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03.08.04 2:10 a.m.

A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood. The writer wants to be understood much more than he wants to be respected or praised or even loved. And that perhaps, is what makes him different from others.  

-Leo Rosten


Previously in Xenology: Brooke was well-regarded. Zack had very good taste in clothes and guitars, and very young girls. Xen and Emily were looking for an apartment.

The Divergent Brooke
I exited Brother's Trattoria restaurant in Beacon, so full of mussels marinara that the effort to pull my phone from my pocket barely seemed worth it.
The intended recipient of my call was Kelly, Zack's friend. She was the costume designer when Zack was in A Chorus Line and she apparently sewed a heart onto his sleeve because his interest in her was plain.
Zack and Kelly were touring around the various art openings in Beacon, because it is a hip and gentrifying place of late. I am still not wholly used to Beacon being a place where art openings occur, still imagining the drive-by shootings and muggings of old.
As Zack and Kelly had already eaten and Emily and I wanted to give Zack a little time to woo her without our interference, they were not invited to our seafood glutting.
Kelly's cell phone rang several times before a chirpy message picked up, assuring me that she was sorry she had missed my call.
"Hi, Kelly," I began, "I represent the lollypop guild of Oz-dwellers. We understand you have a boy who belongs to us. We will therefore hunt you down... which won't be even slightly hard, as Zack and you are standing across the street from me, looking at me. So I am just going to keep talking as I make my way over to you. Now, you may note, I am patting Zack on the head, so I guess I will go. Give me a call when you get this message, though."
Kelly is waifishly sexy, petite of stature and lithe of limb, with dark hair cascading to her shoulders. Her clothes fit her as a second skin, like they were tailored for her. As I found out later, this was precisely the case and she was the tailor. Zack chooses his infatuations well.
In an insubstantial way, the way lovers know one is going to call the other, Kelly reminded me of my very ex-girlfriend Jen. It was not so much in physical aspect, though a case could be made that Kelly could pass for the pale daughter of Jen and a Tolkien elf. Maybe it was in her reticent laugh, like songbirds bird dropped on tin roofs? No matter the reason, Kelly was familiar to me and I was distinctly favorably disposed before she finished a sentence.
As they had seen most of the other openings and were going to finish up at Lo River Arts, M and I joined them. It was a small building, very likely having once been a drugstore. I don't honestly remember, the building was in utter disuse for most of my life.
Swim Pigs  
Balancing livestock
There were only two prominent paintings on the walls. I most readily accept paintings as art, particularly when the subject of the art is a small child balancing farm animals on their head and feet respectively. The other works, all ostensibly the fault of the artist Emily Orling, consisted of plastic pigs and enema bags nailed to the wall.
I leaned against the wall, appreciating the artistry of a vase that had nothing to do with the exhibit, when M pushed me.
"You're not allowed to hit me, Ninja!" I protested.
"You were leaning on the art," she insisted in turn.
I looked at the wall on which an enema bag was tacked and spat disdainfully, "I dislike art that I don't know not to lean on... Can I screw farm animals into our apartment?"
She thought a moment before answering, "Only if you come up with $400 a month, since I'm doing all the work in finding us an apartment."
"What if I find an apartment then?"
"It's only $200 a month," she affirmed.
I picked up a cracker from the table and nibbled on it as I tried to find the art in the wall pigs. Soon after, I was back looking at the vase. It was two panes of frosted glass from which a clear, vase shape was extruded. It spoke of negative space and societal expectations of design. Also, it held flowers.
Emily walked up while I was asking Zack to confirm that the vase wasn't art. "Brooke's over there," she informed me matter-of-factly.
Indeed, across the room stood the lissome sylph herself, short-coifed and casually dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. Beside her stood her mate Eliot, six odd feet of hair and beard topped with a Panama hat and quietly considered one lucky bastard by Zack and me.
"How on earth did you know that was Brooke? You've never met her," Zack asked.
Because the Real World sucks.
"Easy. Xen told me that she was exactly my type. And that girl," she motioned keenly with her eyes, "is exactly my type. Ergo, Brooke."
Soon after, we followed Brooke and Eliot to Juicy (Zack's and Brooke's place of employ) where Zack's father's band was playing.
"They might suck tonight," Zack warned.
"That's cool, I don't think we are here for the music," said M as she moved into the back in search of Brooke and Eliot. We found them cuddled together on a very small seat.
