Thomm Quackenbush, author

Already Met You | 2011 | New Moon Rising

05.26.11 11:34 p.m.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.  

-Walt Whitman

 


The Tango

Several (for whom Melanie is simply "the ex" now, supplanting all prior exes in the Collective Relationship Unconscious) could not understand why I would allow her to visit, especially two weeks after breaking up with me over the phone because she lacked the nerve to do it to my face. Lauren worried that letting Melanie see me would reset my coping process. She may be right, but refusing this final visit would feel as if I were cheating myself out of an opportunity for resolution. This is not to say that I do not feel in high dudgeon until for the majority of the preceding day.

She isn't going to swoop in, all flowing leather coat and brooding, helping me fend off the apocalypse as an outlet for our relational angst. (She didn't leave to grapple with demons, except the Tintin-haired ones she invoked to supposedly slay her bisexuality and monogamy.) She didn't ask that I stay in the drawing room, to sew while she made herself ready for the bounty of my love. She left so she could sleep with someone else (a series of someone elses). She was not kidnapped by pirates, she did not receive an amnesia-inducing blow to the head, she is not being chased by international assassins and was not protecting my life by dumping me cold. The fiction I consume is not rife with women who decide that they are lesbians in need of emotionally divorced hook-ups after three years adoring the man of their dreams. It seems too bizarre that the Melanie who will visit is the one with whom I went to the aquarium and zoo, the one who nursed me when I got strep and tonsillitis, the one who claimed me as hers before our first date was over, the one who fed me sushi on my planned wedding day, the patient one who rushed me to bed as often as she could.

I can't predict tonight beyond a few likelihoods. We will cry. She will hold my hand as though it still belongs to her. I will give her the spare key to her car, the only possession she wants back. When she comes in, she will pretend as though we are in the same world as when last she passed through the threshold, but there will be that fraction of a second in which she does not kiss me. She will then look away, toward a place to sit (my couch, I would imagine, instead of my bed).

She weakly suggested we meet at a restaurant, but I could not condone that. Our relationship began in a pouncing on my couch in my apartment (three apartments ago, but the couch remains). This final goodbye deserves the same, less the pouncing. It deserves privacy and the ability to speak freely without someone asking to refill our untouched beverages.

I mentally rehearse extremities. Here are three of the most intense and least probable:

  • The Attempt at Reconciliation. Melanie will admit that she misses me terribly, that she realizes with the maturity of two weeks that she was not paying idle, romantic lip service to the concept of this being the worst mistake of her life. She loathes [Miss X] for seizing upon her fears to hook-up with her in a moment (weeks) of vulnerability. She sees through the ridiculousness of what she did out of stress and fear, repenting totally. She admits she is bisexual, but she is also wants to be monogamous because those two concepts are not mutually exclusive and it is offensive to suggest otherwise. She desires more than anything to get back together, to spend her life loving blissfully at my side, because no one has loved her more and she cannot imagine this changing. I hear her out and present my list of requirements (she move closer within six months, she get a full STD screening and come up clean, she openly propose within a year, she spend time around my friends and family rather than hiding at every opportunity, she get and keep a job until graduate school with minimal parental interference, she renounce all past and future excuses to our relationship - be they men, women, or ideas). She sniffles that she can't do these things, maybe offers alternatives - polyamory, being together after grad school - she knows I cannot accept. I nod and tell her I know that and am sorry for it, but there is no other way we can possibly be together without her making these compromises. I spent too long making sacrifices to keep her sanity intact to have my own put under the knife ever again at her whims.
  • The Battle. We scream hatred. We throw crockery. The police may be called by neighbors. We do not talk again for years and then only in literate insults. Her nickname among my friends becomes "Whore of Babylon".
  • The Attempt at Sex. Since she is single, I am single, and we happen to be attracted to and love one another (along a stew of other drastic emotions), she attempts to stay the night with the promise of copious, wild post-breakup sex. This could be a sister to the Attempt at Reconciliation, with the awareness that there is no way we can be together for more than a night at a time. I remind her that I do know where she has been and have no idea where [Miss X] has - what little I know would lead me to extreme caution - and decline.

There are variations of mundane possibilities, but they do not make for good storytelling.

She is an hour and a half late, making me fret I am being stood up for this opposite of a first date. Later, she will admit that she considered this, though would have done me the courtesy of letting me know she lacked the courage to follow through. When I speak to Emily about Melanie's tardiness, she advises that I get out of my apartment.

"You shouldn't be there when she eventually shows up. Screw her, you were more than understanding. No one else would have done so much for her. But pizza should be involved. Go get pizza," she says.

Melanie calls and explains that she is late because of traffic and a different route from the benthos conference, so I do not leave for the siren song of trans-fats. I am heading out to the porch to look at the driveway for the third time when I see her brown coif ascending the stairs. I almost run back to my apartment so the scene can play out as I envisioned it, but instead wait for her to enter and lead her inside, obviating the awkwardness of the kiss we do not share.

It is tense, still. She asks to use the bathroom. When she exits, she sits on my bed.

