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02.11.04 2:08 a.m.

Dying
is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceedingly well.
 

-Sylvia Plath

 



Previously in Xenology: Emily got RealJob 2.0 and wanted to start having RealLife 1.0. Todd died. I broke up with M. I discovered Grant Morrison.

A Part Meant For Us
"There is a crack above the bathroom door," I whispered to M. She was not paying attention to my whisper, as the landlord was busy showing her that the windows tilted out.
"Actually, the last tenant pushed her sofa through this window," he admitted. We were four floors up. As I looked out the window, I expected there to be a crater in the ground made by a falling sofa. "It cracked the frame, but I'll fix that. Probably in the spring."
M in the grass  
We won't be homeless
As Emily and the landlord chatted - I am fairly sure he decided that I was inconsequential to the equation and I was, given that I would only be added $150 to rent - I slowly wandered around the apartment. Despite the cracks and the fact that the floor tilted enough to give one a slight feeling of vertigo, it was a nice. Not nice enough to spend $750 a month, excluding utilities and in Walden, but it was a place where Emily and I could be comfortable. However, I don't really know how to judge apartments. I was just pleased that it was walking distance from the grocery store and laundromat. I indulged strange and fond fantasies of reading Nabokov while M and I waited for our clothes to dry and everything smells warm and clean.
Also, there was a refrigerator included because it could not fit through the window.
After twenty minutes of looking, Emily and I left.
"It was so nice," she cooed.
"It was? He mentioned that the local DJ makes fun of this town."
Emily huffed. "That's the town. That is not the apartment. The apartment was nice."
"I had no compass for judging these things. Unless Conor, Zack, Kei, or Melissa lived downstairs, I would feel no specific compulsion. Or if it were over a coffee house... Or had a hot tub... Can we afford it?"
"Sure we can... as long as we don't plan on eating." She bit her bottom lip sadly and looked away.
"What's up, Cuddle Puddle? It's just an apartment. We'll find one eventually. And once I am teaching, I will be able to contribute more than half a pittance. Gah, what prodigal portions have I spent that I should come to such penury!" She looked back, curiously. "What's that from?"
"'As You Like It,' Orlando, the dashing hero type, says it to his bastardly brother Oliver, who has denied him an inheritance. But my question stands, why are you so upset over this apartment?"
She looked down and was quiet for a long moment. "If we don't move in together, you can't learn my habits and fall deeper in love with me and our relationship can't go to the next level and we will never ever get married."
I smiled widely at her, "You have got to be the most impossibly ridiculous girl I have ever met in my life! Our relationship will keep progressing because that is the nature of our relationship. Living together would be wonderful, but not if it means that you are going to be far from your job and school and be miserable. Or, just to be fair, if I am going to be far from our friends. Screw jobs and school, particularly the latter. But things will work out. I swear."

