Skip to content

01.07.04 1:35 a.m.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

 -Anais Nin  

Previously in Xenology: Dave had a thing for blondes.

Old Acquaintance
I was asleep on Emily's sofa, exhausted from shopping for hors d'oeuvres on New Year's Eve, when I heard Dave knock on the door.
"Great zombie Jesus! It's only five thirty! More sleep for the Xen! No early arrival. Fashionably late," I grumbled to the apathetic darkness.
Dave and Nikki  
Bond, James Bond and Pussy Galore
Emily had answered the door, Kei, she, and I still in our normal clothes. Keilaina had proclaimed our New Years Eve party to be formal and we were still wearing clothes that are casual at their best. Understand that by "formal" she meant that she had bought a cute dress when she thought Zack would be joining us and thus it would be "fun" if everyone dressed up. Emily had finally agreed to wear a dress with the caveat that she would her boxing glove slippers as well.
Zack would not be joining us, however, rendering Keilaina's clever ruse moot. As always, he had an excellent excuse for his absence. He always does and thus it is little worth trying to chastise him. For my birthday, he was absent because Heather's father suddenly died and he was consoling her. In this case, he needed to attend to pressing family business in Maine that otherwise could cause jail sentences.
"Hey guys," greeted Dave when we finally slogged to answer the door. He looked us over in our distinctly informal array and added, "I thought we were dressing up?"
There is no spoon  
Looking stylish
Dave was dressed in a black suit, looking rather James Bondian. Though he was once my teacher, I had never seen him look quite so formal. He was accompanied with a young woman in a tight black dress, his girlfriend of a few weeks Nikki.
She was young and petite, attractive in a very marketable way. Her hair was darker, leading me into fear that she was breaking the spell the Primordial Blonde cast on him bloodline. Later she revealed she is naturally a tow-headed darling. Therefore, Dave's passions may appropriately burn for her.
Emily and I pulled Dave aside once we were all in the kitchen. "Is this," I asked, "the illustrious klutz?"
"Oh, no. She stopped calling me," confessed Dave.
"Her loss," said M. "So where did you meet Nikki?"
Stevehen and Tina  
Ruining our formal dress code
"At Dutchess, actually. She was taking my class."
Emily and I exchanged a glance. [[Of course.]]
Tina and Stevehen appeared an hour later, once Emily, Kei, and I had changed into something less comfortable.
Stevehen walked up to me and stuck out his fingers. "How many fingers is this?" he asked forcefully.
Anticipating that this was a trick question, I weighed my options and decided that the obvious answer would be better than trying to toss a pizza bite at him. "Three?"
"Yes. Three. One more than the number of lights you told us to pass to get here. We ended up in a liquor store parking lot."
I looked over at M. "We aren't in a liquor store?"
"No," she admitted to Tina and Stevehen, "This is my parents' house. You can tell primarily by the lack of hard liquor and the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Speaking of incongruous designs, why aren't you two dressed up?"
Stevehen glared at me, "Someone didn't tell us it was a formal occasion."
"No, I am certain I did. I sent you an invitation, which should have said to dress up. Or, if I didn't, I definitely meant to."
Looking sexy
"So how should I know? What am I, psychic?" asked Stevehen.
"Yes, I had always thought you were, which is why I am so shocked we aren't in a liquor store."
Most of the party was spent in the kitchen, eating rapidly coagulating hors d'oeuvres and forgetting that Stevehen had brought classic Superman cartoons where Supes fights Japanese saboteurs called Japotuers. Animated racism is good clean American fun.
The formal clothes lasted approximately long enough to get a good shot of Keilaina and me, respectively, then we doffed our duds for array more befitting our lazy, comfort-seeking demeanors.
"So," asked Dave, "What are you up to these days M?"
"Actually I castrate animals now." At this, ever male in the room crossed his legs. "I work full time at the SPCA."
"Neutering animals?" ventured Stevehen.
"No, usually convincing people not to shoot their dogs and catching feral cats... which I then have to euthanize, because they cannot be rehabilitated... I'm depressed. Thanks a lot Stevehen." Perking up, M added, "Can we have ice cream now?"
Indeed we could, and enjoyed making a general mess of M's kitchen and our bodies until watching Dick's ball drop. Thereafter, fireworks appeared and our party guests left in exactly that order.

