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Angels and Demons | 2011 | Post-Mortem

05.16.11 1:41 p.m.

Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death.  

-Earl Wilson


Cake Faerii

I'm getting better.

Rebecca picks me up outside my apartment for the Cupcake Festival. I added her days on Facebook before, when I looked though [Evie]'s pictures shortly after she accepted my friend request and realized they were friends. I had told Rebecca while dancing that it was an honor to meet a co-founder of the swing dancing and continued to mean it. When I saw that Rebecca both lived in my town and was going to the festival, I offered her a ride. She, given that she had to pick up a friend elsewhere, offered me one, which I accepted purely for the momentum of having made a potential new friend.

I settle into the seat and, after a quick discussion about the unfortunate Sunday church traffic, feel a lull settling. "I feel like I ought to play Twenty Questions with you," I admit.

This, indeed, is what we end up doing, ignoring the slight drizzle that promised to pursue us all day. She does not like to pick favorites per music, film, or books but the discussion is no less productive for the purposes of sussing out the other person's demeanor. She talks of how she sometimes counts eels with [Evie] (who works in the environmental field), which is exactly as it sounds, and I am impressed that this is how she cares to spend a Saturday. She talks of having volunteered at a beer festival, but her booth ran out of alcohol within minutes and [Evie] and she were released from obligation. I feel comfortable having accepted a ride from her, as she is warmly entangled with someone upstate. (I may be slightly paranoid about the intentions of single women who do not do me the courtesy of shouting whether or not they are trying to get in my pants.) She does not probe into my breakup and I am thankful for that, as I have been retelling it so much that the words have lost meaning. She is new, she does not need to know the fullness of it.

I am frazzled from the letter Melanie had sent the night before and had not slept especially well. I managed maybe six hours and feel it is the most rest I have gotten in over a week, though my mental state is not otherwise impacted. I have been lucid and conversational with no interruption of my vocabulary or cognitive faculties. However, my throat is raw from having an emotional breakdown in my car on the way home from grocery shopping, but that cannot be helped now but with the copious application of time and hot tea.

I had considered telling Rebecca I was not up to the task of seeing her - she would not have begrudged me - but felt I would otherwise sit at home and fume over my recently imposed singledom. Being social, cementing Rebecca as a new friend, took precedent over licking my wounds in private. I may be in pain, but I refuse to let that stop me from living my life as best I can. The day will come, sooner than I realize, when I will need the foundations I build today and I cannot spend them trying to prop up a building that imploded in on itself after seven months of teetering.

The day is drizzly and without full reprieve. Were it outright rainy, I would have had a fine reason to demur. Instead, this insulting, misty spittle drips from the sky all day, matching my own gloom and making me feel worse. I want badly for their to be a sunbeam to seek in the sky, but there is only grayness across the horizon.

By the time we pick up her friend and I am consigned to the backseat, I am glad to be able to sit with my thoughts a little and lightly doze. When, forty minutes later, we are stuck in a mile of traffic outside of Gardiner, I begin scribbling sentences for future entries into my PDA, if just to get the words out of my head so I can manage to be more fully present. I am understandably in a strange emotional space right now and the last thing I want to do is take it out on others. But, had I not relied on Rebecca for a ride, I would have turned back home the minute I hit traffic outside of Gardiner, because it was not long after that I wanted to go home and crawl under a comforter. Coming with her, relying on her, forces me to cope.

We wander the street full of tents staked into the cement. Rebecca and her friend get boxes and fill them with diverse specimens of the species cake faerii, blessedly ignoring fare such as unusual savory crab cupcakes. I buy a cupcake from a stall with a Buddhist theme, hoping that consuming something called Nirvana will be sympathetic magic, will give me a bit of relief from what I am feeling. It does not, it is slightly dry vanilla cake and maple walnut frosting, as well as being nearly the only food I have managed to swallow today beyond a handful of cereal.

I keep close to them - Rebecca is my ride, at the very least, if not my new friend - and smile at the sweetness of small children, but I cannot manage the full engagement I had hoped for, perhaps irrationally. I am not trapped in my head as much as I might otherwise have been in this situation, but this is the first day where I feel well and truly dumped. I had no illusions Melanie and I would not get back together - she left me to be with other people, that isnít the sort of thing I shrug off - but I at least harbored the illusion that she would persist without interruption in caring about me as a friend. I am the one hurt, I should be the one expressing fury.

