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Bloom Where You Are | 2010 | A Legitimate Writer

03.19.10 11:05 p.m.

you are a china shop
and I am a bull
you are really good food
and I am full
I guess everything is timing
I guess everything's been said
so I am coming home with an empty head

-Ani DiFranco


You Can't Go Home Again

Prodigal friend

"He won't stay," Melanie reminded me when I told her of the letter of apology. "It won't be like you two will be close again. That ended when he left and didn't contact you."

This conversation echoes as I shift my weight from one foot to the other in Zack's parents' kitchen, while he pounds the bread dough.

"Making bread is a lot easier than people think," he says. "It's just a matter of waiting. After I am done pounding this again, I'll just leave it in this bowl for an hour for it to rise. Then I'll cut it into three loaves, maybe add a cinnamon swirl, roll it in oats, and bake."

It has been more than a year since I have seen or heard from him and, after trying to summon up all the gossip that has fomented (Keilaina is pregnant with her second baby, Emily is married and pregnant, my brother Dan is now father to five children, I am still making googly-eyes at Melanie, Stevehen moved to Massachusetts, Melissa no longer speaks to me), there is a silence, as through there is something we should be saying and neither one of us can figure out what it might be. Despite his letter the week before, I don't know specifically why he kept in contact with other people in this area, but conspicuously did not contact me. I forgave him his absence, as if I had any choice, if just because I am not one to hold grudges for abandonment - if I did, I wouldn't have any friends left.

He is doing well enough. He is living in Indiana with Cristin, who ran out of money in Chicago and deigned to move in with him again. He is working as an assistant manager at a theater, which he says mostly involves ripping tickets. He is going back to school for creative writing and is going to take a class in voice acting, partially because the person in charge of the theater is teaching it and it will serve to reinforce that he is theatrical and should be considered for future productions. He's been running in marathons. He has dogs, a home, and a girlfriend and - despite its flatness and the fact that its native son Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is years dead - says Indianapolis is a nice place to live.
Not living up to her pseudonym

"Have you lost weight?" he asks.

"Oh. Probably. I was sick for about a week. Couldn't eat much."

"It suits you."

I am there for an hour and a half before leaving. Melanie opted at the last minute to swing by my apartment for a few hours before driving home for spring break, and an estranged friendship has to be put on hold for a couple hours for quality time with her.

After Melanie leaves, I rejoin Zack at a party at Dezi's and Annie's parents' house. It is, as I should have been aware from the title "Thanksmas", a dinner party. As I felt it my duty to feed Melanie before pushing her out the door, a table of delicious food presents a challenge I circumvent by eating a little of everything anyway and feeling horridly full for the rest of the party. Zack's bread, warm and sweet, is most filling given the slices I filch to give my mouth and hands something to do.

As I was not certain where I stood in respect to Zack anymore, having other people there gave me an opportunity to not have to concentrate my presence by literally standing next to him. I could observe and interact as part of a group, taking the direct pressure off both of us to catch up in a burst. These people, after all, had been in contact with Zack since he left.

Annie skates across the floor carrying dishes of food. She was recently added to the roster of the local roller derby team The Hudson Valley Horror as R. Sovertits and felt that she needed all the practice she could get in maneuvering on wheels. The skates did not leave her feet for the duration of the party, nor did she fall, spraying the revelers with fondue and stuffing. Somehow the party would have to thrive without the benefit of physical comedy.

I had some worry in seeing Dezi, if just because our last project together did not gel after a lot of work from all sides. I worried, specifically, that in acting as the mouthpiece of my group of writers (Hannah and Melanie), I came off sounding like a diva. I like him too well to have our friendship skunked over a comic book and he is the first to apologize for how that turned out, channeling this into enthusiasm over a different project we may do. I am thrilled, as I didn't have the energy to suss out two uncertain friendships.
Yes, the clue was Salvidor Dali

There is a feeling that the party takes place outside the stream of time, that it does not quite "count". Few of these people are strangers to me and, to my discredit, I make no moves to change any of the strangers into associates (aside from the ten-year-old daughter of a girl with whom I went to school, who is too delightfully preteen to ignore). Seeing so many people I knew from high school, though not well, it is as though this is just a time-lapse or that all of the parties here took place in the same two week window of summer whose frames will me interspersed through the rest of the film at random in lieu of being swept off the cutting room floor. How else would it make sense that Zack and Cristin are back in the Hudson Valley, their dog Berty snuffling at the empty dishes? Why else would Dezi act as though no time had passed? If this is normal time, it would mean I haven't had any contact with Annie since Hannah's wedding three months ago, when she acted as a waitress and maitre d and told me of Thanksmas, and that just is ridiculous given that we live a dozen miles at most from one another.

I demur and abridge when asked to fill in what has happened from when last these people saw me. I am still with "that girl" who they met once at a party at Annie's condo. No, I don't have a stable job. Yes, I am doing okay. Yes, I'm still writing, thanks for asking. I don't know that it is prudent to get into detail and, given that my precarious living situation gives me near panic attacks when I overthink it, I prefer to keep things light and fun.

Melanie's reminder, that Zack and I would not be close, both was and wasn't true. At the party, things feel as though he never left, but he will be returning home to Indiana - yes, that is his home, not here - and we will play Pictionary or take walks. I didn't freeze in time because he felt he needed to leave. The space he occupied in my life has been reclaimed by the wild. This is almost the beginning of a new friendship rather than a continuation of the old, something that was tied enough to the life he left behind that I did not hear from him for over a year.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, ideas, interviews.

last watched: True Blood
reading: Shantaram
listening: Jonathon Coulton

Bloom Where You Are | 2010 | A Legitimate Writer

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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