Given that I am very likely to see Conor in a significant way very soon, I wrote him the following letter to apprise him of the various situation. It saves the time of us actually speaking. It also makes for a nice refresher for older fans and an introduction for the newer ones. Of course, this is slightly bowdlerized and modified for public consumption. This - and the degree to which I lack utter subtlety - is just a price you will have to pay.
To begin, as perhaps you have noted, I am in the habit of having sleepovers with Emily, Zack, and Keilaina. I consider them a sort of surrogate family or, to put it in a less incestuous fashion, a miniature community wherein I can feel completely at ease. This is neither to disparage my other relationships nor to cast the terrible gleam of perfection on this particular set of interactions. Perfection is hardly the intent, nor would I desire it. They are just a group of people who I cherish, who also cherish one another in some fashion. There is, of course, tension in the interaction. Keilaina (pardon the overt nature hereafter) has something of a sporadic crush of Zack. Some moments, she is moon-eyed at the merest though of his eyes. Others, she stoically and honestly states she could want nothing more than friendship with him, for he can give little more. Zack, unless I grossly miss my mark, knows all of this and is handling it by treating Keilaina as normally as possible, though the gleam of lust etches a twinkle to the left of his cornea.
As for Sarah, the specter of a girl in the back of my skull, she tells me she intends to move in or around her friend Kristin. Kristin is moving to Rosendale, a brisk forty-five minute jaunt from my home. This means something. It absolutely reeks of meaning, but I can see through the mist enough to tell anyone what. It is peripetia; a turning point of sorts.
As for my family, they maintain by falling apart in smallish ways. My older brother left his girlfriend of many years. As I had a class with her, I was directly affected by her grief and tried my hardest to soothe her while making clear that I no longer owe her fealty. I walked her to her car a few nights after class, largely because she wanted to talk and would not take "My car is in a different lot" for an answer. Now that the class is over and she will soon have a replacement for her textbook that was destroyed in a freak snow globe accident, I feel that she will soon be exiting my life. She tells me in a significant way that there is a medical student in Buffalo who is very interested in her. When she glowingly told me this, I half believed her because I want to think her life is growing in a different direction. As for my brother, he quickly fell into cuckoldry with a married woman with two young daughters. After a small fistfight, the husband seems copasetic with the whole situation and I expect and hope a divorce is proceeding since Becky and her daughters have moved into Dan's apartment. To my immense surprise, Dan immediately and happily took up the role of father to these bantlings. Given that he left Corinne, at least to some degree, because he felt stifled, this adoption seems counterintuitive. My father has noted with rue that Dan now says such disrespectful phrases as, "No, I'd better not have a beer tonight; I had one last night."
Emily and I, in the specific, are doing well. Evidently, we are nauseatingly cute (neither new nor surprising) but I like to think we temper this by otherwise being good company despite our tendency not to feel the need to communicate with words. Lately, I have been feeling pressure from various sides (though largely the estrogen bearing sides) to become engaged to the dear girl. I am not, per se, opposed. I quite love her in a way that I've never loved before. It is not with the heat of a firework but patience of a river. It creates and widens slowly but steadily and cannot be diverted by any obstacle. Also, I have a ring. I look at it occasionally. It seems small and abstract, hardly the right sort of thing for such a gesture. The bottom line in my reluctance is not lack of affection or interest, but lack of money and experience. I still live with my parents and make very little money while amassing greater student debt. I have no real conception of the world outside of the faux wood paneling of my bedroom. Twenty-three is no longer considered even vaguely aged; I can't even rent a car on my own. So marriage is a bit hard to conceive. Perhaps when I have my own apartment and a steady job, my outlook will change.