Of Bosch and Buggery
"So, since we are on the topic of sex," I began, specifically referencing that we were on the topic of Mike very likely never getting any from Kei, "I have this little scenario. Melissa actually posed it to me, but I misunderstood. If you are trapped on a desert island and you will never ever be rescued, who would you bring other than your significant other?"
She ate a scoop of the ice cream before her, but slowly as if contemplating the texture of the crunched up candy bar on top. "Wait, does that mean that I get to have my significant other and another person?"
I laughed, "That's exactly the problem I was having when I answered. We'll do it both ways."
"Who did you pick?"
I threatened her with my plastic spoon, "No, you get to answer first. Then I will tell you my answers."
"Hmmm... I guess... If Mike was there, I would also want my friend Jess."
"And if there could be no Mike? Would it still be Jess?" I teased.
Her eyes looked sharply into me, bearing a certain intensity I forget is within Keilaina. "No, it wouldn't. I would want to be with Ian."
I swallowed a bit peanut butter topping hard. "Ian? Really?"
"Definitely. I think that Ian and I could have been great together if it wasn't for the rest of the world."
"Fair enough," I conceded.
"Now yours," she said excitedly.
"Without Emily, probably Sarah. I would need someone to sing me to sleep and Sarah could likely help me hunt and build shelter."
Kei smirked, "And the sex?"
I blushed. "It's not not for the sex," I confessed.
"What if M was there? Who then?"
"Ummm... you?" I guessed.
"Really?" she squealed.
"Um... yes." Actually, no. I think I probably still chose Sarah, but Kei would definitely be on the list. When I had this conversation with Melissa, she asked me why I wouldn't choose Zack to help me do manly things like kill things. I told her that I prefer the company of females. Also, both Emily and I are attracted to females, so I feel it would be the best situation.
"Would M warm up to me, do you think? I wouldn't want to keep being the third wheel," she half-joked.
I stuck my tongue out at her and teased, "Oh, Kei-lesbian, you strumpet."
After ice cream, we went to Melissa's house, where we were bereft of ideas on what to do.
"We could always break out the Ouija board," I suggested, as I don't think I have touched a Ouija board in years. Remembering Keilaina and her potential objections to necromancy, even with the aid of Milton Bradley, I asked if she minded.
Melissa and Kei  
Necromancy, care of Milton Bradley
Before she could answer, Melissa interjected, "It does glow in the dark."
"Oh, then that's fine," Kei agreed. "Who should we contact?"
"Not Bosch," Melissa and I said in near unison.
Keilaina cocked her head to the side. "Who's Bosch?"
"It's just something stupid from when we were teenagers, kind of a game we played. Hieronymus Bosch was a painter in the fifteen hundreds who painted horrific visions of Hell. According to us, he was also an evil spirit intent on destroying us. We contact him through the Ouija board. We were going to avert the Apocalypse. Bear in mind we were fifteen at the time and very bored," I explained.
"The other Melissa still talks to him. Or thinks she does," said Melissa. The other Melissa was Melissa's best friend when they were teenagers. They thought they were two halves of the same person and were nearly telepathic. That is, until the other Melissa disappeared mysteriously, unfortunately taking the rap for a friend's drug offense and being sent to Florida by her parents. We didn't discover this for years, and the other Melissa only reappeared (in a way) a few months ago when she found this website. She now lives in the city and, according to Melissa, is holding onto the delusions of early pubescence. That she would hold onto a scenario whereby she is to be a savior to mankind is no great leap.
"Did you tell her that this is unlikely?" I asked.
"I tried. I told her that we were mostly making up what happened. She just brushed it off," Melissa sadly stated. I know that Melissa was hoping a reunion would be exactly that, that she would again be whole. Instead, she was disappointed to discover that her other half was nearly at the level of her clients at her group home.
"So who should we contact? We could try for Todd," I suggested.
"We are absolutely not contacting Todd," exclaimed Kei. I didn't mean the slightest disrespect, though I worry Keilaina though I did. I just... I wanted to know if things were okay with him. I know that is a childish thought, but even after all of these years, I still miss hearing him scream my full name and jumping on me.
I will not bore you with the misspelled death threats the Ouija board offered up, as this seems to be the default setting of all Ouija boards and I believe it is a great part of their charm. Incidentally, the corollary to this theory of mine is that the decrease in popularity of Ouija boards is directly proportional with the advent of horrible spelling in chat rooms. You'll see that I'm right. Evil spirits are possessing computers.
We ended up, at the suggestion of the Ouija board, taking photos of Keilaina in hopes that there would be orbs. The first picture surpassed this, as Kei was also half-dark red. None other met this standard, though we tried various methods to explain how we had produced the first photo through some technical mistake.
Then we tried the camcorder, which was only useful in catching us trying to scare Keilaina awake with a cell phone.
I also have a theory that I make the undead camera shy.

