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September and Beyond | 2011 | New Romantic: Sunday

05.07.11 1:16 p.m.

I know I said I love you
But I'm thinking I was wrong
I'm the first to admit that
I'm still pretty young
And I never meant to hurt you
And I wrote you ten love songs...  

-Laura Marling, New Romantic


New Romantic: Saturday

Saturday, Melanie came over, excited to see me. Our last weekend together, we were more in love than ever. I had spent my Friday night in Pine Bush, trying to hunt down the UFO hunters with Renee, then returned in the day on my own for the First Annual Pine Bush UFO Festival, marveling at my delight at wandering the folksy weirdness. That night, Melanie and I took in a movie and dinner in lieu of her remaining on campus for Spring Fling, which featured punk covers of Rebecca Black's "Friday". She came home with me and was supposed to leave Sunday before noon and ended up staying until ten at night, cuddled with me and refusing to budge as we watched Sherlock Holmes episodes and she conquered Angry Birds on the tablet my parents got me to congratulate me for publication. I took to blithely cleaning around her as she played on the computer. When she asked why, I told her I was practicing for when we live together when she is in graduate school. "You will be such a good housewife to me," she smilingly pronounced.

Our Saturday starts normally enough. We nuzzle one another on the sofa and watch bad shows on the computer. I tell her of my dinner the prior night with Daniel, since she did not answer her phone at all night, how I feel for the first time free to ramble about the fictional universe of my novels. She is proud that I finally have the confidence in my work that she does. She then works on some fact-stuffed poster for several hours, naked and stressing until I kiss her shoulder. I sit next to her, working on a final draft of my latest novel for her to critique and tear apart before I send it to my eager publisher. I offer to make her food several times as the day darkens to night, but she is deeply focused and refuses me.

Around nine, she takes a break and realizes the hour and her hunger, saying both accounted for her grumpiness. We watch another show as she eats and then go to the bed, where we have not the best sex of our relationship, but loving sex.

In the afterglow, she rests against me face down but seems odd. I breathe in the vague vanilla scent of her short hair. Moments later, she stands at the foot of my bed, looking confused at her nudity, her eyes distant. I stand and ask, "Really?" with a sense of incredulity that at midnight she would want to drive an hour back to campus to sleep in her own bed.

"I think I have to break up with you."

I sharply inhaled and said, "I think you should sit down and talk with me... you know, if we were going to have a final sex act, it would not have been that."

It is a surprise and it isn't. This is not the first time in the last seven months that she has started a conversation this way. The other times since the end of September, five or six in total, I could talk her down. It was just stress and fear, not an urge to live a life without me. Then, she said in essence that she was young and wanted the liberty to sleep with other people if that was what she desired, that she would be traveling and it seemed important and formative to have trysts with people who would not know her name in the morning. It is a basic psychosocial crisis of forming one's identity and one I thought Melanie had finally conquered. This is what she says this time as well, though she adds [Miss X] into the mix.

[Miss X] is a girl who Melanie works out with on occasion. Friday night - the very Friday night when Melanie and I were supposed to be on a ridiculous road trip to Ohio, before [Miss X] called it off with logic - [Miss X] looked at Melanie a moment too long, signaling she has feelings for Melanie. Melanie realized that she too had feelings for [Miss X]. They watched the stars until three in the morning, cuddled together against the cold, at which point the Bard shuttles were out of commission. So Melanie invited [Miss X] to spend the night in her room. Though Melanie insists she had every intention of resting in a sleeping bag on the floor, she instead slept against [Miss X] in her tiny dorm bed. This is why she did not answer my calls, though she credits having left her phone in her coat which was in the room. Nothing untoward occurred, she says, but it was not because she did not want it.

"I actually considered carrying on relationships with you and [Miss X] in secret," she says, flippantly. "I didn't think you'd consent to that, even though I wouldn't ignore you."

"No, that's unsafe."

"Why do you think everyone has STDs?" she demands.

"Because it's safer than assuming they don't and people who are going to randomly hook-up with you are a lot more likely to." So as to not dissociate, I have to remain calm. I need to talk sanity into her again and that cannot be done in shouts. "Does [Miss X] even know I exist?"

Melanie shrugs.