Blacks Are the Devil
I sat on the sofa in Conor's living room, waiting. I had called him to tell him to be ready for my arrival, which meant that he would not be but might be closer. Therefore, he was in the shower when I arrived fashionable on time and was commanded to sit by Liam, Conor's father.
I scoped the house, at least as much as was readily visible from the soda. I was not about to move from my cushion. On the refrigerator - already teaming with childhood pictures of Margaret, Conor, and Flynn - was a chart reading "Margaret's Dating Chart." Large slices of the pie revealed her proclivity toward and subsequent rejection of idiots and losers. The tiniest sliver, encompassing .012%, was reserved for true love.
And it required four stitches  
Telling us a secret of Bard
"I don't date very much," she off-handedly noted to me when she saw me examining the chart.
"No, I wouldn't imagine," I mused though I did not mean it in the least. Margaret, for all her lack of success with the fouler sex, is a remarkable young lady. I've only recently come to realize that Margaret is an alluring and intriguing creature, rather than the hormonally privileged female extension of Conor's blood. Like Louisa in The Fantasticks, her ugly duckling features one day became beautiful. The shock from this caused her to become crazy. However, there should be a small proviso herein. I don't believe that Margaret was ever, in any conventional sense, an ugly duckling. She went straight from child to well-developed lolita wearing the body of a girl four years her senior. When this happens overnight, it's enough to drive anyone crazy for a few years. Though she was quite popular with others of my species, she was always the dependant clause of Conor to me until very recently. Now, it is quite confusing to see her because she is this very complete and interesting person that I have known forever and yet know almost nothing. I want to know her, because she is the Valentine to Conor's Ender. She is Ariel (the fairy, not the mermaid). And she has always been there, slightly to Conor's left, and I failed to see her.
As I waited and mused over my obliviousness as it pertains to brilliant young women, Conor's father sat beside me be began to discuss my hair.
"Years ago, someone with hair like yours would be seen as trouble. I actually got refused from a few clubs because of my hair. I tried explaining to the bouncer that I wasn't looking for any trouble but the bodyguard said, 'The people inside will make trouble for you.'"
"I really don't have any trouble owing to my hair. I think styles are so extreme now that a little extra hair goes under most people's radar. At least I lack facial piercing," I replied.
"Very true. Evidently, Conor's girlfriend Janaya has a pierced neck, but no one notices."
I recoiled. "A pierced... neck?! How?"
"It goes right through the skin on the back of her neck, under the hairline. It doesn't look bad."
"I bet no one hassles her in clubs."
When Conor reached the bottom of the stairs, still drying his hair, Conor's father pulled him aside and asked seriously, "Are you okay?"
"I am," he swore and added for emphasis, "really."
Moment later, as Conor was still not ready to leave, Margaret pulled him into the kitchen in a tight hug and whispered into his ear. I felt voyeuristic and removed, as though I was spying a transaction between lovers. As she broke from this embrace at his nodding his head in assent, she came over to me and glowingly explained, "Him right there? He's the man."
We exited the house and he asked me about my life of late.
"I anticipated this. Here," I said, handing him two sheets of paper explaining what has happened of late. When he finished reading, I asked him, "Why did your father ask you if you were okay? Are you and Jayana okay?"
"Janaya and I broke up, actually, but my father was just asking me if I had enough money."
"But why did Janaya and you break up?" I exclaimed. "She is a goddess among women."
"Yes, that's exactly the problem. We are both highly addictive people and excellent drugs to one another. I didn't like who I was when I was with her by virtue that I was other than myself."
"So... what is your relationship now? How does she feel about you?"
"She is being civil," he began slowly but contradicted, "No, not civil, exactly. Better than civil. 'Civil' insinuates that there are negative emotions and she is just being polite about them. She is definitely understanding and okay with this. Except when she isn't."
There were other new events, things he titled "The Secrets of Bard." Obviously, given their designation, they are not for you.
We arrived at my home moments before Emily. The plan for the evening was to head up to New Paltz to see Jacki and have some manner of wacky misadventure.
Emily arrived, shaken, "We can't go to New Paltz tonight. If we do, something terrible is going to happen to us. We just can't. Please!"
"That is okay, Emily."
"I'm serious! We can't go to New Paltz. I am sure of this. I was shaking the whole drive down here to warn you."
"When have I not listened to a psychic?" I asked ironically.
I called Jacki and, though I am sure she thought we were flaking out and given that I specifically insisted that we wouldn't, she took it well when I offered her a rain check.
Conor asked Emily pensively, "We cannot go to New Paltz. Of this, there is no doubt. Can we leave the house in other directions?"
Scared M  
New Paltz brings doom.
Emily cocked her head to the side, listening to the voice of her soul. "Yes. Yes, that seems perfectly fine. Particularly if this means we can go to out to eat. And if Keilaina meets us there. And we afterward go see Lord of the Rings?"
I smirked and gave my consent for this plan.
