally proper words to convey my sentiment of, "You seem like someone I once almost dated. Can we be friends now?" I cannot imagine she would be the one person in a hundred that would actually be engaged by this line of reasoning. I didn't wish to be thought odd, though I had positively no doubt that I am odd. Had I another friend by my side, I would have sufficient courage to begin a conversation to most anyone I found interesting (this is not a large group) because it makes me seem somewhat reasonable and allows be an escape should the situation get unpleasant.
Nevertheless, I intend to engage and befriend a new person by day's end. I will be most selective in whom I engage, but I will consciously make the effort to engage at least one person. Otherwise, I will have regrets when I die and my teacher cannot allow this to be.
5:30 I am sitting, heart palpitating slightly, in my desk in Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. I managed to talk with someone.
After an unpleasantly greasy meal of dining hall pizza (much of which I fed to the chickadees dancing around my feet) and having exhausted a memory card taking pictures of the strange ducks on campus, I headed back to Humanities. I had thus far encountered absolutely no one with whom I much wanted to speak. Well, that is not strictly true. While reading Lolita and people watching, I spied a girl with cute oval glasses and somewhat short dyed blonde hair. However, the moment I realized that she was certainly someone with whom I might share a sort of homology, she was descended upon by a friend. So I left her without having approached.
I am the terror that flaps in the night!  
Unretouched photo of one of the scary ducks on campus.
I had returned to the cement mushroom masquerading as a bench where I sat before, intending to people-watch until I found a suitable creature or at least read more. I looked to my right as someone passed and realized that the tawny haired lass from before was sitting next to me writing in a notebook. I weighed my options and decided that I needed a cough drop before proceeding further in any direction. It is always wise to have a well-moistened, clear throat when trying to strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger. Plus, I very likely had pizza breath.
Now what to say to her? I noted that the back of her shirt was covered in dead, clinging leaves. I informed her of such, and wiped off a few. She explained that she had been lying back upon her stone bench and I informed her that this was something I fully supported. Forgive me, I panicked. Conversation and slight physical contact had been made. Now I back off and hide in Lolita because I am skittish and have exhausted all I had to say for that moment.
I glanced over the edge of Lolita to people-watch again. "What are you looking at?" she hummed. I smiled shyly and informed her that I was people watching because my teacher had instilled a strong carpe diem spirit in me today and I meant to make good on it, though my people-watching was proving fruitless. She introduced herself as Lauren in a way that made clear to me that I needed search no further.
Let me describe her so we can get this out of the way. She was not tall, but in no way short. If pressed, I would place her height at 5'6" or so. She was comely, but in the way I appreciate not the way the media convinces us is proper. She had the lean physique of a foppish Renaissance poet, if that makes any sense. Her hair was naturally a dirty blonde color, judging from her three inches of hair privileged to be close to her head. The rest had been chemically convinced it was a dull blonde color. Her hair was frozen projecting from her head every time she ran her slender finger it, and the effect was surprisingly striking. Her eyes were a brown color that faded to forest green in the edges. Around her neck she wore a small shell that shined blue on its black cord. She had a freckle between the thumb and forefinger on her right hand. As you can see, I am refined in my studying of strangers. What struck me most is her scent. Yes, I am aware how odd that sentence is. She smelled floral, like lavender perhaps, and like the top of a baby's head. Trust me, new human smell is highly addictive. It is what makes people fall in love with babies. It gave her this irresistible aura of Elysium.
She was sitting, waiting for her friend Melanie to exit the lecture center. However, this was likely occurring in forty minutes, so we had time to converse. She is an arts major, keenly interested in film and music. However, the communications program at New Paltz lacks the art she desires and the art program lacks the media. She is a junior, though I honestly couldn't place what year she was. She may well have been anything from a freshman to a grad student, but whatever she was, it was something that seemed to suit her.
