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This First Night | 2009 | The Importance of Being Earnest

08.30.09 11:26 p.m.

My boyfriend calls me "Princess," but I think of myself more along the lines of "monkey" and "retarded."  

-Alicia Silverstone

 


Of Corn Dogs and Raoul

Rosie and Daniel  
He doesn't know what to make of this creature

"I have the worst case of swamp ass," Melanie announces, indifferent to the crowd of middle-class America filing in behind her. She enjoys making me roll my eyes as she again dashes my expectations of her gentle femininity against a rock. We've each had to walk over a mile each through dead stopped traffic, so she can be forgiven the symptom if not the pronouncement.

We called a handful of those in my address book who stood a chance of saying yes to meeting us at the Dutchess County Fair. Daniel's agreement was as instantaneous as it could be with him, in that he makes absolute certainty sound doubtful. Rosemary's voicemail similarly began with the clause "thank you for inviting me, I would love to come..." that just begs for a negating conjunction. I have accepted the defeat long before I realize her thanks are undiluted by apology or contradiction. Jess's decline is predictable, since she owes her free time to the community theater that has cast her as Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest, but she is still owed an invite for propriety's sake.

Melanie has time only to get us lemonade before they arrive from their own respective treks. Daniel is, as always, dressed in black with a dark tie. He once told me that he wears roughly the same outfit always to create a timeless image in people's minds. As far as I can tell, Daniel could simply walk through a portal and be living one long week made up of seeing me. This does mean that even his leisure is semiformal, however, and exists despite the demands of weather.

Rosie arrives dressed in an oversized Russian t-shirt (the translation of which I forget as soon as I am told) and large sunglasses. Even these blue plastic glasses - exactly the type one would give a young child to wear - are prescription, showing a devotion to her style I imagine Daniel would find admirable.
Rosie  
Rosie, about to tell correct Xen as to the legend of Gawain. No, really.

Introducing Daniel to Rosie is superfluous and done only for politeness. She is an avid reader of past entries and so knows the cast of characters well enough that I don't doubt she could rattle off his recent history.

I hadn't given much thought to this particular commingling. No matter how certain I may feel that people may get along - which is by no means the case when it comes to putting anyone next to Daniel - I try not to get my hopes up. Further, ever since Stevehen and Melissa took up years ago-much against the demands of logic-I have worried more that my friends will like each other too much than that they won't get along. (Though I can't imagine either outcome with Daniel and Rosie.) I know better than to ever fix someone up, though my specific disinclination to do so resulted in Stevehen meeting his girlfriend Suzie.

Melanie immediately goes for the hug with Rosie, even though this constitutes their first meeting. Rosie is a founding member of the We Adore Melanie fan club, of which I am assistant treasurer, and welcomes this immediate presumption of friendship.
Melanie and a hamburger  
A cow would eat you and everyone you love

We get fair food (in every sense) to replace the calories lost in transit and I am soon apologizing to Rosie that my friends are horrible when Melanie begins mocking an extra-large shirt reading, "I Beat Anorexia".

"It's no problem," Rosie replies, "I'm even worse. I only work helping homeless people to balance things out."

"You must be histories greatest monster then," I say.

She grins and says, "You have no idea."

Overall, this mixture of people works astoundingly well. This could be helped by the fact that Daniel is a truer mutual friend than anyone else we know, according to Melanie. Even Hannah, much as we love and have spent more time with her, belongs more in my camp because I got to know her more first. That he is a curious and singular male no doubt helps his case in Melanie's eyes, since she is occasionally disposed to things both masculine and strange.

Melanie is plainly more affectionate toward me as the fair progresses, seeking my kisses despite mutual corn dog breath and remaining in physical contact even when we are dampened by the heat. Among our friend, my friends, and strangers, these displays are safe. Perhaps a touch cynically, I am not certain what cuddles would have flowed my way had her friend Jordan come, as had been the original plan. She still clings to an on-campus identity as bad-ass, one slightly eroded by introducing me around the day before. I note this all only because I've been so long without her in concentration and forget how nice it is to be with someone who loves me this much.
Melanie  
It's nauseating just looking at her! ...Not like that.

Amongst the greasy food and greasier crowd, we find our fun. Melanie shows a curious and endearing affection for the cows, one that is bizarrely reciprocated. I keep a respectful distance from livestock until it is in its post-slaughter and, ideally, post-cooked state, but Melanie is laughing at how much the cow's nose tickles moments after getting within a tongue's length. It isn't the sort of relationship that will put her off a cheeseburger, but it does evoke images of a parallel life where she was the star of a local 4H.

Rosie sighs as we pass the rides for the fourth time and I finally pay attention. "You feel unfulfilled. You want to go on the rides."

"I'll buy tickets!" she insists.

"Do I have to join you on the rides?"

"No."

"Then I am fully in favor of this plan." I don't fancy exchanging much of my unemployment check for nausea unless we are talking Sartre or Chinese buffet.

Rosie instantly finds more common ground as Daniel joins her on revved-up teacups and Melanie bounces next to her on a swing.

Melanie shouts when she sees the booth that allows one to exchange dollars for a chance to land a ping pong ball in a fishbowl to win a goldfish. Having just helped her move into her dorm and keenly aware I didn't want to fish-sit over breaks, I tried to mask my objections with the voice of reason. Just the same, I handed over the money for twenty chances. Eventually, she manages to get a ball in, defying the carnie law of game rigging. The attendant gives her two tickets and Melanie immediately picks out which fish she would like from a literal garbage can full of feeder fish. On the walk home with the three fish she is given by virtue of being cute, conspicuously delighted, and there on the last day, a cop directing traffic queries her as to her prize. She assures him on will be his namesake, becoming Raoul, brother to Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.

Soon in Xenology: Melissa. Relationships. Maybe a job. The Importance. Bromance.

last watched: Hogfather
reading: Skinny Legs and All
listening: Garfunkel and Oates

This First Night | 2009 | The Importance of Being Earnest

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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