"So, what was Margaret whispering in your ear before? It seemed intimate," I asked Conor.
"Oh, she was asking me for a clove."
Emily turned, "You smoke?"
"Only cloves and only on occasion. They smell better than cigarettes."
"Do you smoke Djarums?" asked M.
"Mostly. Flynn had me try a kind called Blacks, which I hated. In fact, at Bard, I was explaining loudly how terrible they were, screaming, 'I hate Blacks! Blacks are the Devil!' This isn't something to say in mixed company."
We left Conor outside the restaurant at which we had told Keilaina we would be while M and I foraged for Twizzlers. When we return, Conor had Keilaina by his side and a broad grin. "You'll never guess who I just saw going into the movies," he dared.
"Kendall?" I guessed. Kendall has, of late, been kissing Keilaina's ex Ian. We find the situation funny as he has a foot and a half on Kendall.
"Then you are right," I conceded.
"I am?"
"Yes. I will never guess."
"But you will because it was Alison."
"That was my next guess," I admitted, "How did that go?"
"She tried to hide from me behind her parents and against the stucco wall, pretending she hadn't seen me. Her parents were waving widely and saying hello. It was fun."
At dinner, the manager commented on Conor shirt which read, "Who's the doctor now?!"
"Is that a reference to Doctor Who?" asked the geeky manager. "What am I saying, you are probably too young to know about Doctor Who."
Star Gazing  
I think that eagle is carrying a Hobbit...
It had been a good, long while since anyone insisted I or my friends were too young to know about something, so I was pleased when Conor contradicted him and explained the origin of the shirt (which has nothing to do with television shows).
"A friend of mine actually had this made up for me. You see, I was at Bard and had just finished a can of Dr Pepper. I smashed it on my head, screaming, 'Who's the Doctor now?!' That didn't even dent it. I spent a good long while yelling 'Who's the Doctor now?!' and not crushing the can against my head. A crowd formed, as happens with these things. By the end, I was crumpled on the ground with the can still in perfect condition, whining, 'Who's the Doctor now?' Clearly, the can is and always will be the Doctor."
As the geeky manage sidled away, unable to process this, Keilaina offered, "You know, it crushes a lot easier if you put a small dent in it first."
"Well, yes. I know that now."
After our meal, we walked into the theater to see The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King and were greeted by a diminutive girl, Alex, I knew from high school. I knew her in that she joined the improv group I started and cried a lot when she was not telling me she had been playing the game before there was grass on the field (as it were). I walked up to her and asked, "Is Mike [the manager, her ex-lover, and Melissa's friend] working tonight? We would like to speak to him."
"No," she squeaked, "He's not. Why, did you want to sneak into a movie?"
"Yes. That is precisely what we would like to do," I concurred. There is no use in backing down to her.
She eagerly smiled, "I could do that."
"And you should."
As we waited for Conor and Keilaina to finish a videogame, Alex chatted with Emily and me, oblivious to our vague discomfort. Added to this, she was harassing young parents on their way to the bathroom for their ticket stubs because people had snuck into the theater.
"Melissa doesn't like me," Alex confessed, apropos of little.
"No, she certainly doesn't, Alex."
"I don't know why, I was always nice to her," she moped.
"It is a mystery." It is actually the exact opposite of a mystery. Melissa has a distaste for Alex because Alex felt the need to get slightly tipsy and try to slit her wrists. Melissa, being the only person acquainted with dealing with the insane, tried to talk Alex into giving her the knife. When this didn't work, Melissa put Alex in a therapeutic hold and had Angela call the police. Not only did this mean that Melissa, Angela, and Mike had to deal with the wrath of the police, but Alex felt it necessary to bite Melissa hard enough to leave marks. When the police got there, Alex also insisted that it was just a butter knife and she wasn't serious. The cuts and bloody knife suggested otherwise.
Continuing her random attempts at conversation, she added, "My boyfriend walks several step in front of me when we are in public and won't acknowledge me."
"That is sad," sympathized M, "And not particularly the earmark of a decent human being."
I widened my eyes at Emily. [[Don't encourage her. She'll follow you home.]]
[[She is letting us into the movie for free.]]
[[Nonetheless, she might think you care overly.]]
Lord of the Rings wasn't the right movie for Emily. The content was fine, but the length whittled her away. Just into the third hour, she began sticking her lips out in mocking of Liv Tyler. "Look! I have elf lips! ...I may be slightly delirious..."
"Don't worry," I told her as the movie winded down, "This is ending one of seven... I mean, two of ten... three of twelve... four of fifteen... five of twenty... six of twenty-four... seven of thirty... and we are done!"
"Wait... why the hell couldn't the eagles just bring Frodo to Mordor?" asked M.
"Well... obviously because... of the orcs... because... no parachutes... and... um... Shhh!"

Soon in Xenology: Sleepovers. Recovery. The Betsy. Mike. Emily's absence. Zombies. NASA Monks.

last watched: The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
reading: Say You Want a Revolution
listening: Emily sleeping
wanting: To create a mythology.
interesting thought: I am being led somewhere.
moment of zen: elf lips.
someday I must: be done with schooling.

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.

eXTReMe Tracker