Thomm Quackenbush, author

" Operation Reconnect | 2008 | Flight of the Concord "

04.16.08 6:14 p.m.

The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Man's flaw is that he can deteriorate; and his virtue is that he can improve.  

-The Talmud

 


The Risk It Takes

I turn on my computer, intending only to tell Melanie that I am home and then go to bed. After her hello, she is silent for several minutes and then writes:

look, I just wanted to say, I'm sorry I was passive-aggressive and mopey and shit, but I also ought to clarify the following: I don't have all the time in the world. I'm supposed to be a college student, which involves hanging out with my friends, doing idiotic stupid things like driving around until two in the morning for no reason, and doing a helluva lot of homework. Generally, it's a full-time job. I love you more than I can express, so I'm happy to spend my weekends with you and Tuesday afternoons, even, so long as I spend them WITH YOU. If I have six hours, I want to spend them with you, or I want to hang out with my friends if I don't have too much homework. But I don't want to spend them feeling bad that I can't cuddle with you because it would hurt Liz's feelings. I'm glad to hang out with your friends for a little while, but I want you to myself, first. So yeah. I'd psyched myself out to see you and chill out for a little while and kiss and cuddle and banter, which is why I reacted probably more strongly than I would have otherwise. but just saying.

This came about because we had spent our Tuesday afternoon with Liz, going to a pub quiz. Melanie was almost instantly abrasive upon my picking her up, disparaging the necklace she'd asked me to get her. This roughness persisted as we went to a park called Poet's Walk to kill some time. She'd made several snide remarks in my direction until I finally grabbed her, kissed her, and asked her exactly what her issue was today. She gave me an abridged version of the above and I thought it was over. There had been a miscommunication between us - she assumed I would bring her back to my apartment for a few hours before the quiz, something I didn't understand when I arrived with Liz in my car - and it should have been over and we would do well to make the most of the rest of the day.

But that wasn't to be. At the park, she had her head in my lap, looking at the Hudson River glittering in front of the mountains. I kissed her chin and commented that it was sweet. She replied that that this was because her friend liked pineapple, an insinuation that she'd given him oral sex. She'd earlier made other remarks about how easily she could find another lover among her friends to express her frustrations, but it cut me to the quick given my previous relationship experience, something I think she knew on some level. It isn't as though either one of us is remotely tempted to stray. It isn't really in our individual natures, so saying these things is just hurtful.

It has been a long time since someone made jokes at my expense meant to wound. My friends and I banter and tease, actions I generally consider fond and affectionate. But this is different from honing in on points of weakness and attacking. In my romantic relationship with Kate, I recall a couple of times she outright insulted me on some point. I do not remember if I did the same, but I will wager I didn't have the emotional character to hold back and bear the hurt patiently. As should be obvious, these barbs stuck with me.

Melanie and I didn't talk much more about this for the rest of the evening. We kissed and were as close and affectionate as was possible at the pub. I largely assumed things between us were good, aside from some silence as we drove her home. It is my default setting to think things are fine unless I am given reason to think otherwise. It was only when I arrived home that she confirmed that she was still feeling resentful.

I know she is a college student. I'm tired of hearing it, even from her. I have been one of the biggest proponents of her having a college experience and fear that my presence in her life prevents this. She is young and has mentioned a couple of times what she would likely be doing had I not found her. She generally says this in a "I am so glad I'm with you, because I would otherwise be dating this girl/shagging that girl/having a threeway with my friends and no good would come of that" way, but the fact stands that my presence alters her life. With me, she doesn't get to be a full-fledged college student and make the mistakes that will guide and shape her, but she does get to be more herself sooner by her own admission.

Still, I know I am in love with a torch and can't be surprised when I get a little singed. She specifies that she is not precisely pissed off at me, merely pissed off, and acknowledges that this is likely childish. She doesn't want to be young, and I think it frustrates her more than she can express that age is an issue at all. In a more perfect world, there is no appreciable age difference and our life experiences - though different - are comparable.

I can give her Tuesdays to herself without question. Gods know, I have more than enough ways to entertain myself and friends to visit. It is far from my nature to hold loved ones back, even when that results in them leaving me forever. But she has kept her friends away from me so far. In fact, she was originally going to go to the Scientology protest without me and only relented when she saw how much it upset me. I believe my exact words were "I don't want to be your dirty little secret". I still haven't met any of them, since her friends ditched the protest. They know I exist. She brags of me and they surely see the marks she is teaching me to leave on her. I couldn't recognize them beyond a few pictures. I want to be a part of her life even at Bard because otherwise it is much easier to painlessly excise me, which is why I was so eager for my friends to meet her. I want to give her to my friends, to make them her friends. I've made that mistake before.

It's especially difficult for me to understand that someone if being inadvertently hostile to me because she wants to love, share with, and caress me and can't. I know she loves me as best she can. I remember what that meant when I was eighteen.

Soon in Xenology: Beltane.

last watched: Penelope
reading: Dune
listening: The Vines

" Operation Reconnect | 2008 | Flight of the Concord "

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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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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