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05.08.03 6:21 p.m.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

 -Ernest Hemingway in his Noble Prize Acceptance Speech  

Previously in Xenology: I didn't much like New Paltz. Veronica made Zack sad.

The Graduate
As the calendar on the wall attests, I will be graduating from New Paltz in ten short days. I am certain you can see how utterly and terribly crushed this news has made me. Oh. The humanity.
Tuesday was my last day of classes at New Paltz. Forever and ever and ever and such. My American Lit teacher, who will eternally be my Hemingway teacher for I am convinced he was well acquainted with one of Hemingway's wives, lamented that he could not walk around the room and force us to sing along with his guitar strumming given that he has been wheelchair bound for as long as I have known him. Instead, he played records of poets reading and told us how it distressed him to lose this class when he was just starting to really know us. This was not a sentimental, hollow speech. He is gruff and wry, like the former folk singer he is. So my esteem for him, which was honestly quite high given that he gave me a great deal more insight into Hemingway and American literature during the first half of the last century.
This class was followed by my philosophy course, which was almost entirely a waste of my time. I can't boast that I learned a single thing beyond the definition of Neoplatonism. A semester's worth of classes, papers, and notes should result in a far greater understanding of... something. Well, I also learned that I like peanuts a great deal, but that was rather incidental. He played an opera in German and raptly stared at the CD player while we were all expected to follow along with a hand out, in German. Thus we sat for a good hour, largely silent. This well may be a metaphor for the class. However, he did decide to make the final a take-home in order to force us to listen to more German opera, so I will not send the gremlins after him. Even if I have been grossly deprived of an educational experience, I kick ass on take-homes.
My final class at New Paltz was Dramatic Writing. Given their level of bureaucracy, this seemed quite appropriate. The teacher gave a speech about how much we had grown and it was, in fact, sentimental and hollow. I tuned out and concentrated on the directions for getting to my play.
I really don't feel much of anything about graduating from New Paltz. Not joy, sadness relief, exhaustion. I was really never a part of the New Paltz community because, frankly, I wasn't wanted. I didn't have an apartment (paid for with my parent's money) where I got drunk (on my parent's money), did pathetic drugs (bought with my parent's money) and had disgusting unprotected sex with strangers (because their parents just won't pay for birth control). I wasn't a xerox of countless generations of nondescript cogs, which eerily all seem to come from Long Island. I have less than five people on campus who will voluntarily make contact with me. I know this all seems a little bitter, but it is the isolation I experienced that colors the bitterness, not New Paltz. New Paltz honestly means absolutely nothing to me. Perhaps that alone is sad.

Fear of Commitment
To my immense surprise, a one-act play I was in the midst of writing was chosen to be produced as part of a one act play festival at Emily's college. I am not being facetious or humble, I was honestly shocked. I evidently sent the prospective producer the wrong play (the intended play had a similar file name) which he deemed good enough to produce. I had a great deal of joyful vindication at this, as my class hated nearly every aspect of the play and were largely rejected by the producer. I am a simple man.
I sent off my revised play which is actually quite a bit better. However, it was too late into rehearsals to change the actual play so he promised he would work in some of my better wording. It even pleases me that a producer is issuing me empty promises to prevent me from pulling my play (which I wouldn't do, even if he had chimps play the roles... no, scratch that. Especially if he had chimps play the roles).
I am nervous, as should be expected. I imagine it will end up being no big deal, as I am getting no money out of the deal. Nonetheless, I think this actually makes me a playwright. Right?

Cast Not the First Stone
At the library recently, a woman came in and, in the course of returning her movies, very loudly asked I was still into that witchcraft stuff. I smirked at her ridiculousness and turned away. She yelled, "Oh, I guess you didn't want anyone to hear that, did you?"
"I don't mind. I'm comfortable with my faith... How is Andrea, by the way?" Andrea is her daughter with whom I went to high school. She was heavy into drugs and was boinking an eleven year old "thug" when she was sixteen. I considered her thus skanky and a pedophile of sorts. Her mother pulled her out of high school because Andrea was trying to be a gang in herself. She was sent to Florida where some anonymous man who may or may not have been her ex-stepfather knocked her up.
"I couldn't have asked for a better daughter."
Very honestly, I replied, "No, I don't suppose you could have."
"Have a blessed Easter."
"And you have a very nice day."
Afterward Emily, who had been sitting at a nearby table studying, ran up to the desk giggling. "I wanted to come up and ask where I could find the books on Satan worship."
I kissed her cheek in appreciation. "Oh, I wish you would have. By the way, those books are actually at her house because her fucked-up brood likes to steal from the library."
"How totally apt."

