Thomm Quackenbush, author

Swing Dating | 2011 | Singledom

05.21.11 3:41 a.m.

To finish is a sadness to a writer - a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.  

-John Steinbeck

 


The Picture of Thomm Q

I am not fictionalizing my life to make myself brave. I know because I have done exactly that in the past. I am plenty brave in an authentic way, I go dancing, I talk to strangers, and I do not feel the urge to retreat. This experience of being left by someone I love aches and I do not withdraw into stories. Despite all the writing I am doing (somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 words on this topic, not including the back entries I put up to cement that the relationship was over and why), I am not constructing a narrative where I am the aggrieved protagonist. I do not see this period in my life as an interregnum between lovers, I do not see "partner" as a role that can be quickly recast from a large talent pool to stop myself from coping. I don't see this as a fun game, I do not feel liberated or excited by this "opportunity" to be alone and I resent people who think I should. I was dumped for reasons I find inadequate - but what reason would be adequate beyond that we stopped loving one another? - and I don't see an easy reprieve. I just have to live through this. I am not putting people on pedestals or shoving them in pits, no matter how prettily I phrase myself at times. I write the best way I can to show the truth as I see it so I am holding myself accountable to my process. I do not feel all my reactions are noble or justified (largely the opposite; since I am in my head, I know just how lousy I can be, even when I do not act on impulses). I occasionally hate my role in all this, hate how I feel about Melanie, am completely befuddled as to how to best treat myself with loving kindness. If I knew what I wanted - besides the hope of a future lover worthy of our love - I would be able to say with authority that what I want is not what I need. I do not think my pain is beautiful, even if it is productive, even if it forces me out of my apartment, forces me to take risks, forces me to keep moving and living the best way I can manage. I do not pretend what I write is an objective truth, though it is my best truth. Melanie is not the villain of this story. Until very recently, she was a costar, the love interest, the favored subject, the muse. How could she be villainous? At worst, she is young and unaware of the fullness of what she did. She made a major life decision with flippancy, however long it took her to make it before [Miss X] looked at her a moment too long and gave her impetus, and is just now beginning to feel the effects. I am, likewise, not the hero, just the somewhat consistent perspective. [Miss X] may see Melanie as the damsel-in-distress. Some of my friends may see Melanie as the dragon. She is simply a girl making decisions which result in pain for people she loves, as well as herself. If we are prepared to call everyone like that diabolical, I will have to invest myself in a graduate degree in exorcism.

I write to get the words out of me, because they build up as a plaque in my neurons if I do not, because I cannot sleep unless I have properly purged myself of all these sentences that flicker through my mind on the brink of dreams, because I cannot be happy in the sunshine with this stewing inside me. Once I have posted something, I feel a calm. It has left me, I no longer need to analyze and rephrase things. I am free of it for a while, until something else occurs (and they will, even if there is little more antecedent than seeing someone at a distance). These entries are like the portrait to my Dorian Gray, sounding wrought and dramatic so I can experience the peace of traveling lightly. Yes, I need to remember what has come before. Looking back at entries written after Emily left me, I am struck by the similarity of actions and responses. I like feeling that, should one care to, I am as wholly known as one can be writing a censored version of one's life on the internet. Frankly, until I have typed something out, I do not always understand how I feel. I can better practice my compassion after this relief, I can take the sting out and allow myself to act with the best version of love I can (even if I feel like an emotional iceberg, only the tip of what I am feeling cresting the surface of most people's perceptions).

