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11.21.02 1:55 a.m.

"Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music."

  - Kristin Wilson, Nintendo, Inc., 1989.  

Previously in Xenology: Before we died, we saw The Ring. Still not dead. Emily and I did a ritual to help us see through the Veil. Years ago, I began to fall in love with a remarkable girl.

Do Redux Quack?
In class today, I smelled Jen's scent. Everyone has a scent and I get to know it of those I care about. As the olfactory is the most powerful tool in stimulating memory, I can grow very attached to certain peoples' scents.
It had been so many years since I last smelled something that reminded me of Jen. Now it is gone again and I can barely recall the tone of it. A shame. It was the scent of a freshly washed infant, clean and new to the world. A blank, innocent in a sense. It made me miss her thinly muscled arms and coffee colored hair.
It has been several years since I spoke friendly words, or any words at all, with her. I hope she is well, of course. I wonder if she has found what she sought. I realize it might seem a trifle silly to some people to still be musing over a high school girlfriend, but I gave a lot of myself to her and I would lose those parts of myself were I to deny her importance to me at a crucial formative stage.

A Time of Confidences
When I arrived home from school after watching a dreadful foreign film that insists it is a brilliant classic, Emily was already quite cozy in my bed and watching one of the Star Trek derivations. I pride myself on my complete ignorance of this, frankly. She proclaimed that we should hang out with Zack, as she had already made plans with him and told him we certainly would. The only aspect not planned was where we would eat, so I got to have my obligatory input of a restaurant not named after a day of the week.
When we picked up Zack, Emily noted with amusement that we had been listening to the exact same song of her Simon and Garfunkel CD when we last picked up Zack. Emily, inspired by the calm goodness of Simon and/or Garfunkel's melodic crooning, told Zack that a Simon and Garfunkel song had been the first song she ever memorized. At two. Aside from explaining why she was able to play Tommy in "The Who's Tommy" at a wee age, I believe this tells the audience her family dynamic, upbringing, and general attitude toward life. She imitated the tiny M singing, "A time of een-o-sense, a time of con-fee-dences." When I get a microphone, I will have to make this a sound bite on her page, because it can cast the most balanced person into a diabetic coma with its sheer sweetness.
When we were seated in the restaurant, Emily promptly ordered a Mudslide. As she watched them make the drink, it dawned on her that a Mudslide is composed of both milk and alcohol, the combination of which would make Emily's anthropomorphic ulcers very sad. Looking over to Zack and Melissa, who had already ordered alcoholic beverages of their own she mewed, "Do you guys want my Mudslide? I forgot I couldn't..." She didn't bother finishing as their cartoonishly smiling faces answered well enough.
Emily was very affectionate, if I may be euphemistic, for the duration of our time in the eatery and I certainly was not opposed. Quite the opposite. However, the rest of our table seemed somehow opposed to it as we are about as covert as an elephant wearing Groucho glasses.
I really need to begin taking notes on the conversations we have. Oh, the insight they would give you into our madness. Alas, I don't, so I'll just give you the most crucial topic, reconstructed as best I can.
"Did you know people drink their own urine?" Zack said, possibly owing to the simple joys of a frosty alcoholic drink which is both a beverage and a toy.
Emily nodded, "Yeah, it's supposed to be healthy."
"But it is coming out of my body. Out. Why would I want to put it back in?" I insisted.
Liz looked thoughtful, almost curious, and shared with her this insight: "Do they drink it cold?"
"Bwah! That's worse than drinking it warm!" shuddered Melissa.
No one really had a coherent point as to which was worse, though I wondered if people drank it "from the tap." Then again, were I to find an adherent to this diet, I really don't think I would wish to ask them questions about their lifestyle. Likely I would shriek, "Gross!" and run. Giving them time for a response would give me answers to questions it is best if I never ask.
On the topic of weird and seemingly lethal diets, I told the party of the Breatharian Movement. They believe that human beings are able to get all the energy we need only from sunlight and air.
"So they don't drink water?" asked Zack.
"Not as far as I know. I mean, even plants drink water, so I guess they must."
Melissa interjected, "Dude, how long can someone live on only water?"