Every Morning
The newest and most definitely welcome addition to our little menagerie is Eve. We first encountered Eve at Zack's house after our Easter festivities. She was taciturn,
which was not wholly unexpected given that English is far from her native language and the family for which she is an au pair is Belgian. Thus the whole reason for her to learn English further is ostensibly to converse more fluidly with Zack, in whom she was suggested to be interested by her host family. However, dear Zack speaks quite a bit of French. So, really, she should only learn to speak English so I can ask her awkward and banal questions about Belgium.
Emily wearing my biker jacket
That night she did not say much to Emily or me. I tried to speak slowly enough for her to understand me but not so much that I seemed condescending. When I know that a person can only vaguely understand what I am saying, I become quite embarrassed. I always think said people don't like me and we all know how insecure and mopey that makes me. It did not help matters that Zack had told Eve that I was likely a good person for her to be around for I used big words. I wanted her to really be included in my conversation with Emily, which was impossible no matter how carefully I chose my wording. However, she did get to watch me torture Emily by repeatedly hiding tiny chocolate eggs that Emily was to find. This amused her as she drew deep drags from her cigarette.
When next we were graced with her presence, it was to let her experience the joy that is Mexican food. Do not fret, we were not so callous as to bring her to Taco Bell; the restaurant we sought was actually operated by jubilant Hispanic women who ordered real people to summon food up from nothingness. The food was good, though I mostly nursed a diet soda and awaited Emily's admittance of defeat in finishing her quesadilla. It was inevitable and I have infinite patience when it comes to quesadillas.
Eve spoke slightly more, but still seemed reserved. More importantly, however, she kissed Zack in a manner that made clear that they were, indeed, together. Emily and I mentally weighed this fact using our vast telepathy of shared glances and confirmed that this was, indeed, a blessed event.
American schoolgirl
The last and most important meeting between us came a few weekends ago. I had taken the weekend off to be with Emily in the city. She had to complete some manner of paleontological study at the Natural History Museum. I was to tag along and look cute, as in my main occupation when she is doing something scientific.
We awoke into a gloomy and stagnant morning. I silently noted that, had I agreed to go to work, I could have slept for an hour more. But, seeing as I got to spend the night with Emily, the following morning seemed a lot less inhospitable.
We had barely gotten to the platform when the train came. The various platform inhabitants, many of whom looked as though they had just tried to escape from New York with Kurt Russell, regarded us with mistrust and disdain. I believe they consider train platforms that belong to NYC bound trains are a bit like foreign embassies. We may have technically been in Beacon, but this was NYC soil and we should act in an appropriate way by avoiding eye contact and making no sudden movements.
On the train, as has become our custom, we slept on one another. I tried to read The Enormous Room a little, a Christmas present from Zack I had just received, but the concept of sleeping on Emily was simply too appealing.
I awoke as we pulled into Grand Central Station. As I groggily stumbled from the train, plotting who I would kill if they brushed up against me funny, a tall man with well coifed hair called to me. "Hey!"
I armed myself with a ballpoint pen from my pocket until I recognized him as one of the librarians with whom I worked at Dutchess. We exchanged pleasantries, nothing substantial, and I commented to Emily how strange it was that I would have seen someone I knew while in the city. Before we left, he told us that we absolutely had to see the Big Bang exhibit at the Natural History Museum.
We found our way to the museum where Emily found her teacher waiting. "Hello, Emily."
"Hi, Dr. Jan." She smiled to me a slightly dazed grin, "Dr. Jan rules."
I pursed my lips slightly. "Yes. So I've heard."
The good doctor asked Emily about her cute answer on a test.
"I didn't know the name of the aquatic dinosaur, so I called him the swimosaurus," she sheepishly explained. She turned to me and smiled, "Dr. Jan rules."
"Yes, yes. You've mentioned that."
She seemed slightly drugged as we all rode the elevator to the dinosaurs together. Only once he and his wife left did she return to the Emily I knew.
"Admit it, he has you all under some sort of Pavlovian spell."
"Who, Dr. Jan?"
I nodded.
Scary fish  
Dr. Jan once the glamor is lifted
"Dr. Jan rules."
I kissed her, as it always works in storybooks to break spells and operant conditioning.
She blinked and smiled at me, "I love you."
"Much better."
While Emily drew dinosaurs and pronounced words that were longer than the lines to get into the museum, I darted around and took pictures of the stranger creatures that roamed the earth before Jesus and Kali hooked up to hunt. Hey, no one is really sure why the dinosaurs died out. I could be right about this.
After Emily finished her schoolwork we tried to get into the exhibit the Dutchess librarian suggested. However, it seems that the architect in change of designing the entrance had gotten M.C. Escher confused with I.M. Pei. I know, those initials get confusing. However, we spent close to half an hour ascending and descending various walkways - some square, others spiral, one that I swear was a Mobius strip - that purported to allow one to enter the sphere in the center. However, we usually ended up on a completely different floor. Once we found the exit of the sphere, but an obnoxious, bleach blonde woman who must have gotten one of the aboriginal tribal spears shoved into her rectum barred us entrance. She had absolutely nothing to do with the museum. She was just a raging bitch.
When we finally found the entrance, we were lead into a darkened room wherein colored lights were randomly shone. In the center was a large, concave structure with more random lights. The attendant instructed us, "Aiight, listen here. Don't be goin' takin' no flash phrotography, aaight? No recordin' devices neither. Don't lean ova the railin'. I is gonna be back afta the show, aiight? It takes five minute." Now I know that the museum doesn't actually employ museum goers, as much as a bakery world be loathe to employ someone with a penchant for éclairs.
The show featured effects that were just below a Led Zepplin laser light show. The creation of the universe was also narrated by Maya Angelou who is, as we all know, actually the Metatron. I have to say, her reading of the script lacked a certain zest. Perhaps they should have let her improvise so she could have compared star clusters to afterbirth or birds let out of their cage.
Given that the city seemed to be an absolute bust, I called Zack from the train station and asked if Eve and he would like to have a sleep-over party at Emily's house. He spoke her Eve and they discussed quietly. After a small discussion, he confirmed that this sounded like an excellent idea to them.
"What did he say?" Emily excitedly inquired.
"He said you were a whore... and that he would love to have a sleep-over."
"But I'm not a whore."
"No, of course not, but that doesn't mean we won't have a sleep-over tonight..."
To be continued...

Soon in Xenology: The sleep over. My play. Osho. My interview.

last watched: Ringu
reading: All the King's Men
listening: Rent
wanting: not to have a cold that prevents my finishing an entry.
interesting thought: Two people don't need to speak the same language to really understand.
moment of zen: Seeming Emily in the reflected glow of others.
someday I must: get a Master's degree.

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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