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Passion Plays | 2009 | Rehearsing Goodbyes

06.01.09 10:24 p.m.

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you'll help them to become what they are capable of becoming.  

-Goethe

 


Cementing a Star

Jess

It feels curiously like a first date.

To some, making new friends seems a daunting prospect. However, I succeed in doing it in the least organic/borderline autistic way possible, by telling them that they meet the requirements I find essential in a close friend (proximity, loyalty, wit, humor, eccentricity, stability, passion) and which will thus lead to our friendship likely being mutually beneficial. I even can enumerate just why they should want to consider me their friend, how this would improve the quality of their lives by degrees. However, and as shocking as you may find this, most people don't find this a workable approach. They would rather have things evolve naturally over time, inefficiently. They'd prefer to meet someone at church, the gym, the coffee shop, the super market and hope things progress. These people tend not to reply to my polite, if eccentric, entreaties.

(It should be noted for fairness that I easily succumbed to the hard sell of "You should be my friend now and here is why…" once. Said friendship only lasted until Emily dumped me and I chose to spend my weekends with Melanie rather than this woman, but it was good for a while.)

The woman in front of me, though I initially solicited her friendship in March and she didn't get around to replying until May, is one tentative success of my method. Even the few messages we've exchanged imply intimacy enough that we pause in seeing one another, as though to hug or kiss on the cheek. Instead, to fill the space and direct the evening, I ask what she would like to do, as my initial plan had been the Infinite Fries of Red Robin. She opts to stick around the bookstore and, with the air of a test, asks where I tend to spend my time here. I halt, but there is no use lying, "I usually end up in graphic novels."

"Good man!" she says and nearly pulls me toward the escalator. And that is really it for me. The switch has been flipped in my head and, not only does my head consider her a friend, but it considers her one of the better ones I know. I'm aware that this impulse toward initial attraction has steered me wrong in the past, though generally the inverse, as I ignore those people who might otherwise have brightened my heavens because I am not yet ready to see them with the right eyes. Rarely does it turn out that someone I instantly like turns out to be a snake, even when I don't explain the full measure of my intuition. Even upon spending only thirty seconds in her presence, we will never again be strangers, as has been the lot of a few of the women and men I have briefly met with whom I didn't instantly feel a spark. Perhaps Jess and I may not end up close friends - though I know this is something I want - but I have imprinted upon her. With her, as with few new women, I do not feel the need to constantly talk about MELANIE my GIRLFRIEND who I LOVE as a kind of territorial shriek. And, in the cause of further fairness, I'd already started telling people that she is the one Central Casting sent to replace the departing Hannah.

Jess mentions in her profile that she generally dresses comfortably but, as occasion demands, she will put in the effort to be prettily comfortable. I can't deny that she is dressed prettily to me, and consider whether she put in effort for seeing me after helping her friend move and, if she did, what that means. I am one to look for omens and signs in purple, velvety jackets because it beats just appreciating fashion sense. Though I rather adore the blue plastic rims of her glasses, as it makes her eyes look like candy.

I intimate this to her, telling her of my first meeting with Keilaina. Aside from the superficial - Kei was quite pretty and easy to rebound onto after a breakup - there was something pure and right in Kei so, when she made me her default ride to college for the duration of the semester, I was eager for the privilege of spending more time with my new friend. Our friendship then was based more on our mutually intuition about the other than anything we could properly put into words, though I have always maintained that Kei's hugs speak their own poetry.

Jess and I wander about the top floor, mocking and confessing trivial things about books, but nothing about ourselves. I will leave the night no wiser about her last name, but I am keenly aware of the virtues of her favorite fantasy novelist. Likewise, I tell her about the literary agent's assistant soliciting the first three chapters of my novel, but leave out that I have parents and brothers. But, I hope, there will be time enough to fill in all of these holes. As she is new and - possibly - hasn't bothered to read my writing, I have a unique chance to present to her an iteration of me that comes closer to how I am on my own or with only Melanie (the two are only fractionally different).

To an extent, I take the advice of assuming the relationship I want to have with people (within obvious reason), but I don't even stop to think that it might be off-putting that I am already touching her as though we are old friends and she is acclimated to my gently violent affection. When I do notice this, in referencing bad experiences on OkCupid, I simply say, "It's probably not polite to keep hitting you." She gives no real preference, and perhaps her endurance is enough to pass a test I was not consciously administering. It is startling how many people do not connect with me, yet this woman who is supposedly only a 78% match fits so well.

"Do you want to meet my friends?" she asks as the night winds down, after excusing herself to take a quick call.

"Sure, why not... I hope I haven't met them already. That can be awkward," I say, and rub the back of my neck, remembering too keenly the barbs about my knowing everyone. I do not know or think she is new to this area, and there is a better than average chance I have some connection to her social sphere already. I would simply prefer it be a neutral one, rather than the younger brother of some girl I dumped when I was sixteen who bears a grudge still.

We do not get out of the parking lot because her friends call her again and cancel. We begin walking toward Friendly's but I say I don't much feel like eating.

"Well, if you aren't going to eat and I'm not going to eat, I have to say that I don't see much point in eating."

"I concur." For want of anything better to do, we begin to part ways. Again, there is a bookend pause, as we wonder what is appropriate and as, to a degree, we want the other to propose something that will prolong the evening a bit further, because eating really wouldn't be the point of eating. I want to take her food shopping with me, because company spices up such chores, or raid the toy store that likely closed hours ago. Some part of my mind thinks this might be it, even as she asks what I am doing for the rest of the week, and so I want to make this first night that we are friends last because there is a purity to that and I am not assured another night.

We hug a moment longer than is reasonable given the brief hour we have spent together and get into separate cars. I smile all the way home, pleased that I may have cemented a new star in my sky.

Soon in Xenology: When I was a girl. Hannah leaving. Crushed.

last watched: Tiptoes
reading: Loose Girl
listening: Carbon Leaf

Passion Plays | 2009 | Rehearsing Goodbyes

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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