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05.12.03 8:08 p.m.

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

 -William Shakespeare  

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

Alan Smithee
My play was an atrocity. I am not just degrading it because I am the supposed author of whatever it is that was committed upon that stage. Zack insists that it wasn't that bad, however he has yet to read my completed version. When he does, I feel he will be forced to agree.
Let's us begin with the casting. There are but two roles in this play, that of a burglar and that of a depressed and lonely girl. The director chose the only minority available to him to be the aforementioned thief because thinking is difficult and the cliché of the Hispanic interloper is xenophobic shorthand. At no time did I conceive of Dan as being of a specific racial group, but I did not write him to be specifically Hispanic or African because I frankly find it offensive to assume he would be. He was loosely based upon a Caucasian lad, in fact. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that I voiced my offense to Emily as soon as I deduced who would be playing the part. For the part of Chris, who is lonely and who has not had a decent conversation with a male of the species in three months according to the text of the piece? Why, she was a pert and comely, size zero blonde. While I do not say this and while it needn't necessarily be the case, I didn't see Chris as Hollywood beautiful. This actress definitely was that archetype.
However, if the actor's had skill, I could have forgotten that they were physically wrong. The Dan on stage seemed to lack the ability to speak words and fumbled over quite a few of my lines. The Chris was not bad, but she also wasn't good. They gave her a handgun nearly as big as her torso, which became a running gag where none should have existed.
What most provoked my ire were the changes to my script. The director shortened it, which was fine. He omitted a lot of good stuff, also his prerogative. However, changing the line "Death is not Brad Pitt in a tux" (a clear reference to the popular Meet Joe Black, the remake of Death Takes a Holiday) to "Death ain't some dude in a Ferrari" is inexcusable and nonsensical. The director also felt the need to tack on several lines at the end, which go something like:

DAN: So, I don't think you should commit suicide tonight.
CHRIS: Okay, I won't commit suicide tonight.
I cringed against Emily for the duration of the piece's concourse upon the stage muttering prayers that a beam would fall or the lights would all blow and then cursed the director under my breathe when it ended. Emily turned and instantly assured Zack and Eve that this was not what I wrote. I was too busy cringing and unclenching my jaw to disavow this production.

