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" Take This Waltz | 2008 | Apologia Pro Amor Sua "

07.09.08 1:11 p.m.

If you are losing a tug-of-war with a tiger, give him the rope before he gets to your arm. You can always buy a new rope.  

-Max Gunther


Fantasy and Reality

While sitting in the bookstore, plotting how best to murder the pretentious middle-aged writer who squeezed in next to me, I notice some woman with her child looking at the bargain books. My attention is eager to be somewhere other than the sci-fi/fantasy writers' group meeting (or rather, members thereof) and this woman is oddly captivating. Our eyes lock and I instantly excuse myself from the table.

Approaching, I wrap my arms around her with no preamble. When I release her, she said, "It's Chrissy."

I assured her, as if the hug were not validation enough, that I remember her. Chrissy is the first girl I dated who emotionally engaged me between kisses. Prior to her, I'd dated a slow girl who went on to become a stripper and Chrissy's older sister Marie, who passed me off after a month to be with the boy who would later father her children. Inasmuch as a fifteen-year-old is capable of complex emotions, I had them for Chrissy. After four months, she dumped me for a drug dealer named Joe, but four months is practically a lifetime when one is fifteen. For the next few years - until just after I started dating Kate - we would see one another on occasion. The last time, we walked to a bowling alley near my parents' house and she told me of waking up in a strange house naked, of knowing she'd been drugged and all that mattered now was getting out before the men laughing in the next room came in for another session. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident.

Despite how I know this must make her sound, I always found her to be a sweet and bright girl, well worth my compassion and continued positive regard. Her situation was far from one I would wish on an enemy, but it was one she did her best to refuse and rise above no matter how it threatened to pull her down. Others in her position would give in, let it swallow and define them, but this was never her prerogative.

"What are you doing up here?" I ask, though I am not sure I have the direction right. There was a time that she lived with her sister Marie upstate, but I stopped keeping track years ago, just after Chrissy gave birth.

"I live here now," she replies, her voice soft and high. She reminds me, sans lisp, of Ellen Greene in Little Shop of Horrors, this adorable woman whose smile is a reaction rather than something more honest, like a child lying to her teacher about how she got two black eyes. "I was in Florida."

"Why would you move from Florida to here?"

"There were guy problems. Adam's father," she begins, motioning to the five-year-old boy with a constellation of freckles who is paging through an astronomy book nearly his size, "it got kind of rough." She laughs in a hollow way. "It's not actually funny at all. I just joke because..." and she trails off.

"I know, I do the same thing."

"I had to get out of there quickly," she continues. "I put him in prison. Domestic abuse. Horrible. Um... I basically packed and escaped with Adam while he was being put in jail. I thought I had everything, you know? He had money and... yeah." Because what else can she really say? She knows that money isn't enough, that no amount can compensate her for what she's felt, what she's been through. "It was good for a while."

I just shake my head in sympathy, though I could more or less have written this scene for her without meeting her again. I wish that weren't true.

She goes on that she is going to community college now to finish her associates and then she wants to become a teacher so she can support herself and her son. Maybe she can't take care of herself so well, but I sense she have the maternal instinct of a bear and would destroy anyone that she thought would harm her son. "I've got to take care of Adam... he's so smart."

We look over to him, telling Chrissy's friend about some nebula in the book. He seems innocent in the best way. He doesn't know what his mother has survived and he shouldn't ever.

I give her my contact information, though I'm not sure that she will use it. There is something good in her and I would like if I could be a friend to her again.

I return to the writers' group for another forty minutes, but I can't focus as the guy next to me tries to start the slow clap over a poem that does not touch me, as though the writing of it were somehow heroic. He just wants everyone to pay attention to him, to make this about him again. After my few moments with Chrissy, I especially don't have patience for that. The group retreats to an upscale diner, where they argue over the anti-feminism of the Buffyverse and I try to get taken in by a world where a woman can put a stake in the monster trying to beat her to a pulp and suck her life out.

Soon in Xenology: Hanniel. Self-pity/evaluation. Interviews. Fireworks.

last watched: Wall-E
reading: The Princess Bride
listening: Highly Evolved

" Take This Waltz | 2008 | Apologia Pro Amor Sua "

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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