Thomm Quackenbush, author

" Carpe Bombing | 2008 | Dream of Genie "

04.29.08 7:31 p.m.

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.  

-Confucius

 


Lacuna Beach

I would like to be able to tell you that I don't think much about Emily, that the thoughts no longer sting. It has been a bit over four months, after a relationship that lasted more than seven years. But I see a poster for a movie or hear a song and remember that I first experienced these with Emily. I count down the days to the end of my current job not only for itself, but because I will no longer have to answer the persistent questions from the students asking after my "wife". I won't have to visit the fitness center and see shades of her looking at me from the treadmill, smiling in love because I am mouthing the words to the songs in my headphones.

If I can just detach Emily from the memories, they can remain happy. But I remember Emily at my side and these happy memories take on a small ache because they are finite and irreproducible. Everything only happens once. Nothing is ever going to be the same as it was with Emily and sometimes, that is a great thing. And sometimes? It is really depressing. I know how happy I am with Melanie. Moreover, I'm happy by myself, not dependent on kisses for validation.

One of the hardest parts of any nostalgia is that the people you remember no longer feel the same. I hold these jewel in my mind - that picnic in Central Park, that perfect day culminating in a sleepover, that night on the lake, that evening after the play - and they have lost some of that inner fire because my companion for them left to love someone else, someone she was busy loving before committing to leaving. These memories used to be brilliant, glowing so well in the light that my eyes shone, that I related them for the pleasure of seeing people gag at how in love I was. Anything less is a glaring dimness, one that will continue to ebb no matter how I try to refresh it. You delude yourself into thinking the memories in your skull are untouchable, yours to keep, but they can be wrenched away like any other shared possession. None exist as solitary events, only as a long chain.
Emily  
Eat it, it is Knowledge!

At least I have what I've written to remind me, if I were in the habit of forgetting things simply because they now hurt. I've long regretted not writing these entries sooner in my life, so I would not feel I had lost so much of my time with Kate or even Jen, my first truly serious girlfriend. All that remains of those are letters I sent to friends when I was deep in angst and adolescence that hardly gives a fair picture of all the happiness and love we shared. Emily, though I still swallow hard the sadness of her egress, exists in full in my writing. Our meeting, our pain, our first through fourth apartments together, our reunions, our engagement, and our break-up. I may not know the full truth (I guarantee I don't), but I have painted the fullest picture I could of our relationship. My early entries were overwritten and ineloquent, losing the pearls to the ocean muck, but I have tried to do justice to the inexpressible.

I know Tim, Emily's new lover, didn't exist through most of the memories that I now have to handle so lightly for fear they will crack. He doesn't deserve the ability to stain these but he bears my resentment anyway. He didn't steal her away - she left quite willingly for his bed and, more over, people are not possessions to be bartered - but he was self-interested enough to do what he did knowing she was in a relationship (as was he). I recall kissing Emily before she formally dumped her prior boyfriend of a few month, whom she made out to be an abusive halfwit, and remember being in a similar but vastly less grievous position. Likewise, no matter how I helped, cared for, and supported Emily throughout our years together, she does not owe me now. Anything now is separate from her time in my arms, though it is contingent on it as well.

Months ago over lunch at Rock Da Pasta in New Paltz, Dan Kessler said, "I guess Emily is really with [Tim]." I nodded, wondering his point. "Just to be clear, and then I won't say anything more, this is the same guy who she felt guilty about giving a backrub a few months ago?" I conceded that it was and he did say nothing more about it, but I think there was a mutual comprehension. Emily had requested that I remove a mention of Tim from a previous entry about my flirting with Jacki and now I understand that she had already begun to cover her tracks for what she intended to do or for what she was already doing. I recall all the times she plead her disinterest, annoyance, repellence, or sororal feelings for Tim and remain uncertain whether these were momentary truths soon discarded or yet another story to throw me off. They sounded so much like my truths about other people or our faintly catty remarks that I only slightly questioned her intentions with him.

Another instance - before Tim loomed so largely in her life - was when she was at the Pagan festival Starwood last summer. A tertiary friend of hers sexually propositioned her despite knowing she was engaged to me. Then, Emily considered giving him a massage after weakly declining random, festival sex. If someone propositioned me, that would be the last sentence of theirs I would care to hear. Every wall I have would rocket up and I would put as much distance as I could between that person and me. I could not conceive of getting undressed and alone in a tent with them and touching them intimately. Even that she considered this and acted annoyed when I requested she not do this diluted our relationship a little because I know she was only telling me after the fact, asking forgiveness rather than permission.

It strikes me how she raged against me soon after the breakup to try to make it wholly my fault that she didn't want to be in contact with me. She endeavored to make it easier to justify leaving me for Tim after telling me a relationship was the last thing she wanted. She tried to lash out against me so I would reciprocate, but I only felt compassion that she thought this was necessary.