To feel something, some thrill, I almost give my number to a woman selling cupcakes - I think she might be my type, in that she reminds me of a girl on whom I had a crush in high school - but our interaction is far too brief to warrant this. Though she is attractive to me, it isnít enough and I do not wish to be creepy. I must keep mindful against seeming random and desperate, as I am not. If anything, I am conservative, compassionate, and picky, despite the occasional twinge of wanting to be kissed soon.

We go into a tent where various prize-winning cupcakes are displayed. At one long table sit four of the judges, looking beyond nauseated as they cut tiny pieces out of the desserts before them to sample.

"How does one luck into this sort of a gig?" I ask, not really wishing to ever do anything of the sort but imagining it is worth asking for reference.

"Luck, just like you said." He looks down at the cupcake before him and I imagine he thinks, "Bad luck." I can sympathize, these tiny, otherwise delectable nibbles from dozens becoming a blandly sugary miasma so that one can hardly stand going on. Empty calories and so little variation of the fare becomes exhausting and disgusting.

Rebecca asks if we would like real food and I have no idea. My solitary cupcake has made me feel slightly ill and as though every breath I take is coated in maple syrup. Coupled with this, I have still yet to get my appetite back in the breakup. It is only once we settle into an eatery just outside of the fair proper that I decide I can manage to attempt a chicken, avocado, and bacon sandwich. If I am going to refrain from eating something, I might as well refrain from something delicious.

Once my food is ordered, I give Jacki a call, as she had left a message saying she is at this festival. I want to call Jinx and tell her that I am suffering - she has been the only one to reliably and quickly thrust me back into reality - but it is not the time and place for that.

I do eat and completely, to my surprise. The food revives my mood somewhat and I begin talking, explaining that our mutual friend, [Evie], is barely known to me but that I submitted her as a reference photo for my novel, that I am a teacher, that I used to swing dance but remember nothing useful. Rebeccaís friend talks of weddings and engagement and it does not occur to me that this should be painful until I write this sentence. Weddings are simply one of those things that happen from time to time, albeit not to me.

Jacki appears and I introduce her, uncertain whether inviting her along was a breach of etiquette. In Jackiís presence, I can speak a bit more freely because with her I have antecedents. She can ask after my friend who had a crisis, causing me to assure Rebecca that most of my friends exist on an even keel (as Jacki hopefully demonstrates). Too, Jacki asks after Melanie and I give an abbreviated and sanitized version of what has passed in the last twenty-four hours. I want Rebecca not to think ill of me because she has potential. I would love to think Rebecca will become someone whom I can invite out, someone who will keep me in mind for festivals.

I do not simply put on a brave face. I enjoy our late lunch but my emotions swirl close to the surface and I cannot accurately predict what is going to set me off (aside from silence and darkness). I want not to fret what Melanie is thinking and doing (and with who), but it has not even been a week however much it felt like the first day took a month.

After lunch, the cupcakes are largely exhausted and there is no hope of the weather improving. Rebecca wishes to leave and, as I cannot impose upon Jacki to drive me home, I must leave with her. Jacki seems stricken, but I have no words for her in parting other than the truth.

Rebecca and I talk more on the way home. She tells of how she met her boyfriend (they were roommates and did not like one another until he moved out, then they missed one another) and of her job. I prefer to listen more than talk, to get to know her rather than overwhelm her with who I feel I am.

As Rebecca drops me off, I apologize in so many words for being a bit morose. She does not have much to contrast it against, I have existed in her life only since Melanie left me, but I hope the fact that I am apologizing will assure her this is not how I usually am.

When I get inside, I call Jacki and leave a message, apologizing if I put her off in any way. She later assures me that I did not, that she was just sorry to see so little of me and is apparently grateful that I care enough to be wildly oversensitive to causing her offense.

Soon in Xenology: More dancing. Coping.

last watched: How I Met Your Mother
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Tom Waits

Angels and Demons | 2011 | Post-Mortem

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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