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" What Dreams May Come | 2008 | Little Did He Know "

05.25.08 2:00 p.m.

No man can purchase his virtue too dear, for it is the only thing whose value must ever increase with the price it has cost us. Our integrity is never worth so much as when we have parted with our all to keep it.  

-Charles Caleb Colton


Of Affection and Restraint

I said no, so I shouldn't have any reason to feel this way, as though I'd transgressed just by being present for an ambiguous moment. Merideth and I sat closely on her sofa and talked of inconsequential things, but it was neutral as far as I was concerned. She'd actually just put on cartoons, which precludes seduction for anyone over the age of fifteen.

It was 12:30AM. I said that I needed to go. She told me that I don't. Blithely, I reiterated that I did, that it is late for me and I have a long drive. I've hugged her goodbye and I am in my car before I digest what one could be implying by suggesting that I don't need to go home. I don't know and I don't think she was suggesting anything untoward, but the realization of the situation into which I could have placed myself startles me. The evening to that point reedits to show every potential infraction that I didn't notice, every remark that I took at face value that could have been subtext or innuendo. When she told me of her unfaithful friends and wild parties, of the crate full of sex accoutrement she used to sell, I assumed these were just funny anecdotes that informed her character. Outside in the glow of the streetlights, I wonder if I was right or if she was testing the waters. I wonder further if I just look for nonexistent patterns in the noise.

I don't want to have to be careful. I know that I spoke about using this time to be "single", even though I am not truly single and certainly don't want to be. I know that Melanie cuddles up with a couple of her friends at school and gives me carte blanche to do the same, because she trusts me not to go over the line. I'm committed. Merideth may have had her head on my chest while we spoke, but Melanie's pendant hangs around my neck and I never question which weighs on my heart. I have no trouble with the idea of cuddling up with people. I mark some of my best memories those where Emily, Keilaina, Zack and I were sharing the same air and blanket. Social affection is nothing sinful or wrong. It is something I've dearly missed, though I can't say it feels the same when I don't platonically love the person resting against me.

Last year at SIG, I felt affectionately but not romantically toward Jacki. She had been dumped by Kevin and was vulnerable. I desired to touch her to let her know how much I cared about her and that I wanted her to thrive. Emily wasn't gone that long then, a month. Still, I wished to spend a solid hour just hugging Jacki, as though skin contact alone could ease her heartbreak and make up for all the time I was a lackluster friend. I wanted to coddle and hold Jacki until she smiled honestly and consistently, without the glimmer of tears. I restrained myself then, because I was scared not to. I restrained myself then, knowing that I was doing it and why.

With Merideth, I didn't know there was anything to restrain. My leaving her apartment had everything to do with it being a half-hour past when I initially intended to go and nothing to do with her suggestion that I did not need to return home, whatever that meant. (I may just be too analytical.) I was guileless, focused solely onto on getting home. If she were suggesting I would spend the night with her, I played it very cool. It was the right decision no matter. It's nice after a decade of sexual activity that I am innocent. In a world of social affection, one needs to remain as innocent as possible.

Soon in Xenology: Hannah and Daniel.

last watched: Stranger Than Fiction
reading: The Illuminatus! Trilogy
listening: You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This

" What Dreams May Come | 2008 | Little Did He Know "

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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