Emily and I looked at Zack, who had been our companion to see The Ring and monotoned simultaneously, "Seven days." Trust me, it is somewhat creepy if you have seen the movie. Actually, it's about as creepy as a malevolent gerbil. I added, "But the founder is currently living in Los Angeles and, owing to all the electricity from high tension wires, has had to start eating hamburgers to compensate. It isn't something he wants to do, of course. It's like medicine. Medicine with lettuce, sliced tomato, some pickles, and a bit of ketchup."
This brought scoffs, not surprisingly. I would have expounded further, but Emily noticed an Ice Age cup on the ground and decided that it needed to be kicked. I noted her position, that she tended to favor her right foot in kicking and that Liz was about ten feet away from Emily and to her left. I considered carefully. I tossed the cup. Emily missed. I narrowed my eyes, looked to innocent Liz again, picked the cup up and tossed it again. It broke into its component parts as it touched Emily's foot and sprayed bits of stale Pepsi on Liz. It was comedy gold, I tell you. Neither Emily nor Liz had taken this into account and both were shocked. Hee!
We were all getting quite chilly, though the night seemed young, so we tried to figure out what to do. Emily offered to drive herself home so we could go off and have fun, but my enjoyment would be less for her lack so I tried to encourage her to join us. I certainly didn't want her driving the hour to her parent's home when the intent of the evening is that she would spend the night.
When Zack and I got into Emily's car, she burst into tears and wept, "You guys always do this! I kept saying I wanted to go home because I was sleepy and you ignored me. But Liz said she wanted to go home and you immediately were supportive. I said I would drive home if you guys wanted to hang out. And I always end up doing what you guys want to do and it's not fair!"
Numerous responses flowed through my head. An explanation on how I want to share fun things with her. An apology to Zack. Telling her that we didn't know she was so against it. However, what came out was, "Emily, please stop playing the martyr," as I stepped outside of her car to wave Melissa down. Melissa had not gone ten feet, so this wasn't exactly a Herculean feat. I told her that M had decided she was too tired to hang out, thus we were going home. Melissa had no problem with this.
When I reentered the car, Emily had dried her tears though she wouldn't look directly at me. I regretted snapping at her the moment I had done so, thus I wasn't surprised. Staring intently at the center of her steering wheel she whispered, "My mother always acts like a martyr about stuff and I hate it, so I try not to do that. I'm sorry if I came off that way to you. Don't be mad." I apologized in turn that I was sorry to have been so short with her and I wasn't mad. I was a little upset, because I didn't know that she had grown so frustrated with us, but I was not mad at her.
The car ride home was pleasant and, after dropping Zack off, Emily revealed that she had seen in a bit of forest one of the light blue figures that seem to appear since the ritual. She hadn't mentioned it because Zack had been in the car and she did not want him to think her weird. Still, it is nice that I am not alone in what I see.
El Burrito!  
M, burritoed.
That night, as we lay in bed, Emily stated that she feels we live in the boondocks. She had grown up in a very different world, one where my abilities would have equaled a lot better than an $8.25 an hour job dealing with mental invalids and drug dealers. One where I would not have been told I did not belong in the teaching program. She sadly related that she thought I would have made an excellent teacher, because I reminded her of a teacher who had inspired her in high school. Sighing, I stated that this was the world in which I was raised and, essentially, I knew no different. This is not precisely true. I know there are better and different realms of existence. However, lacking both money and connections (though if I ever decide I am a desperate and lackluster human being, I actually have many connections that I am too moral to exploit), I am not privy to living in such a realm. I am not precisely bereft of comfort, I am merely not where would be ideal. As I told Emily, "I cannot endure the New Paltz educational system nor would I ever want to teach at the high school from which I graduated."
"You wouldn't have to do either to teach. You could get certified at Mount Saint Mary's and work at any number of schools. Poughkeepsie Day would love you."
I grew red with embarrassment at her words, though the darkness hid my blush well. I had actually completely forgotten I lived within twenty minutes of a teaching college. I was not sure on the rest of her points, but this one was actually dead on. Suddenly, as though a weight had been lifted from my chest, I had found a part of my path again. I did not have to graduate to absolutely no job prospects. Also, as my mother is anticipating war and the Republican reintroduction of the draft, my spending a bit more time in a different edifice of higher learning wouldn't be a bad idea.

