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10.27.02 1:12 a.m.

Refuse to be ill. Never tell people you are ill; never own it to yourself. Illness is one of those things which a man should resist on principle.


 -Edward George Bulwer-Lytton  




Previously in Xenology: I was fond of Emily. Emily was frequently ill. The world was a few shapes paler and fuzzy.

The Crimson Sloth
Last night, Emily came over, as she was desperate for my company. Owing to a particularly lingering illness on her part, she has had to cancel nearly all plans that didn't directly concern her getting paid. As such,
My she's happy  
In healthier days.
the poor elf had been deprived of the joy that is my company. Given that she has had to give up every ingredient that goes into creating that ambrosia known as pizza, this deprival of me was deemed too cruel of the gods.
She arrived and was greeted, in a customary fashion, with a red squeak toy in the face. I had been playing with the forums and thus was ill prepared for her arrival, despite her having called to warn me. The squeaking would surely distract her long enough that I could make my domicile seem presentable. I had, unfortunately, neglected to take into account the sheer power of an exhausted Emily and the squeaking thus had no effect on her. Also, I had my finger over the squeak hole, so the rubber cat had given one proud squeak and then done its Kate Moss impression.
After I bathed her, because everyone feels better after having his or her hair washed, she put on a red union suit exactly the color of the squeaky cat. However, when I gave her a squeeze, the sound she made was a bit more like "Uhhhgghhhm." Despite the bright blonde hair and full body red suit, she was not a jolly elf. She wasn't even a happy as Cornelius, the ambiguously gay, laid-off elf. I let her into the Island of Misfit Toys (known to the laymen as my bedroom) to rest her weary bones.
I popped in the last episode of Buffy for M, as watching others kick things and do magick usually reminds her of her purpose and she perks right up. Such was not the case. She chose to view it as light entertainment, though.
Melissa called and asked if we were interested in watching Ginger Snaps. I looked importuningly to M, as she was the sick girl and thus got to make social decisions. She decided that she was well enough to entertain and be entertained by company and welcomed them to come over as long as they gave her the appeasement of candy. In many, many ways, she is a simple girl.
I looked at my watch after this conversation ended. My prediction was a simple and terrible one; within half an hour, Emily would have become too sick to speak, to say nothing of entertaining company. Twenty-seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds later, Emily nudged me over and informed me that she was about to be very sick. Flashing back to watching a classmate throw up on a friend in elementary school, I moved so fast out of her way that the friction nearly melted the rug. Before praying homage at the porcelain altar, she popped her head out to inform me very lucidly that my family was not particularly caring toward the needs of young women who might need to throw up.
After the requisite time, I knocked on the door to offer my support and solace. Emily was prostrate on the floor, clearly riding a wave of nausea on an empty stomach. I smoothed her hair back, as feature films have led me to believe this is a supreme gesture of soothing and affection that is appropriate both when the heroine has just lost her entire family to space zombie and when she had gotten a paper cut. This seemed to do the trick for the time being, which means by movie logic that she has some disease which is life-threatening and monkey-transmitted that will be cured just as I face-off with the villain that turns out to be my long lost brother. It's all very obvious when you think about it. As I was doing such a lovely job in the comforting department from the floor of the bathroom, I offered to read the comics with her on there as well. She seemed to enjoy this, though I had to read Doonsbury to her because the slanting print confuses her.
We returned to my room in time to see Anya accidentally wish her friend into the claws of the Fates and to receive a call from Melissa asking our candy preferences. I informed her that Emily had contracted the Monkey Plague and I now had to square off against my evil, estranged brother who was the only chemist brilliant (but evil) enough to have created the antidote. Also, I mentioned that M was engaging in reverse peristalsis and thus was not in the mood to sustain the existence people who are not me,
Emily lay, a bit like a sloth in a red jumper, upon my bed. I moved the garbage can (cardboard box) closer to her face, in case she had the sudden urge to free her spleen via her throat. The spleen is known for its attempts to evacuate orally. The Crimson Sloth would not know the goodness of pity candy, pubescent werewolves, or the MeLiza tonight. She didn't seem to mind this much.
I was quite worried about the girl, honestly. If you have noted, this borders on a theme. She seems to be... not what one would describe as "well," by any stretch of the term. She seems functional when she has to for work, yet becomes weak and ill when she has free time. Free time seems to be The Crimson Sloth's kryptonite. This means that the people that care about her are not able to see her and their weeping echoes throughout valley, turning the Hudson brackish with their tears. As I was certainly not acting as the cheerful puppy as which I am sure you all know me, Emily and I began discussing my mood and her health. It breaks down as the following: I feel that Emily worries too much about everything. She said this was germane, as she even worries about her ulcers. She does not worry that she has them, nor how to cure them. She worries that she is hurting them and malnourishing them by eating the wrong things. She anthropomorphized wounds in her digestive system into emotional creatures akin to the 7-Up dots advertisers foisted on us several years ago. I tried to accurately convey to her the number of levels upon which that is fuck-up and massively detrimental. Then she made her sad puppy face that her worrying about her ulcers likely hurt them further.
The end product of our conversation was that she would try to voice her worries more often so they didn't make her physically and emotionally sick and she would promise to actually become a happy, healthy person. I would try not to worry so much about her getting sicker. By the end of this, she was actually functioning like a semi-normal human being. The Crimson Sloth had gone into hiding.
As it was too late to do very much of anything, we ended up channel surfing. It is the only known cure for most non-fatal illnesses. We ended up of the Disney channel. How this occurred is one of those mysteries of nature. I think, possibly, I saw a boy with bright blue eyes and nothing by sharp teeth and had high hopes he was a demon. Somehow demons on the Disney channel take on this added edge of being badasses, despite the fact that their vocabulary is G-rated. In this case, the demon in question was actually an imaginary friend that was turning into a boogey man because his designated child no longer believed in him. As such, not a demon nor a badass in the least. Especially as boogey men evidently make constant use of near rhyme. Actually, that is annoying to the extent of being infernal...
We also started watching some animated show called "Kim Possible." The show itself is unimportant. What we found of great importance, however, was the fact that one of their sidekicks seemed to be a fetus with buckteeth. It was hairless and pink, shaped as a fetus before the fingers are really distinguished terribly much. Poor little fetus can barely open its eyes, which are all black because it wasn't ready to leave the womb. According to the Disney site, it is supposed to be a naked molerat named Rufus, but that hardly seems believable. For the duration of the show, Emily and I were affecting falsettos and inserting various pro-life slogans into the fetus's barely formed mouth. We created our version of the show where the fetus would pop out of somewhere, chirp something like, "Aren't you glad your parents weren't pro-choice?" and be completely ignored by everyone. It would be a major theme of the show. I would have to watch it every week.
Emily showed distinct signs of life after this; actually glowing happily when she realized that the corrective hormones she is on had made her hands warmer than mine. Before the doctors realized she had hypothyroidism, this would have happened only if she had stuck her hands in boiling water. There is a distinct chance Emmy is going to become a real girl.

