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" Expiration Dating | 2008 | Recovering the Satellites "

05.17.08 2:33 p.m.

Time hasn't stopped for any troubles, heartaches, or any other malfunctions of this world, so please don't tell me it will stop for you.  

-C.S. Lewis



I had managed not to cry until the very end - until we sat, nude and cuddled together, playing on the internet and I realized how much I would miss something so simple. Then my tears drained out of me finally, delicate and slight, but constant. She reciprocated on my bare shoulder, something she's never done, something she swears she never does. Her breaking this commandment feels sacred. She said, when she rarely cries, she has the best reasons possible. Melanie and I are silly and frivolous together and it is completely serious. She's so young to be talking of forever, but she doesn't shudder to say it nor do I to hear it. I've made her delicate, but she is stronger for it.

I am delicate. I will manage these three months, but her departure got very close to my core. It made me more naked than I have been in a while, since Emily left me. Melanie asked for the pendant I always wear around my neck, a silver glyph representing Odin's ravens, and I gave it to her with nary a second thought, taking in trade the amethyst she always wears. These are lovers' tokens, concrete troths that we will return to the other's arms. She made me promise that I would not take it off until she returns to me. Then we made love and clung to one another like we were sinking into the mattress.

I have never in my history of dating gone three months without touching my lover. There had been times with Kate when we went for months without sex because she was working through an issue, but there was a glut other affection to compensate. There was the period between Kate and Emily where I certainly wasn't having sex, but I was touching others and being kissed (though not always as I wanted). I doubt there has been three months in my life since I started dating that I have gone so long without being kissed.

She is coming back to me but she'll be gone for so long, almost as long as we've been together. It is said that one does not know the depths of one's love until hour of separation and I don't know what I felt for her could be considered a drop in the sea I feel as I feel her tears on me. I spend so long aloof, by my standards. (By the standards of any reasonable person, I was Casanova.) I feel decidedly fortunate that she is in my arms. She is so charming that I want to show her off constantly. I want people to say, "Wow, he got her?" If she is my trophy wife, she is made of pure gold.

I'm going to do it. I'm going to be true for her and for myself. She says this is the last summer it will be so severe. Next summer, it may be a month here, a week there, but never three months in a row. Never again a quarter of the year, never such crucial months parted. This wrenches her as deeply as it does me, but she has promises to keep and miles to go.

On the ride back to Bard, we didn't cry much. I tried to talk about anything but the elephant in the car, but it squeezed in poorly and my head kept bumping into its trunk and tusks. I am unused to and constitutionally unwilling not to discuss at length exactly what is on my mind.

I know that people say things happen for a reason and I have to find a reason for this. She has to go, she's always had to go. Melanie is in a place in her life where she must return to her parents because they are the ones paying her tuition. Tuesday, her mother is picking her up and driving her back in one long trip, Hudson Valley to Hudson, Ohio.

This pushes me farther into the clutches of my abandonment issues, through not intentional fault of Melanie. To know that everyone is going and I am still staying and trying to put roots in a soil that seems to avoid purchase shakes me. I know they aren't leaving me, but I am part of what they are leaving behind.

I'm going to spend June alone. Last June was so hard. Emily left just as school was ending. I just sat there in our tiny apartment, so bored and lonely and trying to find someone to be with me for even a few hours. Trying and failing because I am one of the few people who immediately jump to the needs of foul weather friends. It is easier to be close to them and gives direction to our activities in a way impossible under fairer skies.

It was a lie that I look forward to being "single". I know I can handle myself, but I want someone to come home to. No one ever stays and I have to let people go. It's wrong to keep anyone. They aren't mine to keep. But I want someone to keep, I want someone to keep me.

It goes with that lesson in non-attachment I swore I learned. No one belongs to you, at best you get them for another day, another hour, and you can choose to appreciate that time together or fritter it away worrying that they are going to leave. Even if Melanie never returns to me - and I do not question in her devotion that she will - I will have had an amazing few months as her companion and lover. Though I was nursemaid enough for my heartbreak, she was a fine assistant. I will try never to regret what we had, because we had it in full honesty. The more you cling to anything - a person, an idea, a situation - the more it owns and controls you. You must travel lightly if you are to travel far.

Still, I have longed for most of my life for a cohesive group of mutual friends, a substitute family. I didn't want children. I want adults who love me. To watch sitcoms and feel a pang of regret that you are not Joey Tribbiani is a pathetic act. I've worked so much of my life to have that. That is what I'm most seeking. I want to know I can go somewhere and be around people to whom I matter.

This is one of the reasons why I write, so I'm not totally alone. Someone is reading. Someone is caring. I can create people to love me, to need me to pay attention to them for life. I create people and I breathe life into them and then I hope they breathe on their own, like CPR.

It was light when I drove Melanie this way, now night has fallen. Melanie is the thing that slowed time. In her arms, everything was forever. How can forever be put on hold?

