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01.18.05 7:21 p.m.

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.  

-Anais Nin


Previously in Xenology: Xen was a teaching student, despite his best intentions. Xen and Emily moved into a snazzy studio apartment. Emily was a ninja.


Melissa needed fish. She was unclear as to how many or what kind, merely that she couldn't contemplate acquiring them on her own owing to periodic bouts of social anxiety disorder. As I had no other plans for the evening, a trip to buy fish sounded perfectly lovely.

Ordinarily, I would have been on my way back to my apartment to be with Emily, except that Emily was three thousand miles away at an all-inclusive resort. She was preparing to compete at the Good Will Games and would, by the end of all this, come out with a silver medal (she won the silver medal, however they gave her a gold because they had ordered too few silvers). I should have been there as well, but I do not currently live in a reality that can condone my spending a class's worth of tuition money (if MSM would ever send it my way) to join my girlfriend at an all inclusive resort. I was already missing her quite a lot. I was not a moping puppy dog, but wish I could share even this banal little adventure with her.

At the pet store, no one would help us. We passed from tank to tank trying to figure out which of the brightly colored water dwellers would do best in Melissa's bedroom and with a name like Sergeant Commando.

I wandered too far to one side trying to find the strangest fish and saw a goth girl with bearing a pentacle the size of my fist. Her mascara-lined eyes brightened and she removed her shirt, revealing the blue uniform shirt beneath. She smilingly asked how she could help me. I motioned to Melissa, game show hostess style, and stepped away. I could tell that the girl was disappointed that I was not her customer, but she immediately went to serving Melissa, even though she was supposed to be on break and "Mark, that jerk, [was] supposed to be in the fish department." She also warned us against immediately naming the two guppies and frog we selected, as its chance at survival is unreliable. But, the girl noted, if it dies in a few weeks we can return it

When Melissa sent me off to get her the appropriate gravel, the salesgoth nudged Melissa and said, "It's so good when they obey."

Melissa protested ownership, "Oh, he's not mine."

"Oh, that's too bad," the girl said in a tone that she did not consider this the case, "he's really cute." I would like to interject that I was wearing a white sweater, blue jeans, and my black coat, not anything eye catching (nothing shiny or fuzzy). I do not feel that I was "really cute."

"He does belong to someone else though," Melissa informed in what I imagine was slight amusement at deflating what might have otherwise come about.

"Oh," the girl responded simply.
Slightly tanned and braided  
Kind of pink, actually.

I, of course, missed all of this. I think I might miss a lot while I am busily looking for shiny rocks.

Emily called me nightly, or nearly so, from her tropical retreat. She claims that, as this was an all inclusive resort, she would order virgin piņa coladas (even south of the border, no one believes she is of drinking age) and leave them whenever she got distracted, knowing that she could have a fresh one in moments. She got distracted often and well, considering that this was her first trip that close to the equator. The pictures attest to the sort of sunsets that brought a manly tear to the shrapnelled tear ducts of Hemingway, the salmon pinks that suggest that the sun over Mexico is a warmer and more glamorous one. That my ivory dearest returned to my empty arms a darker shade of off-white rather than a redder shade of lobster (though this had its place) further convinced me that Puerto Vallarta resorts import special sunbeams for their gringo clientele.

M spoke fondly of the resort, intimating that she would have to bring me along with her next time she trounced martial artists from every discipline. We didn't precisely say the bit about trouncing, you understand, but this was the likeliest outcome to my mind.


I was toiling out the last of my book mining, trying very much not to think of how I would sustain myself once I was employed only as an unpaid apprentice to a high school teacher. Work at the library had been occasionally awkward, like continuing to date a high school crush until they leave for a college in another state. I had no specific negative feelings, understanding that they were doing what they had to do, but really wish I could have felt some outrage as though I was being properly canned. There had been more than a few uncomfortable conversations when people in other departments caught on that I would no longer be a library fixture come the 24th of the month.

