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10.21.06 11:23 p.m.

If you want to get rid of your enemy, the true way is to realize that your enemy is delusion.  

-Kegon Sutra


Previously in Xenology: Xen spent a lot of time scaring children. Sarah vanished. Dives Dives sang.


I just walked away from the Haunted Mansion. I don't know if this is forever but it is for tonight.

I arrived after fighting the decision. It should have been telling that I seriously entertained the idea of cleaning my apartment further instead of volunteering. My brother Bryan wanted a ride, which I was not emotionally equipped to give him and retain any of the freedom of movement I required given my uncertainty. When he argued, it forced me to articulate from whence the reticence comes both to him and myself. The truth, detailed below, depressed me.

I arrived at the Mansion alone and was greeted with a high five, then asked if I wanted to be a zombie. And I truly realized how little that appealed to me. I would have to undergo sticky make-up to spend three hours outside in the cold with teenagers I would not otherwise acknowledge outside of a setting where I was their paid surrogate babysitter just so I could grunt and be called lame by customers. It is my own fault for arriving after all the good parts were assigned, but perhaps it is for the best that my hand was further forced.

It is a teenager's game. When I was 16, there was nothing more appealing to me than night's spent with my closest friends scaring strangers. The fun is lessened when I am effectively alone; none of my current cadre would deign to so volunteer their time and I have a hard time faulting them. I would much rather be relaxing with friends than working with strangers.

Still, I feel a loyalty to the Mansion for the pleasure they brought to my life when I was a teenager. I would likely not have ended up with Jen had I not done it and I am largely grateful that my first serious girlfriend was one of my best friend at the time. There are also several negative things and associations that would have also never occurred, but I cannot pick and choose.

I don't know if I will go back this season and that scares me.


The ebb and flow of friendship persists. Some need to drift out to the open sea to find new shores no matter how we tried to hold them. Others wash back onto us under some unanticipated lunar pull.

As I introduce Emily to my newest internet fixation, The Show with Zefrank, our home phone rings. We look baffled, as no one with that number calls past nine. Emily picks it up and announces the caller ID's dictate: Sarah.
I miss that smile

I answer, greeting her with her name in lieu of a hello. She is quiet for the first few minutes until I point this out and she can no longer forestall the inevitable. She announces that she still has issues with me over my writing here. She says and means that she doesn't want to put me on the defensive, but I acknowledge this is where I find myself. I can't do much defending beyond maintaining that I wrote the best truth I knew. I don't record conversations and all it takes is Sarah as character witness to expunge that her friend Kristin said any of the things to me that I now vaguely remember. They are much closer than I am with Sarah presently and I am in no position to argue and keep Sarah as a friend. All of this was years ago and I can't stand on my faded memories of a couple of nights. It would just be stubborn pride talking, asserting that I must be right. I could be a very self-righteous and lonely man if I wanted to regard my text as the inerrant word of God, but know it is just what I thought and witnessed or thought I witnessed.

My writing has always been a problem between Sarah and me. I have written about her things I had no right to divulge beyond that I felt I needed to write. I accept full culpability for that.

She then changed the topic - this conversation was hard for us both - and we chatted sociably about work, the flaw of college, and Farrah Fawcett's anal cancer until I excused myself to go to sleep, feeling fences started to be mended.

So I will not write about Sarah again unless it is absolutely essential and then only generally. I am not doing this for her but for me. She is her own storyteller and I cannot render her as she deserves.

She has called a few times since that initial conversation, though at ungodly hours like 5:15 in the morning so we haven't actually spoken.

Holy Staircase, Dives Dives

It is funny how holy moments arrive. Watching Dives Dives play familiar songs in the Chthonic Clash, surrounded by people too beautiful and interesting for the Beacon in which I grew up, I feel happy and appreciative. It is only when some proprietor flicks on the light switch for the staircase shown though a window over Dives Dives's right shoulder that I come to full awareness of my situation. I turn to Emily and pronounce that my life is pretty good. She is radiant in the subdued light of the brick coffeehouse.
Dives Dives  
That guitar doesn't know how good it has it.

Smiling blissfully, she understates, "It does not suck."

Dives Dives's set, as with everyone's, only lasts three songs. So brief to make an impression. Emily and I are long won over, but I watch as the leather jacketed girlfriend of a performer who is busily stamping business cards on bits of cardboard enters midway during Dives Dives's second song, a protest song titled "I'm Not Proud" and tonight dedicated to a former classmate who was just slain by a sniper in Iraq. The girlfriend gives Dives Dives a minimum of attention until Dives Dives sings, "I'm not proud of a president who steals." Her dark, dual braided head turns and she nods her head to the beat, a new fan awakened by a single verse.

After Dives Dives plays comes a man I know only as Eddi now. This is not his name, simply the name of the band with which he sometimes plays. He was a library patron at some point, so I know his true name exists somewhere in my memory. It is Pete... something. Crotty, I think. He has dreadlocks barely contained under a bandana and sings with an intensity that consumes the space. I tell Emily that I am myself in a really half assed way, but he is himself to the hilt.

We leave as a new performer is hitting the stage, really just a throw rug with microphones. Emily has had a long day of sparring white belts and can maintain consciousness only so long.

Soon in Xenology: NYU.

last watched: Little Miss Sunshine
reading: Still Life with Woodpecker
listening: Tidal

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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