Will she have spent all this time crying? This isn't beautiful, it's sad. I don't hold back anymore, that's part of being real, not fictional. To acknowledge that this is what I am feeling, that I am not just some character to whom these things happen. To admit that this is really taking something vital out of me and I have to derive a means of compensation if I am to thrive.

To think I've become reliant on my time with Melanie. To know that Thursday will roll around and I won't be driving to pick her up to share my bed. We would cuddle and caress and make love and she would fall asleep in my arms. It wasn't like with Emily, who would bury herself in blankets, a quilted mummy. I could as well be two hours away and it seems I often was, even when she was home. Melanie would fall asleep on my chest, would grasp me in her sleep as if to get even closer.

Today, after we made love, we drifted off in a nap and I didn't want to. I didn't want to miss a minute of our limited time together. But just holding her relaxed me totally. I have never dreamt as vividly or intensely as in her arms. It isn't just that she trusted me, she decided so quickly that I wasn't simply someone to maul. Her artifice has fallen away and I've come to love her so much that it feels it is all I can do, that every breath is "I love you".

I know how to do this, I have a schema. I have had my lover be elsewhere, but never so long when she is so new. I've never just had to know that I was going to be alone no matter what I did.

She is mine in a way Emily never was. Our only real fight - which isn't the term - was over the fact that she wanted to be mine even more. She didn't want to share me. It is shameful that we have stars crossing us, Castor and Pollux. But what is the point of love if you don't believe, if you can't have total faith that this person is the one? Why would you go into it if you don't think you are going to give them everything? Otherwise, you are just left with bits and pieces scattered among dozens and you feel, understandably, incomplete.

The axioms disagree: Out of sight, out of mind or distance makes the heart grow fonder. It depends on the sight, it depends on the heart. I can love someone who isn't present, but I wish I had more things that smelled like her. Scent is the sense most strongly tied to memory. On my first date with Melanie, I recall mentioning befuddlement that she smelled like nothing so much as a girl when I expected her to be lilacs and vanilla (which she nearly was, just to give me the right impressions). I don't know that anything in my apartment smells like her, certainly nothing that would last three months. So often around me, she showered in my bathroom, meaning she used the products I used, rendering her an olfactory double. There are little things - the Carmex on her lips, the Cetaphil on her face. Her clothes have a scent, but it is generic fabric softener.

She won't be there when I wake up for ninety days. It's like a prison sentence for the theft of a nymphet's heart. It is three of Persephone's pomegranate seeds. (In awareness of this mythological necessity and unable to find a fresh one, I bought Melanie pomegranate juice and salsa.) It is a trimester, almost enough time to form a viable being. It is a season.

So quickly, Melanie became my overnight guest. On our first date, I told her that I wanted to sleep with her and I only meant in a bed with her. She jumped at the idea before I corrected it. We had our first date on Tuesday. On that Thursday, I was sleeping in my new bed with her. For many Thursdays after - for most Thursdays after - I slept next to her. So it's twelve Tuesdays where I won't take her on a date, twelve Thursdays where I won't pick her up for a sleepover, twelve Fridays I won't come back to her in my bed, twelve Saturdays I won't try to coerce her to leave my apartment and be social instead of just sexual. Twelve is not as bad as ninety. My schedule will be different, everything will be different when she returns. It's difficult to realize how attached I had become to this small, exquisite creature in my bed. It's intoxicating.

In many important ways, she is like me. In the crucial ways, ways I didn't even realize were crucial. I don't think most people understand how I feel, which is a very adolescent way of thinking. My younger brother and mother joked that I would quickly find someone to fill the space left in my bed. My memory is short to them, my soul is foam, and all that is important is that I am with someone. A small part of me saw their point, which is shameful, but it isn't true. Melanie is something special or I wouldn't consent to love her. I feel so safe with her, which is why I let her kiss me that first time. She is mine in a way I require.

My face is hot from tears. I'm not just going to find someone, I'm with Melanie and I've given her my commitment and troth. She joked - half-joked - asking if we could get married over the internet while she was away. I knew we could. Probably, we aren't going to, but the thought struck us both with sad grins.

I wanted so much to make this weekend everything. I took her to Hokkaido for sushi. She cut loose at the prom. I have to go and be normal tomorrow, to lead my double life at work. These boys I work with will never have the emotional culpability to understand genuine love of a romantic or platonic sense. I will have only this work and then empty hours once given to Melanie. How will I fill them now?

The trick is to find the blessing in the curse, what people are talking about when they mention the silver lining. You find the way in which this isn't fatal, in which there is something positive to be gained by this. In a way this gives me exactly what I need, time on my own to finish healing, to get over the morass that is what remains of my broken engagement. I'll be single in the way that counts, autonomous and close enough with Melanie that I won't think of things like dating. I will ache from missing her, but I will be healing.

Soon in Xenology: Dreams and nightmares. Merideth.

last watched: Cloverfield
reading: The Illuminatus! Trilogy
listening: Live At Fingerprints Warts & All

" Expiration Dating | 2008 | Recovering the Satellites "

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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