Gold Steering Wheel
Zack and I arrived at Melissa's home with the explicit instructions not to knock on her door. She further prevented this by meeting us at the door and insisting that we immediately had to leave.
"But... you are coming with us, right?" I inquired.
She looked at me in mock scorn through the trail of smoke rising from her mouth. "No. You and he will go. Now. And never return... We are going to get a movie."
"Oh. All right then."
Zack  
Sanctuary!
We wandered around the video store, one of the few that is not a hive of Lackluster Video. This store knew their customers well enough to have a rack that was nothing but eighties cartoons. They even went so far as to have "mature" video sitting out, though they thought the delineation meant those films that are just barely not porn.
The clerk, obviously bored, approached and asked, "What are you looking for?" We were the only customers in the entire store, so I can't fault her interest. Also, we were nostalgically mocking the Rainbow Brite cartoons. That tends to draw attention.
I turned to the young woman. "We are looking for the best, worst movie you have. Something with vampires, maybe?"
She smiled knowingly and disappeared for a little while, as we discovered more horrifically hilarious sections.
"We need to get this!" insisted Melissa, holding up a video called Titanic 2000.
"Why?"
"Vampires. The Titanic. Boobies. What's not to love?" she reasoned.
Zack nodded sagely. "I'm sold."
This isn't to say that we left. There was still that whole rack of mature videos just sitting there near the front, mocking us. Most of them were the predictable T&A films with titles such as Erotic Witch Project and The Lord of the G-Strings. However, there was one that caught my eye. The Grand Jury Testimony of William Jefferson Clinton. I called the clerk over. "Do you know how cool your video store is?!"
"Um... yes. I do," she stated.
"You have this filed next to The Erotic Blair Witch Project!"
"We do that." She is clearly unflappable.
We returned to Melissa's basement to watch our find. Titanic 2000 (the emphasis is on the first syllable) was ostensibly made for under a thousand dollars and with the use of a single digital camera. The cast was composed of two porn stars (I feel this is a safe assumption) and several very bored men.
Owing to all of these reasons, the movie became a sort of background noise that we ignored. I sat on Melissa's sofa, flipping through her high school yearbooks and declaring how I felt about these various people based almost entirely upon their appearance. Fun fact: Kristin Frye is both gorgeous and adorable. It helps that she was the editor of yearbook and has graciously placed her face every fifth page. Better fun fact: Evan was a member of the Russian club. Actually, he was a member of every stigmatizing club. Strangely, in every picture where Evans head towered above the rest of the crowd, a frighteningly intense boy wearing white always appeared. This boy stared as though the viewer were a dog that was commanding him to kill again and he was okay with it.
The yearbook exhausted its amusement value long before the movie ended, so I pilfered some Grant Morrison comics I had obtained from the library for Zack. Honestly, I usually read the comics before I give them to Zack because I don't actually want to order X-Men on my account. My coworkers already give me curious looks when I order books titled Everything You Know Is Wrong.
"Do you think I could teach at Xavier's school?" I asked Zack, deciding that I would be quite happy with both the students and faculty.
He shot Melissa a look and slowly explained, "You aren't a mutant."
I scoffed, "Sure I am." Then I hit him in the back of his head. "You never saw that coming. That's my mutant power. I will teach telepathic language arts."
The movie ended in a flurry of screensaver quality CGI and green screen work. It was embarrassing, but we were just grateful to see it end.
As we drove home, Zack lamented his romantic situation. "I'm still in love with The Betsy and she is off making out with some ugly guy. I've got to stop falling in love"
"It's true. Love is a battlefield, but The Betsy doesn't seem to have very high standards. She's still kissing the ugly guy? I thought she was over that," I asked.
"What gave you that idea?"
"Well, she is all into Randy Milholland of Something Positive. And I will wager he would be into her. What if she becomes a new character?"
"I would just have to marry her then," he divulged.
I laughed, "That's reasonable. Speaking of marriage, Emily was mulling over the fact that I won't ever get to have sex with anyone else. I asked if we could share mistresses, since we both like the same type of girls. She didn't much like that idea."
"Come on, you wouldn't really want to share Emily. That would be bad," he tried to reason.
"No," I explain, "it would be hot."
"You know you don't mean that."
"Of course not, but my testosterone insists that I find lesbians attractive. Specific kinds of lesbians. Not bull dykes, as they are more butch than I am. However, the tall, skinny kind with short, messy hair? Yum. M would understand." I knew he couldn't disagree with this logic, as he very much coveted such a woman at the moment along with The Betsy. Of course, the lithe lass is another man's wife, so it is unlikely she is a lesbian.
"You're just lucky I didn't know when you broke up with Emily. I would have held you down and made you call and apologize to her for hurting her. Then I would have punched you in the head, idiot."
"That is your superpower."


Soon in Xenology: Sarah. Kristin. Captain Andy. Awesomeball.

last watched: Titanic 2000
reading: Everything You Know Is Wrong
listening: Hits
wanting: To live with my friends.
interesting thought: My greatest fear is that I am not remarkable.
moment of zen: rereading the entry about Todd.
someday I must: make sure my friends know I love them.

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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