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" Get Real | 2008 | Cave Drawing "

02.16.08 11:49 a.m.

We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity - romantic love and gunpowder.  

- André Maurois


Creation Myths

Melanie and I did not leave my apartment from Thursday evening to Saturday morning of Valentine's weekend, though her original intention was that we would build some complicated cake for the sheer bonding joy of doing it and then go to a Freestyle Frolic that we nixed because it was held in a place decorated with fetuses and anti-choice propaganda. Instead, we made brownies from a mix because she forgot the recipe and neither one of us cared to leave our enclave to buy ingredients. While we kept ourselves busy, aside from watching one of the three romantic movies (So I Married an Axe Murderer) that I had planned, there is little else about our activity that would befit polite chronicling.

I told her that I love her, because I do. It is not the love I have for Kate or Emily, but it is love, a barely definable appreciation of the small divinity of her existence. It is the admission that I have a seed of something wonderful growing in my soul that can only blossom in the sunshine of her company.
I mined pictures of her on the couch for all they were worth

We were in bed, kissing as we do for longer that we should given that I ought to have been asleep and I confessed. I didn't know if she would say it in return, I didn't know that she wouldn't. If I knew for sure that she would say it back, it would take something from this confession. I don't need for her to love me back. I would appreciate it, but I don't need it.

She does love me, she said it immediately, but that wasn't what I sought. I just wanted to say that I love her. And I know that, in saying I love her, I have given her permission, I have taken this relationship to yet another level. I gave myself permission.

So I love Melanie. I love the green rim around her hazel eyes. I love how she smiles, wide but shy. I love how I look at her and she seems so small and I almost get scared of her, of what I'm doing to her and then she says something totally self-aware, self-effacing, brilliant, witty beyond compare and I relax and love her. I keep almost doubting her, doubting this love. There is no shame in that because, every time I doubt, I am reassured. Every time her kiss seems for a moment more mortal than divine, she does something, she says something, she is something and I love her.

I've died by fire and I've died by water. How could Melanie kill me, earth? My sweet little cynic, perhaps she could, bury me under the concrete of life. But she believes in love too. I'm making a romantic of her. Romance is one of the better venereal diseases.

And now I love Melanie. I love her and it feels true. So much with her feels true. Her touch is honest. It feels like I have always known her and it has been a month. She says things to me that should jar me and it is as natural as can be. I love her because it feels like I need to love her because I've always loved her.

Once something happens to me, it has always happened to me. When Emily left me, Emily had always left me. It wasn't reversible. On one level, I am aware and on the other I am constantly surprised. Whatever has happened is part of the cosmic flow. Once a rock is plopped in the river, you have to navigate around it if you are to keep moving. You can't move it without a lot of effort that likely won't be worth it because maybe the rock is supposed to be there, maybe this is supposed to have happened and your stubbornness just prevents you from learning the lesson of why the rock is there, the lesson you need to learn to justify the stumbling block. I ascribe to the notion that everyone in your life is there for a reason. I know that it puts me in the hands of the supernatural. I know that my darling little atheist would shudder very slightly - more than she does - at this thought that there is some divine purpose to her presence in my life beyond simply being in it.

We found each other at exactly the right time. We couldn't have properly known one another any earlier than we did. She tells me how she wasn't quite right before meeting me, that I wouldn't have liked her. Emily used to tell me the same. And I don't really need to probe further with Melanie. Obviously, when she was seventeen, I couldn't have conceived of this. The minute she said she was seventeen, I would have put her in a little box and there would have been no chance. She could have been twenty in a few years and she would still be in that box.

So I love Melanie for what she is, which is not perfect. I don't need her to be perfect. I need her to be her, to be present. Present even as I am occasionally dealing with the past. Even as she is dealing with her past and tentatively building the Lego foundation of our future together, a future that may never happen. There is a chance that, come June, this is over. She will go to France and she'll be gone. And I won't lie and say that wouldn't devastate me. But if that is what is to be, then I will have loved her for months as truly and as perfectly as I could. And as long as she is honest with me, I won't begrudge her.

