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" Seven Seconds | 2008 | Change or Die "

01.21.08 2:37 p.m.

The purpose of creating a distinction between the sacred and the non-sacred is to imply that the non-sacred should sacrifice to the former.  

-Joel Kramer


This Beautiful Agony

Sarah the Vet Tech and I go to the Dia Museum, if just to give ourselves something a bit more active to do than sit and talk. (I am rapidly running out of clever stories to tell her and I worry there is really nothing underneath them.) We are philistines, making sardonic observations about a room full of whitewashed canvases or Fred Sandback's yarn sculptures. "My feeling," I inform her in a stage whisper, "is that art has to be something on which I know not to step and that I am incapable of creating alone. Failing that, I feel a bit underwhelmed and doubtful." This, perhaps, sums up more than simply my opinion of the visual arts.

After we insult modern art and move onto disparaging tea, I realize how tempting it would be to seduce Sarah, here on the ratty green sofa in The Muddy Cup, though I don't like her beyond our burgeoning friendship. Though she is cute, I am not attracted enough to her to bridge that gap with any sincerity. This pricking thought causes me to realize something has gone more than a little wrong in my thinking, that I am not as stable as I otherwise could be.

I am at a stage in my life where my every urge is almost definitely wrong for me. I want to give in to Emily telling me that she misses me, to misinterpret her words that she is thinking about me and want to share her experiences with me in the way most flattering; I want to fall into the electric eloquent words of a college student seven months legal; I want to get married in general; I want to seduce strangers who might be attracted to me, if just so I can feel wanted, not because I feel anything compelling. I now understand the appeal of being a tease - of leading people on and taking them nowhere good - and this frightens me. I know it would feel good (exquisite) while they reciprocated, as I made the object of my seduction breathless with unrealized passion before chastely demurring that I'm not ready to go any further, and then it would feel awful, as what I had done to another person so I could feel vividity collapsed upon me. I know I could do it - maybe not with Sarah, but someone - and this rattling cognizance feels alien to me. Alien, but not as unwelcome as I pretend.

In my novels, the dominant species of vampires (what an odd phrase to write) isn't evil as much as all id. Their every lust is all the matters, they have no superego to monitor their behavior and make them function as societal constructs demand. Melanie, the eighteen-year-old dark one so keen on my company and kisses when she returns to Bard, advocates relenting, to stop thinking and start feeling. The advice has a familiar ring to it. I tell her that I cannot yet, that I have an overabundance of soul - what she calls conscience - that prevents my giving into appetites without utter compassion for the other person. My soul hurts as I fight against my urges, but the ache reminds me that my soul is still there. That is what I choose to feel, this beautiful agony.

This museum meeting with Sarah is not a second date, though I worried that I wouldn't have the social tactfulness to explain this should she ask. She did not ask, because we were definitely on the same page, that of friendship and mutual frustration at the dating scene. However, just before leaving for this meeting, Padma, a woman with whom I have been speaking intensely for a week, told me that she was available to meet with me today. That would have been a date, but I want Sarah for my friend and had made my commitment to her days before. Breaking this promise, no matter how I explained my reasoning, would be dishonest to me and unfair to her. Reveling in Padma's "haughty nose" and "imperious cheekbones", to say nothing of the scent of the almond perfume behind her ankles (all of which she devotedly details in her profile), would have to wait for another day. Padma is transient, rarely in one place long, so I imagine there will be time when she is a bit closer.

I'm less than confident in how to proceed in dating, since I am presently universally noncommittal and, wisely, no woman has yet asked me to be otherwise. To the best of my ability, I try to make certain that every woman with whom I am on a date or am chatting with more than casually is aware that there are other females in my life and head, if not heart. I sometimes make mental lists of what attributes I find most attractive about each as a way of deducing just want I am seeking in a partner, though I am not yet breaking my relationship quarantine with a delicate kiss on any lips. There will come a time for kissing, but even then, it doesn't mean much more beyond that I am ready to kiss and be kissed in return. Kissing, if nothing else, seems like a social affection, something my heart can bear this time if provoked with the right stimuli. I don't believe, despite rechristening the girls by their salient character trait or profession (Jenn the Artist, Sarah the Vet Tech, Padma the Transient Writer, Lisa the Sane, Dana the Pie Elf, Melanie the College Student), that I am capable of objectifying them in the least, of reducing them to anything less than brilliant souls in lovely bodies. It would be much easier were I able to psychologically detach their lips from the intellects that impress me, if I wasn't too fond of them as people to subject them to my emotional morass until I am certain I can more than make it worth one's while.

Sarah and Jenn have become my main confessors, a role I need if I am to begin to surmount my overwhelming residual attachment to Emily. I need them to speak with so I do not call Emily for another day, another hour. I like them both, they are my friends and I hope that they see the relationships as reciprocal. The rest are flirtations of various degrees, Melanie and Padma most adamantly and the rest simply women I hope to meet. I don't think any are necessarily my future life partner, but I would be ridiculous to close myself off from the opportunity. But, if one so strikes my fancy that we become a couple, I will need a good cover story for how we met because I am chastened against being an internet dating success story.

Soon in Xenology: Coping. Dates. Ideal Wives. Melanie. Jill. Dana.

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

" Seven Seconds | 2008 | Change or Die "

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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