This isn't easy for me, if a breakup of this severity can ever be easy. I am not in such a cloud-dotted landscape as I was when Emily left years ago. I am not able to harbor illusions long (however much I joked with my friends that I was the Machiavelli of Macking). Melanie may have called me gallant in the immediate aftermath of this breakup, but I feel wretched. Any class or nobility comes from repressing my immediate urge, my desire to call Melanie and cry about what I am going through because of her. Or, possibly worse, call her and not cry, just talk to her as though things are not different between us now, as if I do not feel betrayed by and resentful of this person who I let completely into my soul. I want credit for refraining, from refusing to lead the wrong people on - some practically beg for it - because I feel this twinge, this "oh, wouldn't this be easy for a moment before it made me feel so much worse?" Instead, when I admit what I am thinking and feeling in my darkest moment, I sense preemptive condemnation, as though I would have committed the actsn by thinking them through, as though I would have given in. As though I am doing more than expressing that I hurt while I try to return to my baseline. I shout fury in private so I can act with sanity, but I worry only the former is judged.

My emotions flare and, yes, sometimes I feel normal and hopeful. Sometimes, desolate, but not hopeless. Right now, I feel replaced. Somehow, I had been avoiding this sensation that [Miss X] had supplanted me until I saw that Jinx and she were now Facebook friends. It is a silly thing, I know. Jinx has 323 Facebook friends, only one of whom pounced on the woman I spent years loving. Jinx is entitled to befriend anyone she would like, especially since such a level of friendship means so little (I myself have somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 of such friends, most of whom I could explain but few who I care for much). Last night, in a conversation, Melanie spat that she holds [Miss X]'s hand in the car, that they kiss in trees. This, it should be noted, occurred after she mentioned copiously that she is enjoying all the "girl sex" she is having but abruptly halted the conversation when I implied an emotional attachment. I could not understand why she would think it was at all okay to boast of her sex life to me, but says she does because she thinks this is showing emotional progress. In all this, she seems most bothered that I will not agree that the breakup was inevitable and will not fully grasp that it was going to be a surprise no matter what schemas I had built in these months on the edge of the cliff. It was not inevitable. She could have stayed with me if she wanted to, could have put work toward getting over her fear because she valued our love and my place in her life. She did not.

I love her, as she knows, but I do not anticipate her kiss any longer. If she asked me to come to her bed, I would decline (which I will admit was not how my libido felt about her days before, as it had begun mourning her absence separately but no less insistently). Tomorrow (technically today), she leaves the state of New York, aside from a quick pit stop at the end of the month so we can have a proper goodbye (that might have unconsciously been her bid to make certain I would not attend her graduation). If I wanted her back - and I don't, though I want to feel the potential of love with someone else soon - this would be the last day for gestures. I admit to irritation that she got most everything she was looking for in leaving me, a passionate, apparently eye-opening (but only to Melanie) lesbian romance with its own expiration date. I am not saying she is not allowed to have it - I am not in a position to remonstrate her now - but that I would like her to be a bit less gleeful at me until I am entrenched in my own happiness of potential and hope.

In all of this, I feel as though she treats me so casually, as though the decision she made had no ramifications outside of who touched her between the legs. To her, I think, the only difference she sees in our relationship is that she isn't coming to my bed every weekend. She still loves me and is possibly not certain how deeply this affects me because she has never before attempted an adult relationship. She is cavalier with the idea of my finding someone else and encourages me toward meaningless sex, which is not a prerogative I imagine even a twenty-one year old lover of mine could suggest with any seriousness. Then again, I recall Emily saying something similar after she left.

I feel, because my initial process was an attempt to behave normally, some think I should be over my grief after two weeks, when it feels as though it is just coming now that Melanie has left the state. Maybe it was denial then, maybe I couldn't believe it was actually over after so many times with her returning to me after an hour of inner dread. Maybe because I thought it would be easier, that some charming and patient woman would materialize who would befriend me and wait until I was ready to love again. But that would have been convenient fiction. In reality, I have to sit in this and wait. Wait until I heal enough to try to put weight on my injury (though I rather need someone to step toward, otherwise I am just flailing in the air and saying I am sure I am ready for a marathon). Wait and not make up mythology and justification.

Soon in Xenology: Coping.

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

Swing Dating | 2011 | Singledom

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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