Thomm Quackenbush, author

Cake Faerii | 2011 | Of What Colour It Please God

05.17.11 9:41 p.m.

[T]he departing world leaves behind... not an heir, but a pregnant widow.  

-Alexander Ivanovich Herzen

 


Post-Mortem

Xen  
Won't fall

Lauren, pretending she is me:

I invested a large chunk of time in someone I came to love dearly although I may not have intended to do this. I built a life for us in my head and tried to build it in life. I tried to stand by her when she did wrong by me and for all of this she left me. I feel robbed but I can't get it together to hate the person who took it from me because I love her. Every time I think about her it hurts me, but I still love her. All I am sure of is that I want the life I came to see as being possible when I was with her, but with someone I have not met and am afraid I will never meet. I am eager to discover what exactly will be different about her, what nuances will shape what we are to have, not only to stop hurting but to begin the process of feeling again. I love being in love. Everything unrelated to this in my life feels like a distraction right now, including my career-related success. I beat myself up when I have doubts because it seems like all I do is doubt.

Preparing dinner, my mother says, "You've got to do like fat girls do when they get dumped."

"What's that?"

"Lose a bunch of weight, look fabulous."

"I have lost a bunch of weight," I tell her, "and aside from sleep deprivation and slightly bloodshot eyes, this is about as fabulous as I am likely to look, as I have looked in years."

She gives me that look mothers get when they feel that you are intentionally misinterpreting. "Look fabulous in other ways then. Go on a book tour, that would be fabulous. The more you focus on your books, the more fabulous you will be."

She means, I think, simply not caring about relationships, being so wrapped up in something else that I forget my bed is empty and Melanie's is not. But it has been a week and I am not there yet. (Plus, my publisher feels paperback sales are too paltry to necessitate putting the physical book on Amazon, which makes a tour or even book signing a trickier.) Then again, she informs me that she refers to me as "the daughter [she] never had" to the rest of the family and assumes this will offend me, so it is imminently possible this advice is a trifle generic.

I don't wish to harbor or encourage illusion of how I am honestly doing.

I go to work. I function. While I am not writing any fiction right now, I expect I will soon enough. (On the show How I Met Your Mother, one character maintains that it takes ten thousand drinks to get over a relationship, however long that takes. I would counter that, for me, it takes about fifty thousand words on topic.) I see friends and am genuinely happy and fun. I down free wine at gallery openings and discuss art and literary antecedents, I wander the moonlit streets with dear friends. I can see other couples and, as long as they are friends and began dating before I was dumped, I feel perfectly normal. I can watch movies involving people kissing and falling in love, though porn is understandably unappealing to me ("Wow, people who don't care about one another having sex? Fun."). I cannot quite enjoy characters breaking up, but that is to be expected.

I have had a few breakdowns in my car, as it is quiet and anonymous in a way my apartment is not with its thin walls. I may have intentionally listened to an unbelievably emo band for the purposes of provoking myself to cry. I have beaten my innocent refrigerator with empty seltzer bottles in fits of overwhelming pain.

I try not to process this as a rejection more than it has to be. It really was entirely Melanie. I did nothing wrong. I was devout, charming, sweet, caring, loving, open, and all those precious adjectives one should want in a partner, if one wants a partner. I couldn’t switch my gender, I couldn’t become independently wealthy, I refused to become polyamorous but I was otherwise ideal for her, as silly as it feels to type that. It occurs to me that the right person for me won't have these barriers. I am not casting aspersions at alternative lifestyles - trust me, my queer cred is about as high as it can be for a straight guy - but the person I am supposed to find won’t throw up walls to being with me.

It is not that I miss being with Melanie - though I do, in part - but that I already miss being with someone real. I have mixed feelings about women finding me attractive, so used am I to brushing them off these last three plus years. A coworker who has clumsily hit on me several times in the past mentions she is hungry and I almost offer to buy her lunch before realizing that was not what I wish to do at all. I cannot always predict what will set me off. I am angry at having been treated this way again, but I do not blame love. Love didn't leave me, Melanie did, and few songs are explicitly about her or this situation (until someone writes "The Ballad of the Girl Who Wants to Be a Boy Who Wants to Be with Nameless Girls So Much She Leaves Her Boy") so I can continue to turn the radio on.

Already, I am a little tired of people taking care of me. I am not suggesting that I do not need it or that I am remotely unappreciative. My friends are wonderful (technically, they are 95% wonderful and 5% complete jerks who were biding their time/trying to cause drama to give purpose to their lives). I simply hate feeling the least bit burdensome, especially when facing one of those things that happens from time to time. If you are dating someone who is not as realized as she thinks, who is not ready to be an adult, who has decided bisexuality trumps monogamy, these things are more likely to happen. Hope is not enough to conquer that.

Plus, if one absolutely must be dumped, spring in the Hudson Valley is a good time and place for it. The mountains are lush and comforting. There is no end of carnivals, festivals, and fairs to distract one. The women, it must be admitted, are largely easy on the eyes, even if the basics of my type exist in maybe one in five thousand women. I see a tween signing that she loves me out of a school bus, I watch Buddhist monks drink tea in the rain, and I cannot help but be happy.

