Thomm Quackenbush, author

Damocles | 2009 | Radical Excision: A Biff in the Snoot

06.21.09 3:08 p.m.

If we do not live, speak, and think in the language of enchantment, including naming angels and recognizing spirits... then the soul will go out of our lives and communities, and we will wonder why nothing seems to hold together and nothing seems to have value any more.  

-Thomas Moore

 


Rosemary and (a Good) Time

I have no good pictures of her

Jess calls as I am on the way to Rosemary's housewarming party and says that we need to have a talk. This is a familiar trope now.

"A good talk?" I ask.

"Not a friendship ending one," she replies, apparently misunderstanding that I would only internalize the "friendship ending one" bit. "But I have some things I need to say to you and... I'm not good with words over the phone." Our prior conversation was fruitful, especially since I carefully researched the topics I wanted to bring up by reading her every bit of writing available on the internet, as well as scanning through her 550 plus pictures on Facebook. To her credit then, she fully understood my need to research and shrugged it off when I called it stalking. We have startling symmetry and, as we stayed at Red Robin half an hour after it closed, still chattering nonstop, I grew to like her even more than I realized possible.

I keep my issues barely in check on the drive to her, though they are tenacious when given such vague fodder.

When I finally arrive, Jess is standing on the stoop, telling the clerk of the spirituality store beneath Rosemary's apartment that she understands the need to repeatedly check that the door was locked. I affirm this as well, wanting the woman to be elsewhere as quickly as possible so Jess and I can have the necessary conversation and put it behind us. I am expecting the worst, thinking I've written something to offend her or hurt her. That's always the case when people need to have conversations with me of this tenor. I can't imagine what else it could be.

"It's not what you are thinking," she begins, though I'm not sure she can do justice to what I am thinking. "I am having a hard time saying this because you are my first friend who is just mine. Everyone else, I met through people and we're part of the same social group and they have to like me. But you don't have to. You're just mine, you like me on your own. And I've been reading what you wrote a while ago, about Katie, and I-" Here, I'm afraid, I have to curtain my exhibitionism and your voyeurism. Suffice it to say that she confessed something personal, something which she worried would be a deal breaker and she wanted to be honest with me. " - and I don't want you to hate me."

I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I don't hate you, I couldn't hate you!" Then I hugged her again, so relieved I was that she disappointed my every worry. To me, it feels like I only let go of Jess when Rosemary's car drives by, though I think Jess grants me the indulgence of contact because she is as relieved.

We sit in Rosemary's kitchen as she cooks miniature hamburgers and mixes guacamole. Jess keeps offering ways she can help and being sweetly rebuffed. I am more concerned with judging Rosemary given almost entirely how she decorates her apartment. As I am scanning her bookcase, I outright tell her this. Oh, indeed?

"I support. That's why you have a bookcase out in the open," Rosemary replies, though it helps that I vast approve of her media and point out a couple - Franny and Zooey (her bible), So I Married an Axe Murderer (the second best Scottish movie ever, she says) - that make me regard her all the better.

I ask the questions you do at someone's apartment warming: how much they are paying, what is included, though one is generally only interested out of politeness and a means of comparison. Her apartment is undeniably the better one, so I don't wish to hear I am being scandalously bilked. Then again, as I am unemployed, I will take my cheaper shoebox for now.

It's over an hour and a half before more guests arrive in the forms of Loren and Finn. I told Jess that I find it strange that the two of them get along as well as they do. When pressed, I pointed out that I just imagine Loren admonishing Finn pretty much constantly about his eccentricities. Yet they absolutely do get along wonderfully, perhaps because Loren does gently dominate his personality, smoothing some edges and providing him focus and attention. They seem to be "romantic friends", a concept beaten out of existence by the twentieth century, one that makes people second guess the sexuality of any historical figure (Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickenson, William Shakespeare) who had a friend they adored but did not wish to shtup. Loren and Finn are physical and affectionate through the night, but it is utterly absent a sexual component. If anything, they seem like fond siblings. Granted, romantic friendships, or Boston marriages or hetero-life mates or what you will, tend to be two members of the same sex (ergo fueling rumors) but I don't see why it can't be extended to two members of the opposite sex who adore but do not need to consummate. I've certainly loved women (Keilaina, Melissa) who I had no interest in bedding. It is, in fact, how I feel toward Jess already and how I am hoping Melanie will feel upon her return (I am endlessly talking to the two women about each other and think I've set the foundations of their friendship sight unseen).

When I felt a rare twinge of awkwardness at the party, I pour a little bit of wine into a great deal of orange juice and wait for the placebo effect to make me feel relaxed again. You think too much, drink this

"This is lovely," I tell Jess, swirling my drink. "Do you think different alcohols can have different effects on you?"

"I hear that tequila makes people mean drunks, but vodka is pretty much universally okay."

"I can see that. Melanie likes Martini & Rossi - she taught me to fix it just the way she likes it, with ice and a squirt of lemon juice - and she had me help her finish some when I made much too much. I ended up crying on her chest that I felt so awful because alcohol is a chemical depressant. Those words, too. But my fake mimosa just makes me feel a bit looser and warm." As should not need saying, I am not exactly a lush.

Eventually, and irrespective of the alcohol, I dance because there is music and I think I would quite like to dance, only I no longer know how. I swear I used to have rhythm, but the gods stole it from me when I mocked and mimicked bad dancers. Jess has written and spoken of 80s Night at Cabaloosa in New Paltz being an almost cathartic experience, especially after her most recent breakup with a man named Chris. Dancing lets her express herself in a way nothing else can quite manage. It is a sensation I covet, just letting go and allowing the music to take possession. She says, when she gets on the dance floor, she becomes a little different, and just loves everyone.

Later, while they are dancing and I am trying to keep up, Rosemary and I end up close together. There is something about her that telegraphs a degree of reservedness that isn't actually applicable - maybe it is the glasses - but waves of utter sexiness emanate from her as she dances. "If we were at Cabs, I wouldn't even know your name..." she assures me, accomplishing a slight shimmy that makes me swallow hard. "Okay, maybe I would get your number..." The ways she is dancing, if I were single, I would give it. I fear for any boy she sets her sights on, as he is already in her web and simply hasn't figured it out yet.

Even though I have nothing compelling my return home, I make my goodbyes a bit after one when they suggest playing a drinking game called Kings. Jess will stay all night without sleep, spending the whole next day nearly dead on her feet so she can enjoy her friends as long as possible.

Soon in Xenology: Job hunting. 80s Night. Jacki.

last watched: Before Sunrise
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Cyndi Lauper

Damocles | 2009 | Radical Excision: A Biff in the Snoot

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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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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