"Do you guys know anyone who needs an apartment?" Brooke asked.
"Yes, we certainly do," I quickly answered.
"Good, we're getting rid of our apartment."
"Why?" Emily asked, her voice showing subtle fear that she was losing this friend she had just met.
"Eliot and I are breaking up," Brooke answered simply, her voice betraying none of the emotion that would be causing my voice to shatter into tiny phonemes.
Emily and I said nothing, just looked at them still holding one another intimately. Finally, Emily edged the silence away by saying, "Can we have a dog in the apartment? I need a place where I can have my dog Missy. Right now, she is at the shelter and is so sad. She'll barely eat."
"We can't have that," protested Brooke, "when do you want to see the apartment?"
"Whenever?" I asked M to confirm.
"Whenever is good," she agreed.
"Now?" Brooke asked Eliot.
"Now is good."
We walked to their apartment, which is only a few blocks from Juicy and so we did not feel the need to tell Zack and Kelly that we would be gone for long. It was several rooms wide, the entire bottom floor of a house. Aside from the stucco living room and the fact that Emily and I would be benefiting at the misery of two dearly sweet people, our complaints were few. There would even be room enough to take on Keilaina as a roommate (as long as she did not mind to occasional gasp or moan coming from the other room).
"I know it isn't much," confessed Brooke in the kitchen, where a pot of vegetable stew was simmering, "but it was home. And I am moving back to Colorado and Eliot..." she turned to look at him, "I don't think you'd want to live here all alone, right?"
He quietly said he would not.
"So, you two could take over the lease. And have your dog."
Emily, all parts the businesswoman in our residential affairs, stated that we would very willingly do this. But, again, we felt reluctance and remorse because these two people who, granted, we barely know were confused and in conflict. I did not want to impose into their affairs, but even more, I didn't want to see them broken up. When I first met Brooke, the same day Corinne cried on me at work, she had told me that she and Eliot were married. Despite having different last names and harboring the slight idea that Brooke was an adorable lesbian, I believed her. It is possible this is the truth, honestly. Whatever they share or shared, it is a different sort of relationship than most people ever imagine.
We walked back to Juicy after a matter of forty minutes. Aside from the question in the kitchen, the tone of this digression from the purpose of the night had been light. We were four talkative friends walking on a pleasant night, as far as the rest of the universe cared to tell.
Zack's father was playing folk music with several patrons I recognized from the library, and not all of whom I remembered in the fondest of terms. Zack and Kelly were sitting on stools at the bar enjoying the complimentary chocolate pretzels and strawberries.
"Where were you guys?" Zack demanded immediately upon seeing us, "I got worried and we went to look for you."
"It's true," Kelly chirped from her stool, one of the first complete sentences I had hear from her all night.
Before I could inconspicuously pull Zack aside and tell him of the break-up, Brooke answered calmly for us, "I was just showing them my apartment, because Eliot and I are breaking up." Eliot, by this point, had ventured to the back of the establishment.
Zack expressed his heartfelt and sincerely pained remorse for their parting, especially as it meant that Brooke would be leaving Beacon.
Xen, Zack, and M  
We make a good team
The night blurred and stretched as Brooke told us of her old life in Chicago, where she was arrested for protesting the fact that the Real World crew felt they had the moral authority to displace the homeless in order to get "prettier" shots and just otherwise act like jackasses. Plainly put, this gives Brooke oodles of hipness points to us and makes her eventual loss all the more striking.
As Juicy was closing up for the night and we were all heading in our separate directions, Emily called my attention to a flyer in the window advertising summer job openings at the Dia Museum in Beacon.
"If we are going to be living in Beacon and paying rent, it couldn't hurt to have a second job you don't hate," suggested M.
"Oh sure, this from the girl who works sixty hours a week teaching abandon puppies how to fight," I harassed as I took down the number.

Soon in Xenology: Tutoring. Recanting. Apartments. Anti-drug cartoons. Flynn's Kate. The Dia.

last watched: Dawn of the Dead, Pee Wee's Big Adventure
reading: Transmetropolitan
listening: Tindersticks
wanting: Brooke and Eliot not to be breaking up.
interesting thought: I'm kind of really tired of having to come up with revelatory thoughts for the end of these.
moment of zen: Hearing Brooke's stories of civil disobedience.
someday I must: Actually get 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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