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05.10.07 3:30 p.m.

Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.  

-Jose Addison


A Second to Fracture

She promised to call me after her fight, as she always does. I know her so well by now that the outcome is plain before she says a word, in just the quiet intake of breath as I say my hello. She did not show her cocky opponent the compassion she so needed. Despite having pumped herself up, despite her hours of extra work and her new confidence in her abilities, she lost. She lost at Olympic team trials and would not be moving on to Beijing. She lost and was crushed.

"I'm broken," she admits. "They think I broke my wrist."

"How?" The broad details of her injury are obvious. She makes a practice of kicking and being kicked with blows that could and do shatter lumber. I want to know exactly what move did her in. I'm grateful that it wasn't her nose again, having held her hand the last time it was shoved back together and cauterized with acid tipped swabs.

"Blocking." Again, I can read so much into this, knowing her and the vagueness of her sport. Her wrist should not be broken from blocking unless there was a careless split second. She has guilt in her voice, as though she might get in trouble. She is annoyed that she did so many things right and it only takes one stupid mistake, one fraction of a second to fracture and end the fight. "They think that it isn't too bad, that I can wait until I get home to get a real cast. Two of my fingers are immobilized."Sheep has reached critical velocity

"What hurts worst?" Is it the injury, or is it the loss?

There is a second until she replies. "I'm not sure. That's a good question."

Not everyone understands the allure of a girl who spends a collective month out of every year in some form of bandages and casts, who travels extensively for business and pleasure, to get pummeled and to rise every time. Owing to my intense fondness, my parents think she is a witch who put some spell on me. While she certainly is a witch, it would be contrary to her ethics to cast such a spell.

It isn't easy to be without her, to know that every professional success is another week I will spend without her and every failure pulls her farther from her bliss for the week we do spend together. We are both grateful and cloyingly attached for every spare second we can find, but none make parting easier.

A continent lies between us in our thoughts. She absorbs in spurts what her trip to India may mean, that she will be fleeing familiarity for two months (though she thrice weekly wishes it were two weeks shorter and I keep reminding her that she already provided herself a possible out should she persist in feeling this way). We've never been apart nearly this long, two interrupted weeks while I was a Residential Advisor at Bard, three weeks as she nannied in the midst of Israeli bombing.

I try to remain calm about this, as there is very little I feel I can say here. She needs this six to eight weeks to serve as her internship credit when applying for jobs. No trip to India, no credit, and her degree becomes much more academic than practical.

The reality that Emily is actually leaving for two months is increasingly weighing on me as well. It wasn't that I ever supposed that something would come up or that she could or would stay. She needs to do this, I keep repeating to myself. It isn't in her control if she wants to be successful. But the part of me that wants to impotently claw at her legs and beg her not to leave me grows more resilient each passing day. What am I to do alone for two months, only some of which will be occupied by teaching at Vassar? I've managed three weeks with the threat that it would be five, with the threat that she was able to see missiles flying overhead, but this is understandably more harrowing. Despite my obvious concern, it is selfishness that drives me. I want her at my side, I want her there when I come home, I want all sixty sunrises she will see from the Himalayas.

I don't think she will return something so alien from me, or that she will find some nag champa and curry scented lover in my stead. She wishes I could come with her, but it isn't my experience to have. I just feel the growing emptiness that I will sleep alone in the middle of Anemia for a sixth of the year in the first summer where for the first time I have the means to make it truly memorable.

This all sounds dreadfully codependent and I am confident that Emily would largely reciprocate with my evident self-pity. I love and am loved, which is a rare blessing. I will have the rest of my life with her, so what is two months?

Soon in Xenology: New Paltz with M.

last watched: Dead Like Me
reading: Principia Discordia
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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