I told her of how, the first day I was on campus this semester, I was beset on all sides with people wanting to chat me up. The most memorably of which was a freshman I will call Tiffany. She had the sort of speech pattern where she starts out high and, amazingly, ends even higher. Tiffany informed me by way of introduction that I was "her kind of guy." This did not exactly impress me, but I decided to be polite and continue to speak with her. I wouldn't want her to not approach strange men and hit on them. That would be a travesty. Tiff asked my age and I told her that I was all of twenty-one years. This age seemed to excite her, though I can't imagine why. She asked me to guess her age and I immediately deadpanned, "You are eighteen." Again, she was shocked. Easily shockable girl, this Tiffany. She was also a resident of Long Island, as so many New Paltzians are. Here Lauren interrupted my story to ask where I thought she was born. I realized she was likely going to say "Long Island," but she lacked the vocal and stylistic cues. I told her I hadn't a clue and she informed me she was from Long Island, but forgave me from stereotyping as most of her neighbors fit the stereotype. Oh, I like this girl. She's spunky! Continuing to inform Lauren of Tiff, I shared how Tiff quizzed me on the sort of books I liked. I asked if she knew of Richard Bach, Neil Gaiman, Tom Robbins, Vladamir Nabokov, P.G. Wodehouse, Terry Prachett, or Douglas Adams. I sighed and conceded to ask if she read Anne Rice. But of course she did. She thought Lestat was so totally cool. I smiled distantly, knowing that I was pretty much at an end to my conversation with Tiff. Indeed, she left for class shortly after and I have yet to see her again.
I turned to Lauren, feeling a bit like Tiffany myself and worrying that I was making a pest of myself. She stated that she was actually enjoying my company, which frankly made me just the teeniest bit jubilant.
After quite a lot of conversation, which is avoiding being remembered at the moment, her friend Melanie approached us. It seemed clear that they were close, which pleased me. Melanie was taller than Lauren, but this may well have been because I was sitting down. She had long, blonde hair that cascaded off her shoulders and a sweet sort of smile. She seemed light-hearted. She wore a shiny orange skirt that slit in the front be showed nothing. Sensual, but not sexual. To quote Yeats, "She thinks part woman, three parts a child, that nobody looks..." I thought it made her that much more interesting. I had begun to mentally write stories of Lauren and Melanie's interactions when I was introduced, which was a relief because I worried that Lauren was just going to leave. Being introduced means I am part of the group. Melanie asked who I was and Lauren explained that I had brushed leaves from her back in a way that suggested that she thought I had ulterior motives. I demurred, "Well, it had to be done, and I was here." Melanie smiled at this.
They planned to meet later for tennis and, with that, Lauren said she needed to return to her home. When Melanie left, I handed Lauren my e-mail address and Lauren, to my delight, reciprocated. As she was leaving, however, she shared a story with me which I shall now try to share with you. She was hiking with a friend and encountered a ruin of a house. Within, they spied a mouse dining on its deceased brethren. The mouse allowed them to get within two feet as it feasted on the necrotic flesh of its fellow vermin. Lauren was unaware that mice were cannibalistic. Aside from mice, sharks, and humans, nothing in nature is a cannibal. They watched, enthralled with the mortal beauty of the scene. A large fly landed on the head of the living rodent, which the mouse swatted. The fly then landed on the dead one and was promptly snatched up by the living mouse and devoured. Then the mouse scurried up a vertical wall and into a hole.
By this point, we were walking together and were talking of film. I asked what her favorite film was and she said, "That's hard to say. There are so many amazing movies I have yet to see, but that makes me really happy. There is so much more to see... I really like Waking Life. Especially the whole, 'I don't want to be an ant' thing." I told her that I used to want a little silver ant so I would always remember not to be one. It was, in fact, one of the reasons I had spoken with her.
I ended up walking her most of the way home before realizing I had better get to class. Before I left her, I told her how pleased I was that I had met her and she requited. I wrote her but, as she only has access to school computers, I may have to wait until Monday for a reply. She could be an excellent addition to my life.


Soon in Xenology: Jacki's party. We hang out with Dave and Zack. But not together. Graduate level courses on heteroglossia (can't be a word).

last watched: Still Crazy
reading: Lolita
listening: Cake : Fashion Nugget
wanting: to hang out with Lauren again.
interesting thought: a few days ago, I did not know this interesting person.
moment of zen: being told I will get along with someone's friends.
someday I must: actually manage to complete an entry and not leave things for the next entry.

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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