For want of any lazy activity to do, I worked. I considered just sitting there or reading the books I should have been processing (though I do this as a matter of course, because book need reading to justify their binding), but that seemed much more tedious than ordering ridiculously titled juvenile series and placing stickers on spines. I reflected that it was almost sad that I was leaving a job that I felt was moderately more interesting that being completely lazy, particularly given the difficulty of work that would be coming my way in a few days.

As I was cleaning out my desk for the third time, my supervisor told me that there was a call for me. This marks the first time I had ever received a call and was a bit vague on how anyone would be able to find me in my dungeon. I didn't even know the direct number.

On the phone was one of the librarians a few floors up. She intoned that the scruffy looking boy who admonished the children not to play on their computers too loudly was leaving for parts unknown and they very much needed a senior page.

"It's a dollar less and a lot fewer hours and a lower job, but I thought..." she trailed off, expecting correctly that I could complete the thought.

"But I will be teaching eight until three each day," I weakly protested.

"Oh, that's fine. Starts at four. So, you would be interested?"

"Very much."

I still have to apply and be accepted by people who I do not know but, given that I have experience in libraries and with children, I am likely imminently qualified for the position.

I immediately rang M because I am that sort of codependent. "I knew things would work out. I was irrationally calm, even for me, and it was really coming down to the last minutes, but I might have a job."

She was thrilled, understandably, but agreed that my calm was disconcerting her as well. She does not necessarily hold with my solipsistic yet benevolent view of the universe.

That night, I returned to clean my apartment as best I could. We had to show the apartment to strangers located through a popular internet bulletin board based in the city, as we can no longer afford to keep it. Emily insisted that the fault for this rests on her shoulders, as she wants to cut back her hours at the shelter at which she works so she can devote more time to training in Tae Kwon Do. I, on the other hand, accept full blame as I am being forced to quit my somewhat lucrative position at the library so that I may work to pervert the minds of our nation's youth gratis. Guilt from joblessness trumps holding two jobs slightly less. Even were we to stay on our schedules with work, we would be behind on our bills for months the moment one of us got sick or Emily had to go to a competition. To get to this next step in life, we need to sacrifice our present comfort.

Incidentally, no one from the city seems to understand how the world functions outside its boundaries. Perhaps this is more fodder for Kate, but I am appropriating. The woman who is to be visiting us tomorrow asked how to get to Walden from the subway and seemed unsettled when Emily suggested that she hop a train that then call for a taxi. Emily tried to convince her that the taxi would not simply appear and would require summoning, but this woman would hear nothing of it.

She, I regret to inform, was one of the more cogent of our callers. Most of them, apparently educated people, couldn't fit the concept of researching the place they professed to want to move before trying to set up appointments. Emily and I assiduously tried to make quite clear to all of these people that they would have to drive a car to get to the train that would take them back to the city. This dissuaded most of them, who would hang up within a few second.

I do not much want to give up my apartment, an attitude which Emily shares. I like the home we have made together, especially now that it is clean and all nonessential stuff has been transported to my parents' basement. I do not want to regress to living at my parents' home, for this is our only option, lovely though they are and free though many necessities of life would be. Returning to my parents' house seems like regression to me. I will be waking up bright and early before dawn each morning so that I can go to high school. Sure, the addition of a live-in girlfriend is certainly a big difference, but the fact remains that I was just beginning to feel like a growing adult, when I wasn't borrowing money to pay off my car.

I have given up so much that I love for a dream I am uncertain I wish to pursue; a loved job and now my first apartment. I try to keep the long view of things. If I accomplish this hoop jumping and mold myself slightly into a teacherly shape, I will be able to make more than enough money to support Emily and myself. I can start a life in earnest. The short sighted part of me can't help whispering that a lot of people manage to make lives for themselves without becoming the indentured collators of school districts.

This is the path I chose, if occasionally through inaction. I suppose I shall have to see where it will take me now.

Soon in Xenology: Conor. Student teaching.

last watched: Buffy
reading: In a Sunburned Country
listening: Godspell
wanting: Not to lose our home.
moment of zen: Emily tan.
someday I must: See the Mexican sunset.

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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