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04.20.07 1:25 p.m.

Love allows a person to see the true angelic nature of another person, the halo, the aureole of divinity.  

-Thomas Moore


How Do You Titillate an Ocelot?

I turn around from pilfering yet another complimentary hot dog piece from the Hulk Hogan Grill booth in this strange, New Jersey mall to see a bespectacled woman pushing a release on Emily. Stuffing the hot dog in my mouth, I come closer to hear this woman convincing Emily to be in a commercial being filmed. Emily immediately asks if I can be on the same release, not bothering to ask if I wish to be in an infomercial. She knows that she doesn't need to, that I will eagerly do it because it will give me something more to write.I like her a little bit

We plan what we are going to say to allow ourselves maximum exposure. We play the part of a young engaged couple well, I noting that I like the grill's removable plates because I am the one that does the dishes. We make a point not to mention the competing and original grill hawked by a former fighter. We are photogenic and just this side of twee. The infomercial staff salivates over us and assures us that we will be in the commercial, but they likely assure everyone of this fact. It just happens to be true in our case.

The important thing to note here is that we only entered this mall because Emily had a Victoria's Secret bill in need of paying and this happened to be the closest mall to us when she realized it. We had no intention of appearing in a commercial, yet here we were, preening for the camera. Around Emily, things like this simply happen and often.

Now, I feel it is crucial to warn you that the rest of this entry will involve my doting over Emily in saturating detail. If you are diabetic, this is not the right Xenology entry for you. Here, read this one, it'll entertain you more.

She is the singular most incredible girl I've ever met. I know I have tread this material in detail before (how could I not?), but it hardly hurts to do so again. I am in awe daily of Emily as I am of no one else. I cannot relate the objective facts of her life - her affiliations, experiences, and skills - without sounding boastful. Even the most mundane aspect of her life are beyond my reckoning. Even here, I am reticent or forbidden to mention the best examples, except to say that she thinks nothing of any of it. Her work with Tibet House, her graduate work in International Education at NYU, her pedigree as the daughter of a respected artist and grandniece of a famous actress, having been a counselor to AIDS infected gay men and an avid Renthead before it was momentarily cool, spending eight weeks in Dharamsala teaching English to Buddhist monks, escaping Israeli war zones while serving as a nanny, earning inclusion into the Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame... none of this seems out of the ordinary to her. To her, it is simply what everyone must do, because it is what she does. She's too close to the subject to see how bizarrely lovely she is.

I once told her that I didn't think I was capable of creating a character as fascinating as she is. She chose both to take this as a compliment rather than a statement of stark fact and reassure me that I likely could if I tried.

Over dinner at a greasy spoon, I see the flare in her eyes as she says she is going to kick the ass of a tae kwon do rival in a future competition that will decide world standing. "This is my compassion," she says. I do not give her a look of surprise. "This girl needs to know that she can be beaten. It will be one of the best things that could happen to her." She will deny it if prodded (and she will be prodded) but she has a firmer grasp on the Buddhist concept of compassion than any other person I've met and she can dole it out on the tip of a pink padded bootie flying at her opponents head at fifty miles an hour. She is utterly serious about defeat as a compassionate gesture. From anyone else, I would laugh at this juxtaposition, but it makes total sense when she espouses it.

The fact that she adores me, that she is somehow proud that I am writing a fantasy series or that I manage to provide us a paltry home by teaching at a prep school, is the least of her virtues but one of the ones for which I am most grateful. It would do me little good to worship her from afar, though I would be far from the first person.

I don't know where her deftness at adventure will next take us. I am rather startled that we are in Anemia and New York City, respectively. She whispers other places as a kind of pillow talk. "What do you think of Washington, D.C.?" or "Do we know anyone in Indiana?" There was a time when this would have terrified me, a time not so far that I cannot still see it waving to me. I think that this neutral, introspective tendency partly doomed my romantic relationship with Kate. She wanted to see the Midwest, but I was too focused on her bedroom. Now, I am eager and curious for the next hand of cards the Fates deal. Ocelot!

I have lived much of my life pleased to sit back and watch. I am not lamenting where this has taken me. Marvelous things have happened by hitching rides and watching incredible people interact with their world. When Emily and I first started dating and I had issues with the degree to which I didn't know the woman with whom I spent my nights, it was her interaction with those people I loved that turned the corners of my heart and made things truly delicious to me. I loved her best when she was interacting with those I also loved best. For their part, nearly all found Emily hard not to like.

In my life, I've watched two women sleep as I lie in their beds. This intimacy seemed richer than what I had done to exhaust them so. I sometimes felt that I loved Kate best when she was unconscious, where I could just watch and protect her. Watching Emily is another beast entirely. She refuses to sleep with earplugs as I do, too inured in the mindset of the ninja to deafen herself. Even in slumber, it is hard not to imagine her vigilant and often have I accidentally woken her to see the fight or flight response gleaming in her eyes before she recognizes my innocuousness and hurls a pillow and "good morning" my way. It is like watching an animal, something exotic but familiar enough, somewhere in the neighborhood of an ocelot. An ocelot who gets me involved in Hulk Hogan Grill infomercials.

Soon in Xenology: Locations.

last watched: Adaptation
reading: Welcome to the Monkey House
listening: My Better Self

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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