Thomm Quackenbush, author

Transcending Stereotypes | 2010 | Flowers Through Concrete

04.07.10 9:58 p.m.

The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world.  

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 


Carpe Noctem

Finn and Jess  
I like to imagine he is wishing her a happy birthday here.

I interrupt myself, mid-flail, when I see Rachel running out of Cabaloosa followed by Finn, shoving through the dense crowd with a singular purpose. I pursue them without another thought. Outside, Rachel's friend (who I am going to call Sam) is holding her forearms and looking alternately amused and terrified, shooting glances toward the door and a balding, middle-aged man who wants to have "a word" with her.

The story filters out that, during the sole heavy metal song played at 80s Night, Sam had decided to start a mosh pit in a club that can barely accommodate normal dancing (and which is inordinately packed tonight). She did this, with awareness of physics but not consequences, by slamming into the bouncers. "They were the biggest people there. Everyone knows you hit into the biggest people," she excuses with the air of obviousness.

This got her ejected from the club for the night, which is inconvenient given that Rachel - her hair dyed black and with an unspoken skittishness behind her smile before this - had driven three hours in celebration of Jess's birthday and had gotten fewer than two hours to dance, drink, and socialize. However the police were now on their way not because of the mosh pit but because Sam sought to alert Rachel of her ejection by climbing the twelve foot fence between the street and the smoking porch. According to the balding man - the owner of Cabaloosa, it turns out - this is criminal trespass and he acts as though the decision to press charges has been taken out of his hands. Rachel plays defense attorney, assuring the man of Sam's innocuousness, but not mentioning to him that Sam is swallowing her horror that police intervention might mean arrest. As a trans-girl, any time in lock-up would undoubtedly leave psychological (and possibly physical) scars were she to be thrown into a cell with someone who shared her Y-chromosome but not gender identification. Also, though I am certain the New Paltz police deal with quite a diverse population, they may not react kindly to one who would appear to them as a boy with breasts.

Fortunately for our cadre and no one else, a drunk is then pulled from the club. He fights the bouncers for every inch and his pugnacity is nonspecific; if one happened to be within five feet, one deserves punches. This results, within a matter of a minute, in half the club pouring out into the street to watch the fight just as the police pull up. I don't know that the owner actually called the police on Sam or was just very swift in summoning them once a near riot breaks out in front of his club, but Sam's sins are forgotten in the havoc.

Pushing against the fence with my friends to avoid the angry throng, listening to Rachel prep feminist arguments for re-admittance, a cooling sheen of sweat from dancing, I feel as though I am waking up from months in a cocoon. While not wholly satisfied with my life (I could do with a steady, meaningful, and comfortably salaried job with appropriate hours, Universe), I try not to spend much time dwelling on what I feel I lack. But it remains that I need this in my life.
Undead Jacki  
You thought I was kidding.

I need nights dancing where my friends try to keep people out of jail. I need zombie walks with Jacki, where our horde attacks pizzerias and are attacked by Nerf warriors in turn. I need stargazing evenings, resting in tall grass next to Melanie. The winter dries up more than skin, evaporating the moonlight and our opportunities to enjoy it. Living is necessary, but I need to have a life, something that cannot happen if my life lacks the noteworthiness of shadows.

Solid memories collect in the places where daylight is hidden. I live most of my life, from requirement, in the sunshine world. Most of us do, but some of us never get over the childhood assumption that all the good stuff happens after our bedtimes. The night holds mysteries to be revealed, with the promise that we will not always like what we see, but that doesn't make it less true. We are born from the dark and to the dark return, no matter the flashlights and candles we wave in the interim. We may write our grocery lists on white scraps, but we scratch out our truths from blackness.

My daylight hours are spent in costumes, suit jackets and slacks that look professional, but which I doff as soon as my apartment door shuts behind me. I am not who I pretend to be for a paycheck, perfect buttons and pressed creases under the scrutiny of light. This is not a screed against the sun, which energizes the soils so that it can glow by star and, more importantly, warms the air that bare shoulders and knees can be seen. One should never underestimate the vivifying effects of the erstwhile sunless skin of one's preferred gender.

When I was younger, I used to wander my town by night whenever the temperature would comply. I played at witchcraft (what doesn't feel more electric by the light of the waxing moon?) but my real intent was just to feel the night, hope that I could wander upon something that would truly shake me out of the mundanity of daytime assumptions. From habit, I still say "blessed be" whenever I see the moon either full or somehow beautiful. Occasionally, in my walking mysticism, I would succeed, watching storm clouds roll down the mountains or sitting in a field with shut eyes until I was surrounded by baffled but curious deer. I knew where my bed was, that I would not allow myself to see too many dawns from the wrong side, but there was the temptation to keep going, to spend the majority of a day in the chatoyant eyes of animals that hide in the dark. Then, I was convinced that I was the scariest thing in the night, feeling the full bravado of being a teenager.

I used to only be able to write when the hours grew small and edged toward dawn again. There was a peace to knowing the rest of the world slept as I cozied into a ratty pink chair under the loft bed, on which my then girlfriend dreamed in preparation of the menial work that paid our rent. It was almost a trance, an undisciplined torrent of words until I acceded to sleep. Now, I barely write at night, only next to sunny windows, surrounded by strangers or students. I steal scraps of nocturnal inspiration, but the light lets me appraise which are jewels and which are gaudy plastic.

To be an adult, at least the sort I hope to be, I know that I will always have to have a slight tan. The fantasy of what occurs while I am sleeping is undoubtedly sexier than the reality, despite my infrequent forays under the stars. I know that I would lust for the sun were I thrust under the moon most of the time - what soulful vampire story doesn't have a character whimpering for that celestial ball of flaming gas? - so I will be more grateful for the glimpses at the dark that they can be precious because they are rare. The moon glows only by reflecting the sun, and never can on its own.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, goats.

last watched: Glee
reading: Shantaram
listening: Dresden Dolls

Transcending Stereotypes | 2010 | Flowers Through Concrete

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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