I love her because she is truthful, because after our first date, as imperfect as it was, she sent me a completely honest account of her thoughts of feeling which was not always flattering for me. But in the end, that was kinder than anything she could have done. It is because of this, because of this truthfulness about herself and about us, that I can love her. I won't pretend that she was hard to love - I was ready to love, I'm in love with love, but that isn't why I love her. That isn't why I confessed my feelings to her, feelings that she well knew.
Xen, Zack, Emily  
Handfastings don't count

In a way, Melanie might get off lucky because I got booted out of a seven and a half year relationship on the very precipice of marriage. I am crushed that I am not getting married because I really set my mind to that. And it took me a month to get over it. For the most part, it took me a week. And I started living again. It took me two days and I was well on my way to effectively coping. I mourned and I ached, but I got over it. And so, in a way, I've been through this crucible so Melanie can't ever hurt me, not really. I can make myself totally vulnerable to her, she can stab at me and the worst I will do is say "Ow, I'm sorry that I've lost you." It gives me freedom because I can love her and know that no matter how badly this turns out - and I don't think that this will turn out badly - no matter how much I give myself to her, it will be okay.

I want to tell myself that I don't love Melanie, that I am infatuated, but no. I don't idealize her. I couldn't love her if I idealized her. I don't know if what she feels for me is more than an infatuation, but infatuations are still a kind of love, something that can be built upon. Frankly, I believe what she feels is genuine. Fatuousness, even the term, denigrates what she feels. She is too smart and too philosophical and, despite it all, too emotional to say that she loves me unless she really does.

I've loved a few people. More importantly is when I said I loved them. With Jen, it was during the Winter Ball. We were slow dancing and I looked into her brown eyes and said, "I love you." She later told me she heard it in her head before I said it, that she knew it was coming. She didn't say it back to me for six months, and only begrudgingly then. I don't know that Jen ever really loved me, I think I just wore her down. I began the process of loving her from the moment I met her in the seventh grade, when she made her eyeballs vibrate in lieu of an introduction. Even as she left me for my best friend, I loved her because real love doesn't disappear. You can twist the sword, but the love is there. You may have to twist the sword because the love is there.

I don't know when I told Kate that I loved her. But I remember when I loved her. She escaped from her parents' house and told me she was coming over to spend the night. I had never spent the night with a girl, this was rather a thrilling concept, but I couldn't have her sleep in the bottom bunk with my brother Bryan above us. It would be an inauspicious beginning and I had erotic intentions for my first proper night together. Instead, it being a cool summer night, I created a nest in the shed on my parents' property. There, kissing and fondling until well after the dawn broke over our nude bodies, talking the night away, I knew that I loved her utterly. It grew, and it waxed and waned. No, the outward expression of it waxed and waned, my love for her was a constant. My love for her is present now. She is an amazing human being. Now that I've gotten well past the issues with her, I realize far more keenly that I've always loved her since.
There is something in us that loves a skink

With Emily, I remember the first time I told her I loved her. We were in FAO Schwarz. She put on a witch hat and she was so cute. I said I loved her, but I didn't totally mean it yet, though she said it back. But I do remember when I really loved her for the first time. Later that day after seeing a production of Jane Eyre, the musical. As we mocked the horridness of the play, as we dashed through the crowded streets afterward, it was like everyone else was moving just a fraction too slowly and we were moving a bit too quickly. It put us in another dimension and the city was ours. I don't know if I told her I loved her then, but that was the moment. It was a weak love, it pulsed slowly, a fire that didn't quite catch. I came to love her so much more that it infused my cells. It became a biological function to love her. Well after she'd loved me and accepted me, prostrated herself as far as I was concerned, I finally came to find her safe and safety was something I came to want and need in a relationship. To know that she would not be going anywhere made it safe to love her. I still have affection. I see her and I love her. I talk to her and I love her. She screams "fuck you!" at me and I love her.

Once I loved Melanie, I had always on some level. When she wore braces as an eleven-year-old, I loved her without knowing her. There is a theory that any sufficiently advanced god can shape reality to create evidence throughout time, so they will have always existed. Love is my religion, love is my god. Once I love, I have always loved. Even if they were flawed, evolving people I could not have then been with, I love them. I loved that part of them because it shaped them and made them who they are now. It is their creation myth. How can you honor their sacred divine without acknowledging this at least as an interesting anecdote? So I love Melanie, it isn't a romantic motion, simply how I feel.

Soon in Xenology: Cave Drawing Ink.

last watched: So I Married an Axe Murderer
reading: Franny and Zooey
listening: Colour the Small One

" Get Real | 2008 | Cave Drawing "

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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