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11.16.02 11:55 p.m.

How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.


  - Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams  




Previously in Xenology: Emily scared easy. There needs to be a new library.

Ringu
Emily is dozing quietly in my bed, but I wanted to write. With her last conscious breath, she asked for a new entry. This brings us to right about here.
We had just gotten back from hanging out with Zack. The night was supposed to begin and end much differently than it has. Emily, Melissa, and I were to drive up to Sarah's twenty-first birthday party. However, Melissa had not arrived home until after seven in the morning, first from enjoying Harry Potter with M and me (more on that later) to being an immensely good friend to someone who does not deserve it. Then, once Emily arrived here from a tournament where she did not get to fight, we ruled that it was far too foul of weather to brave the drive to Sarah's. Despite knowing that she would be immensely displeased, I knew I had to cancel on her (though she was not home when I tried to cancel).
Now legal  
Happy birthday, Sarah dear
The problem then became, what were we to do? Emily has long held firm to the belief that one can only get Chinese food at buffets. Disabusing her of this notion seemed like an excellent way to begin the evening. As we hadn't seen Zack in at least a week and he was only a short drive from our destination, we absconded with him as well. On the drive to the buffet, Zack informed us that he not only had gone to the city to see an agency that seemed to adore him, but he was considering becoming a part owner in the market where he currently works. To this I cleverly retorted, "Zack is doing stuff. We're not doing stuff. That sucks. Stupid school." It does make one a little curious as to the actual purpose of school since my English degree will be worth very, very little. Every time I inform someone what my major is, they promptly inform me that I will need at least a Master's to get a job. I don't see why a degree I paid thousands of dollars for is shite. Zack, assuaging my fears and quickly shutting me up, informed Emily and me that he will be happy to help us out, should he ever come into a lucrative or influential position. I have absolutely no problem with that. My moral compass points to that S with the line through it.
When we arrived at the buffet, which did not sell any food from the Orient, the management had obviously stationed what they presumed to be the thin, attractive employees near the front, where one pays to enter. However, by "thin," they meant "in painfully tight black jeans." By "attractive," they clearly meant "not technically hell beasts." Most of the clientele of this eatery certainly qualified as hell beasts, which should not come off as a surprise. Wherever food can be procured by the pound, there the hell beasts shall congregate. We were just there to prove the ideological point that Asians do not hold the patent for buffet style eating. Emily asked if she was wrong in noting that we were likely the only attractive people in the vicinity and was this normal. We, by way of explanation, pointed out our surrounding and Zack sadly stated that the city is overrun with beautiful people. Evidently, one can only thrive in the city if one has excellent cheekbones.
After eating an amount of food that could better be weighed in ounces than pounds, we decided to see a movie. Though Zack was very interested, with immensely good reason, in seeing Harry Potter, we decided to see The Ring.
Good people  
Zack and Emily
This was a bad idea. It was not that the film was creepy, though Emily felt the need to hide her face when there was even the slightest suggestion of horror. Nonetheless, I told her she was my brave little toaster for even endeavoring to see this travesty. It has plot holes bigger than wells, though nothing as deep. The young boy is clearly trying to be Haley Joel Osment, either in The Sixth Sense or AI, depending on the scene. You just want the female protagonist to die, repeatedly, because she is far too stupid to live. The characters fall for so many horror movie clichés that one almost hopes they are trying to be self-referential and ironic. But no, it was far too dull to be so droll. The ending is obvious from the very beginning, though they act as though it is a clever plot twist. I fail to see how there can be so many sequels of the Japanese movie that inspired this. Beyond wooden, high school play acting, the dialogue seems to be taken wholesale from R.L. Stine novels. None of the characters are much worth knowing, which is good because we never get the chance to know them. There is even a noxious love story tacked on because... it was one of the only contrived situations left in the "Make Your Own Screenplay" box.
On the car on the way home, Zack and Emily both seemed a bit on edge. Evidently they found the film a bit scarier than I did, though I attributed my power of snark. A movie's terrifying climax tends to lose its punch when I can point out why it makes no sense. This is not to disrespect their fright, merely to point out why I wasn't.
Zack also spoke to us of his current amorous associate. (I believe the proper term is "ummfriend," as in "Who is that?" "My... umm.. friend.") They met a few weeks ago, evidently, shortly after his estrangement from Veronica. Neither of them harbor the illusion that this is a relationship, per se. It is merely comforting and welcome for the moment. That moment, however, seems to be ending soon. Zack, owing to the fact that he does care for this woman, is wholly aware that nothing can come of this and a premature cessation is likely less painful than one that might occur a few weeks or months down the road. She is a handful of years older, but that handful is enough to cause a chasm between them. Zack wants to find his place in the world and bloom into his fate. She is seeking to settle down with her Mr. Right. Zack is also intuitive enough to know where these matters are going, so I trust that he will make the right decision, whatever it may be.