Obscure Human Fidelity
Whenever Emily calls me by this moniker, she is being vulnerable or at least mockingly so. The latter was not the case as we prepared for our exodus from the city.
"Yes, sugarbob?"
"I have something to tell you, but I am scared you'll get upset." Emily is always worried that people will get upset; negative emotion is difficult for her to deal with and her reaction to it is some manner of regression. Of course, negative emotion is part and parcel of all interpersonal relationships with being less than messianic and even Jesus had to deal with that darned crucifixion.
Don't worry, this makes sense
"I likely won't get upset... unless you don't tell me what you were going to say. Then it will prey on my mind until my head explodes into sticky shards."
"Okay, the thing is? You don't always ask how my day was. And I know you are having a hard time with New Paltz, but I always make sure to ask how your day went and it makes me feel sad when you forget to ask me and do you hate me now?"
I smiled and scoffed. "I couldn't hate you if I tried. Thanks for filling me in and I will try to make things better from now on, okay?"
Emily's face brightened and she gleed, "I told you what was bothering me and you are okay with it! You don't hate me. Oh, yay!"
She is a simply complicated girl, that M.
As we walked to our train, quite early for fear of being trapped in inhospitable conditions, we were startled to see Leah. I believe this means the world is much smaller that I had given it credit. I also think it is possible to see everyone I have ever met if I were to just stand in Grand Central Station for long enough.
It had been at least six months since last either of us had laid eyes on her. She looked none the worse for wear and it made me very aware that I missed her. I wish things had been different, that she had bonded with Emily rather than Beauty School Drop-Out. However, this was not the hand dealt by Fate (who cheats at cards anyway), and Leah was going to be finding a new apartment with BSDO. This, I suppose, is a lesson that nice people do not always have stellar taste in friends.
We stood outside of the cushioned, air-filtered pleasure of the train cars. I leaned against the nearest pole, faintly annoyed to be forced to remain on my feet for one moment more. My feet evidently forfeit their vitality and strength for the relative pleasure of entering the city. I gazed at the steel beams spiderwebbing above us and fantasized or climbing there.
"M, if you were a vampire, what would you do?" This is a common enough question for me that she answered almost immediately.
"I would kill only evil people and probably live in a really nice hotel room or penthouse."
"Good choices. I might hang out in the subways to find my victims. Really, it wouldn't be too hard to catch people. I could jump down, grab a seedy looking urchin, and climb back up to the rafters before I would be spotted."
Emily looked at the rafters. "But you would go to the hotel then, right?"
"Of course. I would steal their wallets and buy the nicest clothes and rooms. Kind of silly to be immortal any other way." I scanned the rafters for vampires, just in case.
"Wait, do we get to see sunlight? Because I really like dawn."
I kissed her eyelids. "I had noticed that. Really, sunset is the way to go. But yes, we could hang out in daylight, we would just be weak. Like Dracula."
Then the train doors opened and we could stop receiving pensive glances from the sardines squeezing us together.
As we rested on the train, glad to have our own seats and not be forced to sit on the floor by the doors, we were startled to see the DCC librarian of my acquaintanceship enter the car. Actually, he may well have been more startled to see us, given that seven hours had passed. I mumbled something banal like, "Funny running into you in a place like this," and he vanished to the next car.
Don't worry, this really makes sense
When we got back to my home, we fully intended to go pick up Zack and Eve and continue with our frivolity. However, we were just too damned tired. Thus, we lay in bed, too exhausted to do much more and watched a documentary about the changing face of Michael Jackson. It was mindless fare, truly what was necessary to recuperate. Zack did call and invited Emily and me to pizza. However, we had stuffed ourselves with deep dish, multi-veggie pizza before departing the city and this still weighed heavily in our stomachs. The thought of more pizza, even as good as Zack makes, was excruciating.
I was given the job of picking up Zack and Eve while Emily drove back to her home ahead of us and readied it for our invasion. Eve's hosts gave her instructions and called out to me in French. I explained by speaking deliberately that I did not know any French, but that I had just rescued a lonely looking toad that had hopped in front of my car as I pulled in. This seemed to amuse all concerned.
Once at Emily's, we had a very laidback night. We got snacks at the gas station and the clerk, who made clear every gesture that any other country would be her preferred location by virtue that it would not be here by here, grilled Eve as to her nationality. Eve just wanted cigarettes, so she indulged but did not sympathize. Once again at M's, we just relaxed and watched Strong Bad e-mails. We are giving Eve the best our culture has to offer, Zack and Strong Bad.
We eventually donned Emily's padded fighting helmets and took to testing them by punching one another in the head as hard as we could manage. They do, indeed, provide a great deal of comfort from fists, though not enough. We all fell into utter ridiculousness, as could well be expected, and Eve laughed at us from her non-helmeted vantage on Emily's bed.
I awoke the next morning to an empty bed and the smell of pancakes. Emily and Zack had gotten up early to start a fluffy and nutritious breakfast for their significant others. I appreciated that, owing to Eve, I was not the last one up, though silently wondered what had kept Eve in such a state that she was still resting. I am just lazy and dwell in dreams, so I don't have the privilege of intimating intimate matters.
