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" Vicissitude | 2008 | This Beautiful Agony "

01.17.08 7:33 p.m.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.  

-E.M. Forster


Seven Seconds

Dave mentions the seven-second rule and, though I have known it by other descriptors, I promptly agree that it is true.

"What is the seven second rule?" Nikki asks us.

"Within seven seconds," Dave informs her, "a guy is supposed to know if he would ever sleep with a girl." I had always assumed that it wasn't gender based, that women were just as apt to make these flash judgments, but I am not so secure that I refuse the correction from our resident psychology professor.

She expresses disbelief, so I demonstrate how picky I am by mentally rejecting a girl who enters the Muddy Cup in New Paltz. She is wearing boots that make it look as though her toes end in a sharp point, something I can't tolerate, though I renege a moment later when she turns and is wearing a shirt with built in studded gloves and lovely, long fingers that rapidly turn a concert flier into an origami crane. The girl and I lock eyes and exchange smiles, and I feel slightly abashed for having discounted her so soon, though she will never know. She is redeemable, but not so much that I am going to give her that chance in person. But she is a lesson in taking that eighth second.

"You are going to be a hard man to shop for," Nikki pronounces. She considered that she would fix me up with her friends, though relented by stating that she is the strangest of all her friends. Strangeness was apparently an unspoken requirement of my future partner, and I was hardly offended at this. I am not made for all markets, though would be priceless in the right one. "Besides, that girl has a flat butt and no chest, though great hair."

"Well, she is Asian. And I don't really care a lot about things like chest size. My first two serious girlfriends could comfortably walk around without bras." I recall, in fact, rather liking that benefit of having a small chested girlfriend. Bras can be a pain for all concerned. I do have physical preferences, though hardly any set in stone. What I consider attractive tends to digress rapidly from the rest of society, which suits me just fine. The rest of humanity can salivate over Victoria's Secret models, I will flirt with the slightly disheveled girl in Salvation Army buying scarves and skirts.

Finally, Nikki and I work out a bipartite solution when I chime in that I would enjoy going dancing, both in itself and as a means meeting women. She was delighted at the idea of taking me with her and helping me pick up women, since I will clearly be desirable given the comeliness of my dancing buddy. I, in turn, will stand with crossed arms and keep other men from harassing Nikki and her friends by virtue of the fact that I am male and could hypothetically belong to any one of them.

"Cockblocker and Wingman... Wingwoman," I muse. "We could be superheroes."

Later, over dinner conversation, the topic returns to my dating predicament. I tell them both that I really want to be in a relationship that could feasibly result in marriage.

"Wow," Nikki says between bites of filet mignon, "tell a girl that on the first date and I guarantee that you'll get laid."

I laugh, since this is exactly contrary to the reason I would mention it. I honestly think I would terrify a good many girls with such talk, but I am seeking long term commitment and not simply a strange bedfellow for the night. Though, granted, I will have to confront completely noncommittal dating for a while before either the former sets in (followed by the latter).

Sadly, the seven second rule is not applicable on the internet, to my chagrin my default social network at the moment. Meeting people on the web feels inorganic. Prior to this, everyone I considered kissing I had actually managed to see in three dimensions and (shockingly) touch. In We Shadows, my protagonist Shane rants about how she can't stomach the internet as an information source because there was nothing about it, nothing sensual, to connect ideas with anything real. I feel the same way toward my digital lovelies. I try my best to tempt them into accepting a phone call, so I can at least have their voices in my ear for a few minutes. So much of our memory is composed of sights and scents. I never forget how Kate's head smelled, though those connections to my initial Jen only come as the rare flicker. I won't speak of Emily, since there are still things in my apartment that have retained her perfume.

Kate may, in fact, be the best example of this. I casually knew her for something like a year before actually meeting. She was only ever Tina's best friend, or the girl who sent me strange news stories. We had a relationship that consisted solely of bantering about how funny and scary the world was becoming. I assumed a lot of things about her, most erroneously that she was Asian because her last name contained an "ng", second only to the fact that she wouldn't be stunningly beautiful to me as a seventeen-year-old. True, she was getting over some adolescent acne and I was dating Jen, but I found her ravishing. The cold medicine with which I liberally dosed myself to be functional for the meeting may have contributed to my immediate interest in her, but some part of me irrevocably loved her on sight after so long of superficially knowing her. This half second mattered so much more than thousands of exchanged words, though they informed and justified my interest after Jen left me for my supposed best friend.

Currently, I exchange at least fond words with a half dozen women I have not physically met, words that had until now been the sole providence of just one. And I know, no matter which way these flirtations seem to go, they can be dashed to pieces on either side the moment we genuinely meet. Or I can meet some curious creature tomorrow who will induce something in me that not even my most literate cyber-darling has yet. At least these women have the arguable privilege of reading up on exactly what is going on in my life the way that some sweet stranger on the street would not; they are informed parties, which tends to make them friends should the necessary attraction simply not materialize.

And honestly, I am a little scared of what should happen if I genuinely feel the requisite pull to one of these women, seven second that could turn into seven years or (I hope) more. They will have the benefit of knowing my history already, of having read my best stories (and quite a lot of my worse ones). It starts the relationship out on a decided disadvantage, a relationship for which I would not yet be ready.

Soon in Xenology: Coping. Dates. Dia. Ideal Wives.

last watched: Juno
reading: Franny and Zooey
listening: A Light of Some Kind

" Vicissitude | 2008 | This Beautiful Agony "

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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