But, as I've said, I do miss her. There is little in me that does not mourn what I have lost, our softness and our jokes, our late night conversations, her songs in my honor, waking up before her and watching her dream. I will one day have new moments with a new woman, but these experiences are lost to me now and I feel grief. Melanie is one of the most natively intelligent and driven (to the point of a flaw) people I have ever encountered. She was never boring, even when she wanted to do nothing more with her weekend that sit on my sofa and watch old BBC shows while conquering level after level of Angry Birds (while insisting she hates video games). I gave completely and openly of myself with her both because I was finally ready to do this with someone and because she was worth the sacrifice to my ego. I think, until the end, that she tried to love me the best way she knew how.

But she was not the One, if there is a One (I think, as always, that there are dozens of people who can fit perfectly in different ways). She is focused on herself to the exclusion not only of other people but the rest of the world. She was cruel in her selfishness without realizing. She is underdeveloped and avoidant, dependent on being insulated from the consequences of her actions. She is ruled by the chemicals in her body, believing them to be the thoughts in her head (having been exactly there, I can only cringe in sympathy). She is shaped by the expectations of those in the room with her as well as a menagerie of ghosts. Wherever she is, she wants to be somewhere else. When she was with me, there was nothing she liked better until the second she pulled out of my driveway. She thinks she is cynical about the world when it is really that she is not ready to open up to the totality of genuine experience. I learned not to be fictional with her, but she does not yet realize how much of her daily interactions are playing a part. She compartmentalizes each avenue of her life so that no one can know the real her, because she does not know who that integrated person might be yet. She neglected me because she did not always understand that I continued to exist when she looked away, lacking object permanence. I think of how Melanie was so critical of everyone, how I often felt insufficient in her eyes, how she could inspire total confidence and then cock an eyebrow that would make me feel lost and resentful. None of these make her a bad person per se, but they do make her the wrong person for me right now. I was aware of these traits before she left, but I always assumed that love existed to surmount inadequacies. She specifically did not, yet another contradiction to a continued romantic relationship. (I do not believe this is sour grapes or justifying what happened solely for the sake of justification, but rather admitting what I would not while she promised to return to my arms.)

There aren't as many deficits as would make this exercise completely productive, but I have to do it anyway. For much of our relationship, she was a good girlfriend, even if she doesn't think so. Even in absence, she was what I needed in my life and it is her loving presence that I miss the most now, the promise of her and of a future together. I never felt so completely loved than with her and that is something that oddly eases the transition. She will have anonymous hookups with people whose names she won't remember in the morning, but I know she will always love me, she will always have this node comparing the shadows under her to the light of our love, even and possibly especially when I move on to women who can be serious about me, when she can pretend in her guilt that this is further evidence that she did the right thing by leaving.

This does not change who I am or what I want, except that who I want is not going to be her. I will love again without question, and will be wiser this time. Going into this relationship, I said that, if Melanie were a little older, I wouldn't have to question whether I should pursue her. In the end, because of her age and its associated uncertainty, she left. In future relationships, I will not enter where the kill switch is so obvious, where they are too young or old, where they say I am the sole exception to their homosexuality (I get it, I rock the androgyny, but I am not in it to prove a point to your vagina), where they need to be elsewhere three and a half weeks out of every month well into the future. While I will gladly help anyone I love with her problems, it is not my job to wait them out. If they are not ready to be with me when I meet them, then they are simply not supposed to be ready and it does not behoove me to wait at the foot of their beds.

I am great at being in romantic relationships, but I cannot do that alone. In the last eleven years, I have been entangled with two women who were overly focused on doing their own things elsewhere (studying, Tae Kwon Do, science, Wicca). As I am a writer with no end of interesting (but romantically neuter) friends, I could deal with Emily’s and Melanie’s absences largely by spending time with someone else I happened to like. I have not had a life with a woman that was inextricably linked to mine as long as I have been an adult, even as I spent years living with Emily. I would love to try this experience - I think I could do a far better and grateful job of it than most who take it for granted - I am made for that measure, but will only be capable of it when I find the woman who will be worth that. Until then, yes, I will find myself swing dancing and going to writers' meet-ups to fill the hours and spaces. I will not be doing it to find a lover, but to occupy my hours and expand my social sphere (because whoever She Who Will Be is, I by design did not know her before Melanie left me). I wish new people could have known me with the composure I had when I felt the presence of Melanie in my life, however much I ache to be new, to be discovered by someone in love. In reality, I was just forced to accept her permanent absence two weeks early, with a slap in the face in the guise of cheating with [Miss X]. She was never coming home to me because it has been about a year since she remotely considered me her home.

And I think, "Well, no matter what, she was going to be gone all summer, maybe longer. At least now, you might let yourself meet someone new. And, hey, you've got a few new friends already and you only kind of want to kiss one of them."

I say these things, but Melanie and I had at least two and a half amazing years together of growing more in love despite distance and impediments. I don't regret that, I do not even regret trying to keep her as she decided she was finally ready to jump to someone(s) new. As has become my mantra in all this, I comported myself with love and integrity. I cannot lament that. I gave the greatest sacrifice I could and did not get the lasting reward, but I am wiser for next time.

Soon in Xenology: More dancing. Coping.

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

Cake Faerii | 2011 | Of What Colour It Please God

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

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush