Thomm Quackenbush, author

02.25.06 4:17 p.m.

Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.  

-Henri-Frédéric Amiel

 



Previously in Xenology: Emily father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Xen and Emily were very fond of Dives Dives.

Mountain Monsters

Emily steered out of the way of a large divot in the pavement of the gas station parking lot we were using to turn around. We heard the crunch of some part of her car Plabo into the station's cement divider.

"What did I do to anger the gods?" she sighed, exasperated. She had been in a sour mood since she got home owing to her father standing her up and instead having lunch with his friends. He was about to leave the diner when Emily arrived at the appointed time. This is her story, however, and I would not presume to tell it. Check Letting the Sky In, if she wishes to tell it.

"The gods do not hate you and you have done nothing wrong," I replied, "You are just too focused on your father and it is causing you to become distracted in your annoyance."

On the drive to Dives Dives's show at the Mezzanine in Kingston, catharsis overtook Emily and her frustrations leaked from her eyes. "I just wish I wasn't here anymore, that I could just go to Sikkim next week. And I'm so sorry you have to listen to me bitching."

"I'm not sorry. You either have to get this out by talking about it or writing, otherwise it festers inside of you and hurts you. And Plabo." I always feel inadequate in these situations, though I have taken to admitting that, no, I don't actually know and can barely imagine the depths of her angst. My father is not dying. My father is fairly well known to me, no great lingering secrets. He does not hide from me who he is. I can try to imagine, but I don't know it from her perspective and hope I never will.

She perked up by the time we reached the Mezzanine, her body finding a balance through osmosis.

The Mezzanine refurbished slightly in the presence of a liquor license, though this was only evident in the chocolate velvet curtain that floated halfway up the staircase warning use that there was a five-dollar a person minimum for passing beyond the threshold. We saw the sign and ignored it, assuming that it did not apply to us. We were here for the talent, not the spirits.

Dives Dives had already begun her set when we arrived late, so we seated ourselves next to Lynn and Tony, a married couple from Emily's clan. They had half exhausted a bottle of wine, which they proffered my way. I politely declined, wishing to keep my intoxication solely of the musical variety.
Emily and Dives Dives  
If happy little bluebirds fly

Emily spent her time coloring on the butcher's paper placed on every table, along with a complimentary cup of crayons. She drew our journey to Kingston, which entailed our apartment, cats, New York City, and an amorphous blue monster over the mountains. I must have been looking out the wrong side of the car and missed this last feature of the trip.

Dives Dives looked every part a folk singer. Her hair was arrayed with ribbons and feathers from something called the Freakfest. The corners of her eyes were spirals of eyeliner. Despite these accessories, she retained her girl-next-door charm that makes her so appealing. Singers like Fiona Apple and Tori Amos have something foreign and exotic to them, which works well for them, but Dives Dives is the sort of girl one has a crush on in fifth grade, the one who only gets more alluring with age and exposure. The prom date, not the vacation fling.

Her skirted legs palpitate like a heart above her knee-high black boots as she fought her way through the music, the passion of the words wrestling her. She always wins. She is a lion tamer of song and the lyrics acceded to their Alpha female. She is in no real danger from these trained melodies; she is their mistress.

During a break, I told her that I best loved her song "Hitchhiker", which she always says in concerts is proof that good things can come out of bad relationships. She seemed surprised that this was my favorite, but the melody is so catchy and her emotion is right on the surface. I can relate to in the way that it has never happened to me. Perhaps I latch onto passion because I don't much feel it myself. There are waves, but every part of my passion is directed to writing. I climax to stories. I eat and breathe stories. My friends who I love are characters in this grand tale. It isn't my tale; I just narrate what I see. Thing should never focus too much on me. It is emotion that I want in songs, which is why I can listen to Nine Inch Nails transitioning into Jill Sobule. It is the same angst differently expressed, though I find Ms. Sobule purer, just a girl and a guitar.

Dives Dives can infuse this connection even into the songs of others. She sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and I actually cared about the song, finding my eyes a little misty by the time she finished. She affectionately chastised her mother for crying during this song, as she knew that she would cry herself if she heard sniffling and then there would just be no point in going on with the song. I know this song is special to Stevehen, as it was sung at his nephew's funeral, and I want to have recorded it so I could share it with him.

I am almost shy after the show, asking Dives Dives if she could sign the CD she gave me at the last performance I attended. She is a dear friend, but she is also the singer who has enthralled me for the past hours, playing my emotions with all the deftness of her guitar and piano.

She called me a big dork, smiling sweetly and writing, "Never lose the youness of you."

After the show, Dives Dives took off to the frolic up the street. One of these days, I want to go to a frolic, a night of constant and frenzied dance, but the night is not this one. There is a world of difference between an open field in May and a VFW hall in February and I want my first experience to be a pure one. Music is Dives Dives's art and weapon, not mine. Give me a Dead Poet's Society and I will take any variant of the experience I can get. My first exposure should be right.

Dream Girls

"I don't like how you look at Dives Dives," Emily said.

I sat calmly on the futon, watching Emily pace above me. This wasn't a fight, just a conversation. An airing of what needed saying. Our arguments could be the case studies for conflict resolution textbooks. This comment about Dives Dives occurred near the end of our dialogue, covering sexuality and relationships in some depth. It began with her reading me a Letting the Sky in column where I was featured and my letting Emily read of stream on conscious writing experiment I tried.

"How do I look at Dives Dives?" I asked.
Xen  
I really don't.

"You lust after her."

"I don't," I protested.

"Maybe not with your penis - you lust after me with your penis - you lust after her with your mind."

"I don't lust after you with my penis, but that isn't the issue. Dives Dives has fast become my favorite singer and I find that captivating. But I don't want to sleep with her, not with my penis or mind. I just want to listen."

I don't want Emily to be jealous or hurt over my feelings toward Dives Dives. It isn't the same ballpark, not even the same sport. I would not even know Dives Dives if Emily had not pointed her out as a person of interest. Gods know I haven't made a similar connection to anyone else I've met at these circle gatherings. Dives Dives is a friend of whom I find myself attached, but she is not my half-decade companion and lover, nor would I have that. It is her as a singer that turns my eyes to saucers. Dives Dives the woman is just captivating and entertaining.

"What do you mean, that you don't lust after me with your penis?"

"I don't think in those terms. When I love you best is when you are speaking. I love the you I see through your words and interactions. I lust for your mind, not what you have between your legs. No offense to your bits, of course."

"None taken."

What this boiled down to is that I do not feel the same connection with Emily's fighting that I do with Dives Dives's singing. Singing, I explained to Emily, is an art form I understand. I can digest it all easily, the meaning of the worlds, the atmosphere of the venue, the music. I am limited in my understanding of martial arts. A good kick does not affect me the same way that a clever chorus does. I do not know even how to judge a good kick, save that it is a kick that Emily delivers to someone else. Owing to my ignorance, Emily feels I cannot support her as enthusiastically as I do Dives Dives or, to speak more exactly, any of my friends who utilize an art form I can grasp. I told her that I would be at every performance of a play she was in and would drag everyone I could to see her, but testing and, to a lesser degree, competitions have no plot and nothing for me to follow. This all sounds callous, I know. Testing also involves two and a half hours of people about whom I care nothing fumbling about before I get four minutes of Emily doing her form. Everyone sits very rigidly in chairs, videotaping their ten-year-olds and saying nothing as to not spoiling the video. There is no interaction or discussion. There isn't tea.

I do not come from a place where I grasp sports. I can appreciate the difficulty of some of them, but without a plot, I quickly become bored. When Emily is fighting, she is the only character with whom I can relate. Unless she fights longer and explains who the villains are, I spend hours just waiting for something to happen that advances the plot.

The other weekend, Melissa and Stevehen spent the weekend at our apartment to get stranded in the snowstorm. When Emily returned home and joined us, she quickly flicked on the Olympics. And I really wanted to care about them, I know they only come once ever four years, but I just couldn't. It was late at night and I tried to keep myself entertained by making weak sarcastic comments, but was hushed. I don't even think we were watching one of the good sports where people do things that defy physics and belief. This continued until Sunday evening, as we watched the Olympics for want of something better to do. At least the Superbowl is interrupted by cinematic commercials.

It isn't that I do not support Emily. I make an effort to go to her tests when I can, though I would prefer if it were only her testing or at least only black belts. Though she hasn't done so in a while, she does sing and act. I know she does the former well enough to turn angels slutty and, given her credible mendacity, I can only imagine she acts just as well. She did go to a performing arts high school. She also has a very distinct and appealing written voice, as is evidenced in her columns. Writing, as should be plain, is the art I best understand.

It is my fault, not hers. I cannot process sports as others can and it lessens my enjoyment. Her art is no less valid than Dives Dives's music or my writing, but it just isn't a language in which I am fluent. I am proud of her accomplishments and brag about her endlessly. I just wish that was enough to make her know how much I appreciate her.

Really, some chai tea and loquacious hipsters would help things immeasurably.

Soon in Xenology: Cat's show at the Oasis. Premature enlightenment.

last watched: Cool Runnings
reading: Future Shock
listening: Dives Dives

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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