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04.23.04 2:32 p.m.

Human kind cannot bear very much reality  

-T.S. Eliot


Previously in Xenology: Zack was beloved of the ladies.

Zack and I were in need to be peripatetic, so he suggested we visit Madame Brett Park, home of the creepy talking benches.
We arrived to six sets of eyeballs watching us from the benches. It seemed that three couples felt the need to simultaneously make out in a vaguely natural setting and chose to travel no farther than three paces from the parking lot. Perhaps lectures on the presence and purpose of water have the aphrodisiac effect of Barry White. I've heard it gets girls wet.
After their sharp eyes fell back to the task at hand (or lips, or tongues, or...), Zack and I proceeded toward the waterfall. Zack cut through the gloaming, over thin cement walls, as though he were made for the task. I balanced with my arms out and watched my footfalls for fear of tumbling into a small, artificial stream or down a precipice into trees. Grace and I are not on a first name basis.
We climbed the rusty ladder to get a better view of the waterfall. Looking out over the faintly chemical waters belong, Zack sighed over his inability to find the right girl. "For example," he noted, "there is a girl who is very attractive and who wants very badly to sleep with me. She also isn't that smart but - let me emphasize - hot. I've done that though and it just comes up feeling empty. Then there are those girls who I love, and I become shy Zack. I worship them from afar and I can barely croak out 'hi' when they are around."
Xen and Zack  
See how sexy we become?
"Because you do not realize that you are also hot, talented, charming Zack?" I asked pointedly. "In fact, so much so, that I am only attractive in relation to you."
I cocked his head to once side, amused at my tone. "What do you mean?"
I stop, realizing that I had let slip something I oughtn't. Then, remembering that it was Zack and my slip would produce a funny story, I decided to explain anyway. "The other night I was hanging out with Melissa and Angela. Angela confided that the thought of you and I making out was sexy to her, however I lost any iota of hypothetical hotness when I was alone. Also, she accidentally called me 'Zack' at one point, for which we teased her all night."
"So, you become attractive when we make out?" he clarified, stifling a grin.
"Or when I get a sex change and Angela can use a double ended sex toy with me, yeah."
He placed a hand on my leg. "Are you coming onto me?"
I laughed. "Well, we are all alone in this industrially pastoral setting... so no."
He stood up and turned away. "Now even you are spurning my attentions," he lightheartedly bemoaned.
"I am not!" I protested. "If you were a girl... or I was a girl... I would be all over you. Ideally, we'd both be bisexual girls in this scenario, because they are the best kind."
"If you were a girl, there is no question what we would be doing right now," he agreed, turning back to me.
I pushed him away. "Hey, I'm not that kind of girl. You have to ply me with Chinese food and cheap wine first."
We sat for a while more as dusk became duskier. As we walked back to the car, Zack asked, "Have you ever been tempted?"
"You mean, by another girl? No, not seriously."
He insisted over his shoulder, "I would hope not!"
"...Usually when someone caught my eye in a discernable way, it was when Emily and I were on the rocks. So they were the symptoms, not the disease. It wasn't often and it wasn't very deep, but I did notice a couple of girls in a pitter-pattery way. Mind you, this was years ago."
"You know I would have killed you, right?"
"Remember who is driving whom," I threatened with a distinct lack of menace.
I drove him back to my house, though we quickly grew tired of being sedentary. Zack asked our options for continued walking.
"Is that tree a Bigfoot?"
"It is still fairly warm out," I observed, "so we have few limits. I recommend we go toward Glenham, White's Falls, or Saint Joachim Cemetery."
"I choose walking the tracks," he proclaimed, pulling me off of the floor (since I moved in with Emily, my bedroom at home is disheveled and missing furniture on which to sit).
We strolled over the rusted railroad tracks that have only seen token use by maintenance crews over the years. I doubt they will ever be used by freight trains again and feel a little sad for them.
The trestle belonging to these tracks provided a hangout for my older brother's friends, back when the police were confident they were a violent youth gang. I was a mascot of sorts to them, as I did not drink or do drugs, but was young enough that I had nothing better to do than following them around and drink half the soda out of bottles so it could be replaced by liquor. These tracks were later a sort of spiritual path for me, a trail to walk and think outside the daily constraints of life. I would follow the cold steel, stepping only on the wooden ties if I was feeling particularly holy minded. I nearly always ended my journeying at Glenham field, where I would do small spells or shout my hubris at storm clouds rolling down the mountains.
Zack and I wander past Glenham. It was the sacred time in spring before all of the insects awaken and the world after midnight is still and the pale orange of bittersweet from the ambient light pollution.
Past a pond of peeping frogs, I motioned to a well tread path to our right. "That is Devil's Racetrack. Or, at least, that is was Dan used to call it. It is basically a dirt bike track that he and his friends used to visit. He told me ridiculous things, like that they had seen the Devil there and he would chase people. He would also drain the batteries of anything nearby. I believed him, because I was young. It was like a whole mythology and it made the world a bit more adventuresome. I would sometimes mount summertime expeditions to root out the Devil, never mind that I was an atheist as a kid."
"Did you ever see anything?" Zack asked quietly.
I shook my head. "No. There is a cement pillar with various supposedly Satanic symbols - 666s and inverted pentagrams - but nothing you won't see on every underpass in America."
We walked more, listening to the frogs searching for mates and avoiding going too far into the shadows. In the night, trees in a small breeze became grotesque figures walking toward us.
"I almost actually want to see something. A monster," confided Zack.
"So do I, just because it would mean there is something more than our perceptions... that the world is so much bigger. It would change my life, at least until the monster attacked. I don't think I could fight off anything more menacing than a small alien. I read a book on how."
Zack sighed, "At least it would be something. It would be interesting."
We reached an overpass and, though Zack wanted to soldier on into the darkness, the conversation at hand and the confluence of sounds made by eighteen-wheelers groaning overhead frightened me enough that we turned back. I have read that scientists have caused people to experience all of the effects of a haunting by vibrating the air to a certain level. I would like to think this is what caused the hairs on the back on my neck to rise.
We walked home, talking of the strange, awkward intimacy that occurs when you encounter someone else walking in the night.

Soon in Xenology: The Martial Arts Hall of Fame. The trouble with cops.

last watched: Empire Records Remix (Special Fan Edition)
reading: Subversive Laughter: The Liberating Power of Comedy
listening: Indestructible Object
wanting: Less school work or at least school work with meaning.
moment of zen: walking with Zack (obviously).
someday I must: find a monster.

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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