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07.28.07 5:17 p.m.

One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.  

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Stormy Petrel

Fifteen-minute lunches and sporadic dinners in the Vassar dining hall aren't enough for someone who I wish played a more central role in my life. Jacki, though I care for and respect her more than I do the vast majority of the human race, has never been my best friend and to my chagrin has often been little more than a work friend. I met her working at her residential advisor for supposedly gifted kids at Bard College, I continue our relationship annually at Summer Institute for the Gifted but somehow allow myself to drop out of her sphere the rest of the year so I can ache to be touched by ghosts who have long since exorcised me from their lives. It is ridiculous and I know it, I've always known it, always known that I consider her witty, more literate than I can imagine, eccentric in a way that makes me smirk, elegant while silly, and a vast array of constellations that should rightly move me. For a while I could excuse that I really did think she was simply too good for me. This is not to say that she for a moment gave me reason to think this, merely that I chose to adopt it because she was more experienced than me when we first met and I was intimidated. Feel down

Of all our initial experiences at Bard, a single moment steps to the forefront of my memory. I went to her dorm room to tattle on one of the other residential advisors, who seemed to be getting a bit of tattletale from our underage charges. Jacki met me fresh from the shower. Prior to this, I had only ever seen the finished product, Jacki once she had applied make-up and done wonderful things with her hair, Jacki in an outfit that promised that light goth could truly to fashionable when done by someone not beholden to Hot Topic. This image of her au naturale, in simple clothing and without any make-up, felt like the first time I had even really seen her and I was platonically infatuated and a bit intimidated. Neither condition ever fully abated in the six years I have known her and I often find myself running at the mouth in her presence to overcompensate.

She is going through a rough time right now and I would feel I could be misconstrued as a foul weather friend - an accusation that has not been without merit in the past - had I not apologized for the general wretchedness of my behavior and vehemently insisted that I would work to make amends before she actually let on that things were not wholly peachy in her world. I won't go into her problems - given that she is still in the midst of them and I would rather like to finally deserve to be in her good graces, that would hardly be constructive or intuitive - but I feel she deserves considerably better of a lot in life, given an objective analysis of her multifarious virtues. I want to be there for her, as I feel I have not been in the past. Part of this is undoubtedly selfish - she is precisely the sort of person I should rightly seek out for deep friendship - but mostly it is that I would have liked to have had all the genuine support I could get when I went through similar straits.

I have made the effort, outside of the meals at Vassar. I won't stop when SIG ends for the year, because she is my friend and I have ignored her for so long without justifiable excuse, though I won't have the convenience of campus plays and atrocious performance art to give a sense of focus and shared suffering to our moments together.

Frankly, I need her as a friend. I have been feeling that my friends, at least those I have called that for the better part of the decade, no longer are. Like a pair of gym socks, the friendships have been worn past comfort and it seems like denial not to point out that an unpleasant aroma has developed. It isn't that I have outgrown them as people - people do not exist to be grown out of - but our friendship was based on ideals we no longer hold. To give examples seems condescending at best, as though what is important to me is more important than what they give their attention. Mostly, I think I have decided to stop wasting my time, attention, and affection on people who consistently make clear that I do not rank with them. That is not so much outgrowing them as outgrowing my need to cling to what they once represented. They are rare and wonderful and, like so much that is rare and wonderful, seem to choose extinction over adaptation. At the same time, I am trying to give more attention to those who will reciprocate my adoration. I have been more than a little remiss on this count and my soul cannot endure my behaving like such a hypocritical jerk.

Soon in Xenology: Lake George.

last watched: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
reading: The Light Fantastic
listening: Avenue Q



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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