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" Undressed | 2008 | Writers Anonymous "

08.28.08 11:23 p.m.

All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others. 




I call Hannah, since I am in Poughkeepsie and the open mic night at the Cubbyhole does not seem to exist as advertised. Hannah calls back in an instant, informing me that she is driving around without any direction. I tell her to direct herself toward Vassar and we would get dinner.

There is something faintly off about Hannah when she arrives, but I don't read anything in her as particularly worthy of comment as we eat our tempura and talk about college professors. It is only once we are wandering around Vassar to digest that she divulges the reason for her availability this evening. Minutes before I called, she had just finished a conversation with Daniel where, she believes, she had begun to get through to him the unlikelihood of their ever becoming a couple again. She suggests that she felt he was on the brink of crying, a sight I cannot imagine, and that she got out of the apartment to avoid being drawn into the strangeness of his tears.

There is no one in this situation who does not have my sympathy. Hannah has to live with a man who confessed that he still loves her after two years of being broken up but still roommates and best friends. She has reminded him of her lack of reciprocation, though it would be easy enough to just use him for sympathy and neglect what a disaster that would become in a matter of hours. Daniel has put his feelings on the line - keeps doing so despite the apparent fruitlessness of it - and has to very literally live with the consequences of his ill-timed honesty. To keep progressing in this self-discovery, he needs to feel validation, something that he won't be getting by loving Hannah any more than she can stand in a friend. In a longer view, her rejection might be the best thing to happen to him, but it can't feel that way right now (and, having been told by an ex that our breakup would turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to either one of us, I can vouch for how little I wanted to hear that despite its eventual truth). To varying degrees, I have been in both sets of shoes. It is a morass, an interstitial period between resolutions, and it feels like Purgatory. Nothing about this is clear or simple and, as a matter of its nature, it can't be. Daniel can't turn off his feelings because Hannah doesn't want to share a bed with him and, especially after so long as former lovers and current friends, Hannah cannot turn hers on, knowing how easily and likely this Purgatory could turn to Perdition.

Night falls and we end up on a bench outside the Cubbyhole, watching men unload garbage from a Chinese restaurant. Our conversation comes around to exes. James, Hannah's most recent ex, called her and spent three hours crying on her telephonic shoulder over a girl who dumped him two years ago. As she still cares about him, she listened even though she is about the last person on Earth with whom he should be having that conversation. She had to feel the pang of parallels the more James spoke of this ex, but she did not mention it to me.

Hannah points out how odd it is that I am still in contact with Emily, given what I'd been through in the breakup and how tenuous anything like a friendship between recent exes can be from her own experiences. It isn't easy, I assure her, and I'm not sure it has any purpose aside from grounding me in reality. My relationship with Emily was far from perfect, as evidenced by its demise, but talking to Emily prevents me from demonizing a flawed woman I loved. Loving her brought me to one of the best points in my life, so I can't exactly hate her, even if I still begrudge her for misleading me and leaving me for another.

I overtalk with Hannah to compensate for the intimacy of years we did not spend together. I consider her among my best friends, especially as others dwindle in my life or abandon me without a word of warning. We get along so famously, better than I have gotten along with another writer I wasn't dating. (Daniel mentions that he has kept his distance from me because I am a writer and his experiences with Hannah lead him to believe writers are not to be trusted. I don't disagree. We, for example, write about other people's relationships like they are fictional characters of which we are exceedingly enamored.) I want to have Hannah know me fully, as I want to know her. I feel comfortable telling her the thoughts I shudder to share with anyone but Melanie - like how I felt I subconsciously flirted with people when I was with Emily in hopes someone would push my hand and lead me away from a relationship I feared was dying, even if I couldn't admit it to myself, or how I am so sure of my relationship with Melanie that I can't imagine loving anyone else again - and she doesn't judge me. She tells me aspects of her life that would have once shocked me in others, but I just see them as events that informed her character. However disagreeable her past may have been to her, it brought her to this point in her life, where she can sit with me in a Poughkeepsie night and hold confession of a mosaic bench, finding our direction in the moonlight.

Soon in Xenology: Jobs. The Renaissance.

last watched: The Professional
reading: Spook
listening: Highly Evolved

" Undressed | 2008 | Writers Anonymous "

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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