Xen and the Art of Zen
Several days ago, one of my classes ended twenty minutes early. To any college student, this is like a gift from the gods, especially after my advisor had jerked me around earlier in the day about hopes of graduating. I decided to use this gifted parcel of time the best way I knew how, which was to try to make a new friend. It always seems like such a noble pursuit, after all.
That's me!  
I couldn't find an appropriately "Zen" picture. Sexy will have to do.
As it was the slightest bit chilly, New Paltz students had burrowed into the ground for winter, only to reemerge in February to throw up on their own shadows and predict a longer winter. To create new friends out of clay and the breath of life, I would have to go where one could avoid seeing ones own breath.
I headed to the SUB, albeit an indirect way. No matter how long I remain on campus (and it will not be that much longer), I refuse to acknowledge that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. I opted to cut through one of the buildings that belonged to the students of one of those enviable but useless disciplines (says the English major). In this case, it was that on the art students. The labyrinth of corridors supported my theory that straight lines are just suggestions. Were I to believe for a moment that going directly would help me to arrive at my location, I would have ended up at a dead end. The building was made with the whims of art students in mind, to escape I needed to think like an art major. Thus I went as far left as I could, despite all reason.
I arrived at the doors, but found myself flanked on either side by art galleries. As I felt I had established a successful pattern, I chose the gallery on my left. The girl manning the gallery was a very disinterested student reading a book that disinterested her more than my presence. However, she had to pay attention to the book, I was likely unimportant to her life. I browsed around, looking at the exhibit called Complexity. The premise was various unrelated circumstances coming together to create something that worked perfectly together. It was a heady premise, and I don't know that they succeeded. However, as I looked at this and the other gallery, I came to regard the goal of art to capture one moment of life perfectly. This became my epiphany.
Suddenly, it was as though my perspective on the universe had collapsed into a needlepoint and tipped over. I walked out of the building and it was as though I had walked into a work of art. I had. The world was an art that was constantly moving and shifting. It was always art however. Art merely takes one frame or moment and immortalizes it.
Faster and faster, it flowed into my mind as though I had just regained my sight after a long period of blindness. People ignored life and the art of it because it is too much. One frame of art, one holy moment runs into the next and it is hard to have an awareness both of the moment in which one is living and the holiness of it.
I went to a glass-enclosed lounge in the SUB and watched people walk by. I didn't wonder who they are or mentally start writing stories about each one. I just watched and enjoyed people. What they were saying all at once became as another language to me. It was like the orchestra playing piccolos and bassoons ala "Peter and the Wolf." I just watched these beings walk and didn't think. I allowed it to wash over me, while simultaneously being aware that, in my observation, I was a part of this all.
I'm not sure what I would have said if confronted at that time. Possibly nothing. Possibly the person who engaged me would have become the focal point of my universe until one of us looked away. I did want to share this new information though I was aware most are ill-equipped to hear it. It is something that must happen for one to understand it. I could dictate my feelings and thoughts and never create the same truth one could receive by honestly watching a snowflake fall and melt.
I will try a bit more, however. Part of it is decontextualization. I had complained in the part that things had become desubstantialized to me; this is the opposite. Too often in life, we are forced to only see things in their proper context. We treat people and objects as symbols, in a way. Once something is removed from its context, the symbolic value disappears. One actually has to look and understand completely on one's own. Rather than decontextualization removing the value and meaning of an object, it strengthens the value one places upon everything because everything adopts a very personal value. The stop sign one sees daily on the end of one's street is exactly the right shade of red suddenly. That the corners are bent makes one smile, because that might bring up memories of wild childhood days or the way one's grandmother piecrusts curled. Everything is suddenly sharply real.
I finally feel alive again.
It's going to be a good autumn.


Soon in Xenology: Grad class. Red Dragon. Toothlessness before godliness. Other lives not led in a dentist's chair. Nights with Zack. OtherZack is missing. Eileen.

last watched: Stir of Echoes
reading: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
listening: Rasputina
wanting: my friends and I to share more holy moments.
interesting thought: My life is my art.
moment of zen: finding my holy moment.
someday I must: (exactly)

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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