Life in Amber
In the past, in terms of my relationships, the girls I dated served a role that Emily does not. However, this is quite incidental.
I seek to be known. I am fairly sure, if you are reading this, you get that. I want to explain my thoughts and myself so someone outside of my skin knows. I seek a sort of unity, I suppose. The females with whom I shared my time served as makeshift confessors. I would unfurl the wrinkles in my brain and hoped that they understood. My need to share every word in my head became an integral component in our relationship, to the point it could be burdensome.
Certainly they appreciated the emotional intimacy I seemed to convey, but it was this dramatic necessity. It was selfish, in that is was as much for me as them. Much as I feel compelled to write here, I wanted to share my conception of life with lasses that didn't always understand. Often it could lead to arguments, as my verbal expression is never quite as refined as what I write (though I'm sure no one imagines what I write here to be terribly refined).
Emily, however, discovered me after months after I had begun writing my bombastic narrative on these pages. Thus, I do not need to use her to get these feelings out. I have anonymous readers. What I share with her I do out of wanting rather than needing, removing that selfish component. She doesn't always feel I am as communicative as I once was, unfortunately, because I do not speak as constantly as I did before I met her. People actually think I am quiet and shy now because I don't feel the need to drown them in my musings. Perhaps it impedes the full force of intimacy between Emily and me, though it could be just as likely that she can know me better than any romantic partner has before. She knows my life and thoughts prior to her in a more immediate and pure way.
My life in amber.

Matrimony Begins with M
My friends and parents ask if I intend upon marrying Emily eventually. I suppose
The One  
How can I not love her?
this is the logical course of action, given our mutual compatibility and fondness. To paraphrase Kate, I don't not want to marry M. It is just not something about which I think often. I want to be fiscally solvent enough to move out (yes, with M) within a year or so, which requires that I have a good job that could possibly become a career. I have this notion that I should need to be able to support myself with some degree of success before uniting my life with another. That other, barring unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, is Emily. So...

In a Haze
I wonder after Eileen. She and I do not speak often, though we speak well when we do. I worry about her. I remember what freshman year of college was for me, though only barely. I was much the same person,
My Lo  
though I do not know that things had quite gelled for me. I was X         e         n. Now I can say with some certainty that I am Xen.
It is possible I worry needlessly. Perhaps I do not give her all the credit she is due. Perhaps she has a stronger sense of self than I did those few years ago. College is a gauntlet for most. Either you come out tempered or broken. I know that she is an amazing person, and I do not say such things lightly, and it would pain me on a deep level were she to lose an ounce of what makes her so extraordinary.
She and I never spent a great deal of time together, even when I was desperate to earn her affection and confidence. I still want to be important to her life. A trusted advisor and bard despite the distance, as Sarah is to me.

Emily's poltergeist has seemed oddly quiet recently. If I were just entering into her life, I would think that it was tied to the apartment she has left, however she has felt its influence at her parents' home as well. Perhaps, depending on her perception, she has also felt it in my room, though I tend to believe she hasn't. My speculation is that, as it is an extension of her psyche, it is only invoked to action by stress. Living at her parents' home again, as strange as this may seem, may have actually soothed her. It is a better theory than the one stating that the poltergeist is a product of her allergic reactions.

I saw Lauren recently, or rather she saw me. I was sitting in a quiet corner of the Lecture center, as is my wont when it is too cold to be outside. I was perusing the Egyptian Book of the Dead, seeking references to Anubis (which are precious few in a document about the rites of death) and catching a disorienting buzz from it, when I saw cutely sneakered feet walk back in forth in front of me. Looking up, I was greeted with the smiling visage of Lauren. I hugged her in greeting and asked how she was, as she recently lost a friend. All of my ability of consoling comes from bad, teen melodramas, so I try to keep it as low key as possible to prevent the Dramatic Chords of Anguish from playing. When I found out initially, I promised that I would buy her tea, as it is soothing. She said she was doing well and was actually about to dash to help a friend film something in town. As she departed, I called after her, "Remember, I still owe you tea!" She smiled back and laughed, "Oh, I haven't forgot!" Cool girl, that Lauren.
I worry she think I am stalking her, because I invited her to the Elza concert I had intended to attend and told her I would pick her up "...if I had the slightest idea where [she] live[s]. But I guess I could just meet her on campus. If she wanted me to." I suppose since she frequently find me rather than the reverse, it is unlikely I am stalking her, despite that I do hang out where I expect to be discovered (or warm).

Soon in Xenology: Grad class. Compare and contrast between female characters that are reentering my life. M's lack of job (again). Kate's return. Tina and hot air. Connections. Ninety-five years.

last watched: some Bergman film that isn't worth linking.
reading: Alien Dawn
listening: The Best of Simon & Garfunkel
wanting: possibly a full scholarship to a Catholic college, as sick as my life has become.
interesting thought: the blue beings could be undifferentiated daemons [sic]
moment of zen: sleeping beside M.
someday I must: have an apartment.

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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