Masking
Owing to the mold at the library, I have taken to wearing a surgical mask while I work. Don't fret, I am not a freak. Most of the adult staff had been doing this for years. In fact, my supervisor was wearing one when I interviewed for the job. It stop me from sneezing and becoming decidedly unhappy while I am stuck behind the desk, so I see no harm.
Since I have started wearing the mask, numerous patrons seem decidedly off-put by my appearance. They ask why I am wearing a mask, is there danger? I explain that I have developed an allergy to the mold problem. They always shift their eyes, as though the mold is an attacker they can see and fend off. A few people have left after hearing this. A few others ask if there is anything that can be done. I have adopted the party line that they are more than welcome to write a letter to the board of directors, as they have power as members of the public. I am powerless, as I am a grunt.
Evidently, wearing a surgical mask is a form of protest.

Basilisk
As Friday was the opening night to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you knew Emily, Melissa, and I had to be the first in line to see it. None of Melissa's friends, Potter addicts though they were, would join us. Denise was going to the bars, Liz was cemented at home, and Angela, who is wholly to blame for Melissa's addiction, wanted to spend the night at home with her boyfriend, with whom she lives and works. Where are the priorities?
We were going to a late showing to avoid those darned children who would ruin our theater going experience, so Emily and I got a table at a nearby chain restaurant. Emily had been a little short with me since she arrived at my home today. I was concerned but assumed in a fit of male ignorance that it was owing to her impending period. She tearfully confessed that this was not the case. In fact, she was distraught because she feared that I was going to leave her for Kate or, to a much less degree, Sarah. I pressed further, finding this unbelievable, and she revealed that she had seen me typing a note to Kate that went as follows:

The Kiwis corrupted her  
Kate and sheep
I think for much, much too long you and I have continually gotten off to a millipede's allotment of wrong feet. I want that to stop, because I really do love you. Part of why I occasionally act so atrociously toward you, and I know I certainly do, is that I have all this misplaced feeling toward you. Often it seems easier to act as through I am not fond of your company than that you are someone I care endlessly about. Then I see something like a picture of a happy, vibrant you shaking hands with a sheep or have a long conversation about you (Sarah is fascinated with you and would really like to someday sit down and talk with you, she thinks you and she share a lot in common) and I can't deny how I feel. After all the rusty emotional detritus of resentment, rejection, jealousy, and fear, there is so much love. I can't really forget how much you meant and mean to me, though it isn't always easy. You are my Katerbean. I want us to be friends when you get back. I hope you want the same?
It made Emily a little sad and very worried that, despite the pain I have suffered at the hands and lips of Kate, I can profess love of her. My rationalization was a simple one: I do love her. I don't love what she has done to me, nor have I forgotten. However, I remember the good times of our friendship as well.
Emily stuttered out, constraining sobs, that she knew I had "unbridled passion" with Katie and M believes that this it something she and I lack in our relationship. I reminded her, as I tend to, that my "unbridled passion" with Kate meant that we fought more than once and rather painfully. This did not console her, and she stated that, judging from the picture above, Kate had changed into someone more like the Katie I knew; she wasn't a different person. I clasped her hands in mine and sighed, "Yes, but I am a different person than I was with her."
The words circled her head and absorbed into her temples, drying the tears. A smile arched across her lips and she brightly accused, "You just know the right things to say, don't you? You were saving that up from the very beginning, weren't you?"
I shrugged and asked if it had worked. She kissed my hand and confirmed that my words had eased her worry.
Just after this resolution, Melissa called from the parking lot and joined us for a far too salty meal, after which I decided that I am disinterested in eating in restaurants named after days of the week. It is likely a very good idea for anyone.
We ended up discussing the sheer goodness that was film in the eighties. Anything John Hughes. "Nobody puts baby in the corner!" "Rudy! Rudy!" "Jumping jigowatt!" What is not to love?
We arrived at the theater half an hour early, so all the good seats would not have been taken by punk kids who can't really appreciate Harry Potter as deeply as we can. This we evidenced by repeatedly chanting, "I got mail! I got mail! YAY!" in a slightly affected tone. Really, it's quite addictive.
The movie, of course, was amazing to us. I hardly noticed the time had passed, which I realize makes me sound a bit affected. Nonetheless, I highly recommend the film. It is a far better use of eight dollars than The Ring. At the end, the light, sweet reunion scene, I stifled a fake tear and was able to have enough will power not to chant, "Rudy! Rudy!" at the screen. Melissa seemed to be genuinely touched and was actually crying, so it was likely best I didn't remind her of the goodness of eighties cinema at that moment. It may have been too much for her.
Given that the last time we all hung out, we watched a terrible horror movie, tried to make sure Melissa was still winning a "Save By the Bell" script signed by Screech (which she did win), and watched Emily obsessively sort candy into categories as programmed by the Montessori method, I would say this was a successful night out.


Soon in Xenology: Grad class. Eileen. Matrimony. Apartment violation. Compare and contrast between female characters that are reentering my life. M's lack of job (again). Pine Bush's silent invasion of teaching majors.

last watched: The Graduate
reading: The Book of the Dead
listening: The Best of Simon & Garfunkel
wanting: my schedule to come off without a hitch.
interesting thought: I awoke from a dream where I could bend spoons with my mind to normal life.
moment of zen: dodging slush.
someday I must: figure out what to get M for Yule.

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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