I take in this information as best as could be expected. I dislike that she put herself in that position, given that I go out of my way to avoid anything that might lead people to believe I might be less than totally devoted. However, I have much bigger fish to fry than affection that would have been borderline innocent were [Miss X] straight.

Melanie says that we want different things from life. I want a home with her, she wants to travel the world. "I don't want to have to think about you when I am applying to grad school."

"But I said I would move with you."

"Doesn't matter. I don't want to have to have that responsibility for you."

"Are you really willing to trade me, trade us for an X?"

"For a series of Xes," she says as though this is somehow supposed to be better to me. "[Miss X] is just a catalyst. If it wasn't her, it was going to be someone else."

"Couldn't you have waited until after graduation? I've been with you through this whole process, can't I have two more weeks? Go home to Ohio and decide if you can still be in this relationship."


"Why not?"

"I don't want to miss my opportunity with [Miss X]..."

I grimace. "Is she even single?"

"Even if she isn't, she's available," Melanie says blithely, since she herself is apparently available despite being in a committed relationship. "But I hope that, if I call you in five years and want to try to work things out, you will hear me out."

"If you call me in five years, I hope my wife doesn't answer," I say quickly.

"See! It's all about marriage with you."

"It isn't, but in five years, I hope I am not waiting. How are you going to feel when I meet someone new?"

"That will kill me," she says, but later does not remember. "If I realize what a mistake this is in several years, I'm going to stop at nothing to get you back. You know that, right? If I were thirty, we wouldn't even be having this conversation, I'd just be marrying you. But, listen, either I'm going to resent you for holding me back or you're going to resent me for doing what I'm going to do."

"You mean have sex with other people?"


"You are really going to ruin us to make stupid mistakes?" I ask, incredulous.

"Leaving you is the biggest mistake possible. It's so stupid, you think I don't know that? But I think that I have to."

"You are just so trapped in your head right now," I say. "Before we got together, you told me to stop thinking and start feeling."

"If I did that," she says, "I would be with [Miss X] right now."

"All that she has going for her is that she is shiny and new. There is nothing beneath that."

"I know."

And, of course, that [Miss X] is female. If I were female, Melanie would not be leaving because being bisexual is an important part of her identity, more important than being with me suddenly.

She accuses me, too, of being obsessed with her.

"What are you talking about?" I demand.

"You talk about me all the time and my picture is all your computer backgrounds."

"You only think I talk about you all the time because I am talking to you and you are kind of self-obsessed. Most of the time, I am busily thinking or discussing other things - my books, for instance - unless you give me a reason to discuss you with people by doing something like this. And you are my computer backgrounds because something has to be and I happen to like looking at you... Will you at least talk to Jinx about all this?"


I furrow my brow, startled. "Why not?"

"Because if I do anything with [Miss X], I'm going to do it in my room and I don't want Jinx stopping me."

"And you love me?"

"More than anything."

"Isn't that enough?" I ask.

"I wish it were."

"If you could tell me you did not love me, I would tell you to go right now," I say, but she stays with a kiss.

Yet through it all, we hold one another and kiss because I can't think this is goodbye. She reiterates how much she loves me and holds my hand as much as she can, saying that we wouldn't be having this conversation if she were any older. The clothing that she put on because she couldn't be properly distraught with the night breeze on her bare breasts comes off again as she returns to her composure and warms against me. We talk of how nourishing this relationship is, how much better people it has made us, but I unconsciously start using the past tense as she does and hate myself a little for beginning to accept.

The night grows late and she asks if she should go home.

"No, spend the night. You are in no state to drive."

"I'll sleep on the sofa or..."

I look at her with tears in my eyes and say, "No. You are the woman I love. You can sleep in bed with me."

All night, she cuddles again me, holding my hand or wrapping her legs around me. I do not sleep. I think of the prior week, how she told me of a dream of my confessing that I had a brain tumor and would die, how furious she was that we would not get our forever together as I had promised. But she says this was really about [Miss X]. Even her dreams of a forever with me are now deeded to a girl Melanie will not know in three weeks.

Soon in Xenology: Recovery

last watched: Sherlock Holmes
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Laura Marling

September and Beyond | 2011 | New Romantic: Sunday

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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