In this way, Emily reminds me of Sky, a girl I briefly dated when I was sixteen. Sky went through a trauma that I won't recount here. (It isn't fair to her, she has been victimized enough.) The deep suffering marred her. To cope with what had happen, with who she felt this made her, she lied or exaggerated, she manipulated as a matter of course. Once, she invited me over for a dinner she was making for her parents. I sat in the kitchen to keep her company and helped to the extent I could given then having no culinary skill. When we sat down to eat, she berated me in front of her parents for being lazy and a liar for claiming I was making them dinner and then forcing her to do all the work. I stared wide-eyed, shocked at the part into which she was trying to cast me. She needed therapy and she got a grocery bag full of pills. I don't know what happened to Sky, I don't know if she ever became Sara again or if Sara was someone she no longer felt the need to be, if Sara had bad things happen to her that Sky could never have endured.

I no longer completely know who Emily is, something I had always taken for granted. I have come to second guess even when she behaves fondly toward me, even when she acts like my friend, and I hate this new doubt. I don't know that our breakup wasn't like mine with Kate, that I wasn't the interference in her path finally removed. When I met her, Emily was on a certain course that might have ended in her graduated self-destruction (or not, this is all hypothetical and my obviously bias opinion). I felt almost as though I had saved her from it, but that is hubris for you. She had just gotten out of a bad situation, from trying to destroy herself and was, in ten other ways, finding different methods to make sure she didn't live, not the way she should have or deserved to. She has an addiction to pain. That may sound like a cop-out addiction, but not a day went by in our relationship that one of us didn't struggle with it. "Pain is transformative" is a line she always fed me about the Modified subculture. Pain takes you away from yourself. I think she doesn't want to be the conception of Emily that she had become when blanketed by our love. I don't flatter myself by believing that she left me to cause herself pain. I don't think leaving me hurt her. She's made clear again and again that she doesn't for a second regret how she ended things with me, no matter what faults I found, no matter how I would have respected being told the truth when she knew it. She left me and, much as she had come from Tim's arms, returned to them. She had no time to hurt.

Believing someone you love is not being honest aches within you. CS Lewis "proved" the divinity of Jesus with three options: that Jesus is a madman, Jesus is a liar, or Jesus is what he claims to be. Jesus did not behave in a crazy way in the rest of his life, he was not otherwise noted for telling people anything but the truth, so the only option left is that he was truly the Son of God. It is a specious argument at best, but a similar gambit could be used with Emily: insane, a liar, or that everything she said was sacrament. I could not stand the thought that my love was a liar or, worse, mentally unstable, so I believed she only spoke the truth to me. As I no longer can believe that, I cannot wholly endorse her divinity within my life but I wish that meant I could disprove it finally.

I told Melanie that I was jealous of the life Emily was leading, starting a job and promptly being sent to Peru to scope the area out and paint the fingernails of impoverished women, having a cheap house near friends where I near nightly cuddle down with my romantic partner. Melanie reminded me that, while this is indeed amazing, it comes with the price of being Emily. No one should envy her, being her is so hard. I don't share this thought with Emily - our friendship is so tenuous right now - though I think she would agree that being her comes at a high cost that few would care to pay if they truly understood.

Every time I write about her in this context, I think it is the last time. I just want her to be my friend and not my ex-fiancée. Though I do not know - and likely would not care to know - the intimate details of our break-up, I have a pretty good idea of when on inside her head through the months of November and December. She says she thought she was doing the best thing possible by sticking around for my birthday and Christmas, and I think she believes this, though she was already shifting her devotion to Tim as she shared a bed with me. But the emotions associated do not shut off. I loved her, or at least as much of her as she would give me when everything that wasn't pure is put aside. Some of the above paragraphs had been sitting for months in the primordial file that births all these entries, dictation from my voice recorder and little notes jotted down in haste before they flitter away. I just need to get these thoughts out and onto the page so they no longer weigh on me, as they have every time I scanned them. I do not want to have to write this entry again, but I acknowledge that seven years of emotion does not melt over night. At least until next Christmas, I am going to have experiences and realize that I am having them without Emily for the first time in a long while.

I will make new memories with new people, mine my life for new jewels to affix to shimmering chains. I already have dozens with Melanie that make me begin to glow and I am careful to appraise these during my quiet moments. In time, I will hang longer chains with bigger jewels and maybe some part of me won't be looking with longing upon those I've been forced to cast off. It isn't that I want to be with Emily. I just don't want to have lost something precious, even if it never really left me.

I think I've finally gotten that lesson in non-attachment.

Soon in Xenology: Beltane.

last watched: Blair Witch Project
reading: The Illuminatus! Trilogy
listening: Live At Fingerprints Warts & All

" Carpe Bombing | 2008 | Dream of Genie "

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

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush