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" Goldilocks | 2008 | Undressed "

08.18.08 12:39 p.m.

I know a way to stay friends forever, There's really nothing to it, I tell you what to do, And you do it. 

-Shel Silverstein


The Missing Piece

Hannah is supposed to come over because James has dumped her and she needs to be consoled, she needs at least to say the facts aloud so she can hear them and make them a bit more real outside her head. She informs me that, when she picked Daniel up from work prior to coming to me, he asked that they talk about her getting back together with him. She told him that this wasn't the right time to discuss this, meaning, I gather, that there will be no right time to discuss this because it isn't ever going to happen and he would do well to never mention it again. He responded - and I am paraphrasing here - that she is an emotionally frigid woman who won't find anyone else since she refuses to make those kinds of connections. Were I to try to woo someone to resume loving me, I do not think I would include a challenge and insult among my bag of tricks, but I have rarely been in that situation. (When I was I instead became obnoxiously friendly and sexually easy. This didn't work either.) It also suggest to me that he may have been harboring this hope for reconciliation as long as they have been living together and that he ignored his chance with Jenn - and women I never heard about - because, unconsciously, succumbing to them would mean relinquishing Hannah. This does, however, make the innuendos he directed at her in my presence all the more explicable. He was not joking, he was trying to keep a toe in the water of a pond he left two years ago.

I soothe her and listen about James, about Daniel, about lackluster men in her past who quite literally fancied a game of Warcraft over spending time with the woman who - irrationally - deigned to sleep with them. She feels she rushed into sex with James before she was ready, that she often does this when interacting with men. For her, sex is so much harder with someone you really care about. I don't always feel that she gave me the best impression of James, but she is genuinely repentant for that, as she was before the breakup. She acknowledges that she criticized him so thoroughly because of her own issues, not because she saw any fatal flaw in the relationship. I think it is quite the opposite. She saw a potential and future to their love and it scared her into helping him cripple the relationship. But she does want to be with James far more than she has wanted to be with any man since Daniel, from what I can tell. She wrote him a heartfelt letter on her new therapist's advice, explaining what happened from her perspective, how she felt about it, what she would like to happen now. It is all fairly standard, if honest and self-aware, but what strikes me most is her happy memory of his waking her so she could see the silver slimes he had discovered in a video game. She describes to me his enthusiasm, his excitement like a child on Christmas wanting to share his new toys, and I can't help but smile. I do think she could be happy with him if she lets herself and I know this would be a struggle for her.

"We should go check on Daniel," she says after an hour of this. Rather than bringing Daniel home after he told her they should get back together, Hannah had left him at the Eveready Diner. When we arrive, he sits in a booth, staring at the wall and spooning coffee into a cup of vanilla ice cream to make a tan soup. Before him are several picked over plates. Hannah goes to him first and I hang back, observing and assuming that we will go elsewhere while he cools off a bit more. She motions me to come over and I can feel the awkwardness rising with each step.

We order food and talk, though nothing about the current situation. Daniel plainly knows Hannah has told me her side of this melodrama, but he has no needs to tell me his, especially in front of her. He is especially silent, so we discuss literature and bad eighties movies as our safe ground, since all angst abates in the presence of "They Live". Daniel mostly doodles vaguely occult symbols on a yellow post-it on the front of his journal, an action that I read as anxiety pushing him to be somewhere other than this moment, sitting in front of the woman who rejected me and an associate he isn't certain is his friend. (I am.) I couldn't blame him for wanting to escape, even if he helped create this. I believe he was trying to do the best he knew how and it blew up in his face. He knows the unenviable position he is now in, with all his cards on the table, and realizing how his attempt to resume a relationship with the woman he secretly loves and to whom he is closest pushed a wedge between them (at least temporarily). Now he has to continue to live with her in an apartment that must feel smaller by the second.

After this lunch, Hannah returns me to my apartment while she brings Daniel home, though she says she may stop by later if she feels the need. I unload my car and am getting the next load when I see her outside my glass door. She resumes her place on my sofa and we continue our talk.

In the midst of this, I tell her about Emily's infidelity, of her leaving me, as a means of mutual openness. Hannah hurts and my inclination is to show her my scars, to let her know I have felt a pain that resembles hers. I unpack as I give my soliloquy, pausing and laughing at the right moments to make me sound almost human. It feels uncomfortably intimate for a few instants, unburdening myself so much so quickly after having maintained my observer role to this point, having collected my foreshadowing and factoids for the second something like this happened. The cleaning and organizing becomes almost involuntary, just to give my hands something to do, and I am grateful when Joanna, my upstairs neighbor to whom I pay rent, comes down to offer us fajitas and breaks up my velocity.

As I munch on a fajita, we dissect Daniel's actions, as it is unavoidable. I find his reported behavior curious, but not uncharacteristic. Neither of us are quite surprised, though we had not previously indicated our suspicions to one another because it seemed tacky to bring up such speculation about our friend. Hannah tells a story about Daniel liking a woman at work. When Hannah spent time with the two of them, she found that Daniel acted as superior to his crush as he does to the rest of humanity; his romantic interest did not spare the girl his judgment. One at least needs to recognize in women the things they value in themselves if one is to be successful and I understand that this did not result in a romance with the girl. Obviously, I don't know Daniel as well as I would like to, so I can't understand his actions as well as his best friend turned girlfriend turned ex turned roommate, but I try to have compassion for the antecedents. Life brought him to this point and I would like to know why.

I find this situation uncomfortable, since she lives with Daniel and she is now forced to acknowledge exactly where he stands in respect to her. It can't be simple to know that your housemate and closest confidant is irritated that you won't resume a relationship with him that left off two years ago and with good, mutual reasoning.

She says and I agree that Daniel needs to decide to progress on his own, he cannot wait for a woman to make him whole. Perhaps the right girl for him is out there somewhere, taking as passive a role to her destiny, waiting for Daniel to cure her ills as he is waiting for her. Hannah feels, if left to his own devices, he would play video games twelve hours a day when not working. If Shel Silverstein books teach you nothing else, it is that you must become your own complete person, rolling until you no longer have the lack. If you are hobbling because you are concentrating on your missing piece, you won't ever feel complete. You need to be as "fixed" as possible - as much as you can manage on your own - before you can find someone else to help with the rest. The person you are waiting for deserves to have you at your happiest and best for the relationship to be healthy and mature. I'm sorry to sound so very Hallmark, but they do have a point occasionally. Letting your life be a moratorium and monument for someone who may never come is ultimately lethal. There is something in Daniel remarkable and good, something Hannah and I note even as we are shaking our heads at his approach in suggesting reconciliation with her. It is not hard to imagine there is someone out there for him, he has a charm, and Jenn - who did not wish to date me - was keen on as many dates as she could get with him before he dropped off her map. He is our friend for a reason and we don't want to see his soul wasted on waiting.

We don't end our time together with any solutions, but I think Hannah feels better for having someone divorced from the situation to whom she can speak openly. She will try to win her way back into James's arms and find a way to keep the friendship of someone trying to win her way into hers.

Soon in Xenology: Vacation. Jobs. The Renaissance.

last watched: Chasing Amy
reading: Spook
listening: Highly Evolved

" Goldilocks | 2008 | Undressed "

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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