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12.06.04 2:09 a.m.

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.  

-Friedrich Nietzsche


Previously in Xenology: Emily and Xen loved one another. They also loved Zack and Kei, but differently. Additionally, Zack and Kei loved one another in a way they do not love Xen and Emily. This, it is said, birthed true madness.


"So, tell me about this girl," I asked Zack as I sat across the room from him. Our nocturnal adventure had yet to start, but slowly melting into his sofa is never a bad beginning.

He thought for only a few seconds before pronouncing, "Katlyn is very hot, very intelligent, interested in English. She is going to school for English. Musically, she needs help. She listens to Dave Mathews."

"You can improve that," I admit ambiguously, as he is a large contributor to the relative decency of my musical tastes. This was all I could really think to intone. Zack, after all, has a propensity for seeking to begin relationships with girls scoring high in both the "Hot" and "Intelligent" columns. Sometimes he ends up next to a headboard before he figured out that their Attractive Aptitude is below the necessary level for a mutually satisfying continuation of the romance, but we cannot fault him that. He and Katlyn met originally at a bar during his brother's wedding. She was in no way a part of the wedding, merely a girl at a bar when the brothers ducked out for a bit of fraternal drunkenness. Katlyn was a student at Dutchess when Zack went there and they had likely passed in the halls a hundred times without sufficient clicking. To hear him tell it, and he is not one to exaggerate, there was a great clicking that night and many nights since. Every Thursday, Katlyn and he get together at a bar in New Paltz (where she attends college and he attends work) and complete the night in her apartment, where things were kept less randy than one might expect.
"You like Dave Matthews, too?"

"Doesn't Emily like Dave Matthews?" Zack mused. His mind is too keen sometimes.

I stuck my tongue out at him, at petulantly as I could manage. "There was exactly one Dave Mathews song that made her want to have sex. I don't even think it works anymore."

"So you were okay with it?"

"That one song, yes." One doesn't wholly scorn an aphrodisiac, no matter how ill-tasting it might be at first.

"He's okay. I wouldn't walk up to someone and say 'I like Dave Matthews.'"

"Yeah, that's the sort of thing you save... Unless you are trying to bed them."

"Then you walk up to them and say, 'You like Dave Matthews too? What are the odds?'" He affected his most mock suave voice for this sentence, assuring that he would be successful should he ever unleash it upon the unassuming.

"And, if they are a college girl without dreadlocks, they take their shirts off."

"That's how I got Katlyn."

Of Non-Coital Kissing and Idahoan Dan

I dialed M's number, cringing already.

"M?" I began tentatively when she answered, "At some point soon, I would like to discuss our relationship." These are forbidden words and I know it. However, as they most accurately reflect what I want, they are also correct.

Emily gasped and immediately apologized for whatever she did that upset me in all perpetuity through the universe. I was not surprised at this reaction, though I almost inappropriately laughed at its immediacy and breadth.

"I just want to talk. I am definitely not breaking up with you," I assured her with every ounce of sincerity in my ordinarily jocular body.

"What are you doing tonight?" she asked nervously. "Can you not do that and meet me at Johnny D's instead?"
To Blave  
We are just a mass of strange hair.

I agreed as I had started this mess and the sooner I put Emily at ease, the better.

The conversation went well, once Emily was confident enough that I genuinely had no intention to leave her and wasn't just being polite or cowardly. My troubles, I regret to inform, were of the most banal variety and escalated within me to the point where her throwing out my dish sponge (it self-soaped) without telling me pushed me into a confrontation. I knew then and know now that this is a perfectly ridiculous catalyst, but I can't deny that is was. I was getting irrationally irritated with Emily and I couldn't stand feeling that way a moment longer.

The real meat of the problem was that I was upset that we are perpetually poor and that she got to go on trips for Tae Kwon Do. The two things are only interrelated to the point where her trips preclude her working and I am stuck at a part-times job until grad school and student teaching are completed, thus I cannot support us nearly as much as I would like to. I hate that money is even an issue as I want to think I am beyond this, but a negative bank balance and impending car payments find ways to poke through my Zen composure. Emily understood my problems with this and agreed that money is an issue, but it doesn't need to be an issue between us. We will scrape by, she insisted, and money will be much less of a problem once some deluded school district is paying my salary.

Beyond fiscal woes, I pouted that I didn't feel physically desired by her. I thought it best to purge everything at once.

"Why not?"

"Because you don't kiss me nearly enough."

"I don't always want to do stuff," she said, using one of her euphemisms for sex.

"Kissing does not automatically result in coitus," I responded.

She looked startled. "It doesn't?" she asked, genuinely surprised at the idea.

"No, not even slightly. I need kisses in my life a lot more often than I need sex. Not to be unnecessarily crude, but I can give myself orgasms. I cannot kiss myself."

"Okay then, I will work on the kisses-that-don't-end-in-penetration if you promise to never" - her eyes smoldered and she grabbed tight to the unguarded cuff of my sleeve - "ever again use the phrase 'I need to talk about our relationship.'" Murder was the implicit threat in this and she, being a ninja, is more than capable of making good on it.

We paid for out meals and migrated to the parking lot, where Emily practiced kissing me with no intentions at sexual release.

"Oh, great," she sighed, "we are that couple that makes out in the parking lot."

I held her face and gave her another kiss. "I'm really okay with that."

Once Emily's car had diverged from my path, I rang Keilaina up.

"How do you feel about Emily?" was my first question, after a brief exchange of greetings.

"I love Emily," Kei stated, "you know that."

"I do. Good. Let's hang out." I needed to be around someone who was just as Emily positive as I was and Zack was too far away to abscond with.
He kind of looks like Dave Matthews  
In Idaho

I drove to Kei's house and we quickly found our way to a concrete dock nearby. Keilaina had just returned from Idaho, where she had visited with her boyfriend Dan and his family. She loved his entire family and they reciprocated, Dan's sister going so far as to refer to Keilaina as her new sister. Then again, Kei also claims that there are social activities in Idaho that I would enjoy, so she may have just been locked in a cage in complete darkness. Obviously, despite the photographic evidence (which can easily be faked), she wasn't actually where she said she was.

Keilaina is fonder of Dan than I have seen her ever be in a boy before. (By the way, since she admonished that I intimate such, Keilaina is in no way "boy crazy." At worse, she has been "boy smitten" or possibly "boy keen." She is selective, even in these crushes. Really.) Even with Ian, her interest in him precluded the rest of the world and was fraught with jealousy and isolation. In fact, Keilaina went so far as to say, as she gazed at the dark surface of the pond, that she "would have had a wonderful relationship with Ian if no one else existed in the world." Though the relationship is just beginning in some ways, this seems more like the mature sort of relationship she should be having.

At the very least, it is the sort of relationship that will allow her to continue to see me long after Dan moves to New York.

Soon in Xenology: Zack's girlfriend and Kei's boyfriend in the flesh. Christmas. Sacrifice.

last watched: Shrek
reading: The Librarian
listening: Our Endless Number Days
wanting: No money woes with my scodger-puppy head. Yeah, my cuteness disgusts even me.
moment of zen: Sitting on the dock of the bay.
someday I must: Meet this "Dan" and "Katlyn."

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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