Thomm Quackenbush, author

" On Forgetting | 2008 | On Remembering "

11.10.08 11:46 p.m.

You get what everyone gets, you get a lifetime. 

-Neil Gaiman's "Death"

 


I'm a Believer

You'd be like Heaven to touch

I didn't used to much care about the religion of the person kissing me - as long as their faith didn't preclude more kisses. The interim when I kissed Keilaina was so brief because I could only claim an intellectual interest in Jesus and she needed me to love him religiously if I were going to love her romantically. Beyond that, the only thing close was I girl I had a crush on in sixth grade, who convinced me to cut my hair short because she liked short haired boys (for the best, I essentially had a mullet at that time), neglecting to tell me that her affiliation with the Church of Latter Day Saints precluded her actually ever holding my hand to say nothing of kissing me (years later, she would ask me to read an article about saving kissing for marriage because I had kissed her on the cheek under the mistletoe, an act for which she apparently had to perform much penance to again be clean in her god's eyes).

It isn't that I lack any specific convictions of my own. If given the opportunity with an ear that seems genuinely interested, I will happily detail exactly what I believe and exactly why I believe it. There is some overlap between what I believe and more mainstream faiths, but only because I've found personal truth in these. Nothing in my beliefs tells me to let my relationship with the divine interfere with romantic love (the friction of sects never getting in the way of the friction of sex). Love, in fact, is one of the multifarious miracles of living. I have personal reservations about sex without love, but also a marked disinclination to preach. You are welcome to your path and I won't meddle unless you are hurting yourself or others.Ghosts!

In my thirteen years of dating, ten of it with increasing seriousness, I've dated a couple of girls who were approximately my religion, some flavor of Wicca/Paganism. I didn't actively seek this out, but it was a level of likemindedness that I appreciated at the time, even when differences of style caused stress as with Emily's Gardnarianism (rigid ceremonial magick) and my Discordianism (throwing one hundred rubber ducks in a pool under cover of night for the enlightening lulz). It gave us a shared topic of conversation going in and, further, the assumption we would always have something to talk about. More than that, I have momentarily interested girls I've loved enough to entertain the thought of witchcraft as a valid belief system because their own religious convictions were not especially strong. (I'm not bragging, I definitely believe in letting people explore their own path in life and most authentic Pagans frown upon proselytizing, as I now do.) When those kisses stopped, so too did their affiliation with Earth-centered belief systems.

If I went to a church, temple, mosque, or grove, it wouldn't be because I believed or wished to believe as the adherents did. I am confident and happy in my beliefs. I would go only because I thought it was pretty, because I found some aesthetic charm in the rituals and liturgy. I love being around those who believe in something greater than themselves when they, too, find a beauty in it (never the type who use the divine to bash in skulls). I can't in good conscience want to drag anyone anywhere they don't wish to be dragged, because they won't see it with the right eyes. I'd spend forever in this moment

In high school, I knew a girl of Pagan leanings who insisted that, if I were a Christian, she would have hated me by virtue that I would put the amount of passion toward Christ that I did to Anubis or Artemis. I found this statement more than a little off-putting. True, what I believe informs who I am, but it is not who I am. I was not used to people assuming that I would be a radical different or offensive person if I believed something different. Needless to say, this girl and I did not end up having a long and prosperous friendship, though more for her adolescent duplicitousness than any theological schism.

But now, I find myself wishing Melanie could believe in an afterlife because this life doesn't seem nearly long enough to love her fully. Increasingly, loving her has become a part of my religion, a gentle mantra with every beating of my heart. I cannot imagine its Ragnarok - where even the gods die - without wilting. I fear my own death now largely because it would abridge our connection.

Melanie flitted past witchcraft in grade school, long enough to establish that her spells weren't going to work, except if one wishes to lose an evangelic friend. She sampled the theological buffet and came away unsatisfied. I cannot fault her, surreal atheism is her path and one aspect of her I have come to adore.

Every weekend, I fall in love again. By Sunday, the last thing I want to do is let her go, release her (as she puts it) back into the cold water of life. Yet Sunday, Melanie leaves and I panic, because I had been swaddled in the bliss of her kisses and am now naked again - often too literally. I am so sure of everything, so soothed into believing in the benevolence of the universe as long as I can place my lips to her forehead. She closes my door behind her and all the petty stresses of life reappear, eager to make up for lost time. I've developed a phobia of that door closing for the last time, of losing her in any way or of being lost.

Melanie talks about our going to Japan for a year after she graduates from college and I tell her she has to at least be engaged to me to give me insurance that she won't leave me once I forsake the familiar. Even though I well know an engagement does not mean permanence, that there is no way to ever know, I retain my faith that she will be there when I wake tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. And the morning we wake in the land of the rising sun.

She is changing my mind about a lot. I am considering a child now, in some distant future, because it would allow some amazing amalgam of our genes to exist in the world, something that is half her. It's not that I need her in a heaven as much as I can't imagine a rewarding afterlife without her in it.

I showed Melanie all this and, as we sat in her car waiting for it to warm up enough for her to drive away, kissing as much as was possible in an emptying diner parking lot, she confessed, "I'm a little scared of dying now, too. Nothing overwhelming, but it's there."

I kissed her again. "I'm sorry for making you mortal."

Soon in Xenology: *Shrug* Good stuff, I think.

last watched: Gremlins
reading: Shakespeare: The World as Stage
listening: Highly Evolved

" On Forgetting | 2008 | On Remembering "

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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