I was pleased and surprised that Emily's dog Quest was showing no signs of fear toward me. He is what is termed a "spooky" greyhound, which roughly means that he tries to run away from the sound of his own bark. Given that I continue to be considerable more substantial than a bark, he will generally try to dash out of any room I enter. The eternal optimist when it comes to pets liking me, I extended my hand that showed the wounds of my attempts to charm my parents' parrots and tried to pet him. And he let me. I'm not sure if you understand the true significance of this. It is a bit like having tamed a unicorn, less that nasty virginity clause. I called to Emily and she reacted to this seen as though I did indeed have a mystical creature in my sway.
A holy moment
Emily's parents departed to pick up her sister and Emily gather the three of us to enter her parents' bathroom, a forbidden area by virtue that it cost more than M's education. Within was a tall orchid, which Emily informed us blooms but once every five years and then only for a few hours. It had bloomed for us.
After out starchy breakfast, Emily left Eve, Zack, and me while she taught the next generation to kick things properly. We cleaned up the kitchen and planned what we would do once we were a foursome again. Emily's intent was to drive to the mall and see a movie, but Eve found this incompatible with the world around her. (I would like you to know that I am restraining myself from attempting to write all of her lines with a French accent. Trust that it is there, though.)
"Are we really going to sit inside today?"
Zack and I conferred with once another nonverbally. "No," Zack began, "we are going to sit in some grass."
And so we did.
We lay in on Emily's front lawn for hours, awaiting her return. I was foolish enough to only have black clothing, so I sat under the shade of a tall tree for fear of spontaneously combusting. Zack and Eve wrestled and kissed, behaving as twitterpated young lovers should on ideal spring days. I smiled, longed, and took pictures of them in order to trap these holy moments. And they were very holy moments, with the fond awareness that one is participating in something worthy of remembrance. Eve, turned to me and gasped after a long kiss from her love, "Life is beautiful." I do not know if she was really saying it to me or just releasing it into the air because she couldn't keep it within her for a moment longer. It felt like it was said to me in answer to my awareness of the moment, however.
All day, for what it is worth now, a line from Robertson Jeffers' poem "California" galloped though my head. It wasn't the whole, but enough of it to be cryptic to me. "Moved by some obscure human fidelity." In the poem, it is why California kills the horse in order to save her less than charming spouse from being trampled under its hooves. She is moved by some obscure human fidelity.
We decided, as we were already ensorcelled by the smell of the grass beneath our legs, that a picnic was entirely in order. We made a short list on Flea, my handheld, more because we could than we needed to. After the picnic was declared, it seemed ridiculous to think there had been a time were the picnic was not to occur.
Le singe est sur la branche
Eve asked me if she could borrow a shirt of Emily's, if Emily would mind the intrusion. I was certain this was permissible given how fond we were growing to Eve. I gathered an appropriate shirt and handed it to her. As she went inside to array herself, Zack leaned toward me and fondly proclaimed, "I am going to marry that girl." This seemed as good a plan as a picnic, so I nodded my assent.
Emily's parents arrived home half an hour before Emily did and are surprised to find three twentysomethings lounging on their lawn. We explain that Emily has left us with instructions to make ourselves useful until her return, which were not actually her instructions at all. Nonetheless, we carried in groceries they purchased.
Emily returned and immediately suggested that, given the near perfection of the weather, we have a picnic. What a splendid idea.
We shop
Emily joined us in the grass after washing up from her workout and set to the task of trying to teach me self-defense. I am a bit of a slow learner, but I did manage not to numb her arm by hitting any nerves too hard in my fervor to prove a pleasing student. As we lounged, the picnic grew to a barbecue thanks to the generous subsidy of Emily's family who wished to have dinner cooked for them.
As can be expected, we overshopped spending something like $80 on supplies for our barbecue. We just kept having such grand plans that needed to come to fruition, especially given that we were not using our money to fund these comestible dreams. On hindsight, our biggest mistake was decided that we would need to make a hill of smores.
To his immense credit, Zack was able to turn numerous vegetables I would not eat in and of themselves into a fajita-like object that is on my list of most delicious foods. I nudged Eve and applauded her taste in boyfriends. She smiled knowingly, having already tasted of those fruits and vegetables.
After dinner and an unsatisfying sticky plate of what should have been smores, I bid Emily adieu and drove the twitterpated back to Eve's house. Zack informed me that he has pretty much lived there since the two of them became a couple.
"Oh, good. Emily was concerned that it was forward and presumptuous to give you two the same bed last night."
Zack left out a hearty laugh at this, "No, trust me, that was definitely quite all right."
I nodded in something like understanding. I am glad that Zack has found Eve, or that she was found for him. Being in a relationship that is so mutually affectionate has chased away the shadows of old loves that darkened him. He told Eve during one of our perfect moments that he was never so alone than when he was around Emily and me because we were so much together. I means a lot to me that he can be together now.

Soon in Xenology: Osho. My interview. Summer Scholars.

last watched: X2
reading: The Enormous Room
listening: Leonard Cohen
wanting: An apartment.
interesting thought: I will soon be done with New Paltz forever.
moment of zen: the picnic
someday I must: learn French.

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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