After this, things become jumbled. All of the below happened and possibly in this order. Possibly not and I've just pushed together similar moments to form something like a coherent narrative. I am also leaving out most of the quiet moments, the touches and smiles, because they do not transcribe. I do not have to wrestle with being her friend while she is in front of me, but I do need to suss out what it is to be the ex-boyfriend of the first person with whom I was completely present. This will no doubt make it incomprehensible (or infuriating) that I did not kick her out within the first ten minutes or the ten after that, but trust me when I say that it made sense to me to keep her around. I wanted to see this to the end, despite and because of what happens.

She has no intention of letting this meeting be the last, to vanish to Ohio or points distant, as I assumed and hoped. (As would have been only polite after breaking my heart. Shouldn't she be properly banished to Siberia until I don't remember missing her?) She wishes to move to New York City in search of a job, in hopes of being anywhere but her parents' home, and so she can be closer to her friends - though still hundreds of miles away from the girl she is currently sleeping with (at least until college resumes). A month ago, when I discovered she had no intention of moving in with me, I tried to tell her she would not wish to live with her parents.

"No! Unacceptable! You were supposed to go away. This was the last time I was going to see you. That was the deal. You can't be here," I tell her. "Here is mine." She lost New York by leaving me and graduating. She has no legitimate business here.

"I won't be here, I'll be in the City. And," she says, raising her voice for the only time tonight, "you are an idiot if you want to stay around here! You will never come to anything!"

I have no idea where her rage comes from, why she thinks she has the right to say this to me, especially now. Why she thinks she is permitted to be disrespectful to me when I am opening my home to her after what she did. Whether, indeed, she is talking to me or projecting.

I do not remind her that I stuck around here in part because of her, that I had promised to move to be with her when she went to graduate school, that I had long nights where I weighed our relationship against opportunities and chose her. She knows all these things, reiterating them aloud would prove nothing.

"Cmon, we could be roommates," she says, switching gears in a moment, jarring me. "And whenever I had a girl over, you would sit with your ear pressed to the wall."

I sneer. "What about when I had someone over?"

"I wouldn't care, I'd be too busy with my girl."

I glare at her. "Why are you such an enormous bitch? What did I ever do to you to deserve this?"

She laughs and shrugs, then mentions how she kisses differently. She is so close and I have already mentioned that I had thought of kissing her, but would not. I ask her what she means.

"It's not like a windmill or anything. It's just... I don't know. It's not the same."

"Oh," I say, looking away.

She grabs my hair, pulling it, and gives me a strangely chaste kiss before I can realize what is happening. It feels as though she is trying to control my head, compelled and repelled with equal measure, as though it pains her to kiss me but she cannot stop herself. It is not that I don't want this kiss, even more than I would like to be kissed in general, as that I don't comprehend the kiss. I am there, my lips tentatively pressed to hers because there is nowhere else for them to be, but I am also observing and unable to sort through what is going on.

"You certainly do kiss differently," I tell her, furrowing my brow. With the hair-pulling but tight lips, it is tiger ferocity without follow through. There is a sweetness, an affection that is not sexual. I do not feel any warm tingle floating in my stomach, any desire to rend the clothes from her body. It is a kiss that restricts itself to a strange land, a kiss that wants but does not want to want.

For the remainder of this entry, it would be safe to assume that we continue to share these affectionate pecks - maybe two dozen of them in the two and a half hours we are together, some brief and some stretching to minutes - with the exception of my licking her lips once for spite and her pretending she finds this gross. As predicted, she holds my hand like it belongs to her. We are in physical contact, holding or hugging, or simply touching because it is what we are accustomed to doing and we have no compelling reason to stop. None of it is sexual - though there are a few moments when I worry this will change - but I feel it should be stated now so I don't have to interrupt the flow with "and then we kiss" every couple of paragraphs. We do, even when it seems from conversational context that we wouldn't. I am not unhappy that we do kiss. I do not feel used or misled by the kisses. I am somewhat glad she was my first kiss out of a relationship, at least it was someone I love rather than a drunken stranger pushing me against a wall at a club.

"We aren't going to have sex," she says, as though I proposed.

"I am aware. I don't really want to have sex with you." The idea of her, the woman I loved most in the world as of a month ago, is someone I want to take to bed. I have dreams about her, though I wish I did not because then I wake and have to remember she left. Melanie-My-Odd-Friend-and-Ex - she who has decided she is a lesbian now because she was the toy of one - while possessing a charm, I can resist. They even look like different women in my mind's eye, my Mellie having shoulder length russet hair and a loving smile, sparklingly clear eyes that cannot seem to get enough of me. Melanie-As-She-Is is short-haired, more boyish by design, less elfin. Her face is rounder and her thick-rimmed glasses seem permanently affixed, though of course they are not. If I had met this girl without the preamble of over a thousand days of love, I might delight in her friendship but never wonder at how she looked naked.

She had sent me an essay the night before, one aspect of which was that she was never attracted to me because I was born male. She did not take her apparent gayness seriously enough to resist loving me. I am wonderful, but my "body was all wrong" and she "couldn't sincerely muster up much arousal" toward me, despite her being the one to initiate most sex acts between us, despite having pulled me into bed constantly.

"I have a hard time with the thought that the one person in the world who most made me feel attractive, the person who actually made me attractive, says she never found me attractive," I tell her.

Later, she admits that I am "really, really, fucking hot" tonight.

"I have felt like you couldn't understand how much this hurt me," I say. "You are just so casual in regards to me, shrugging off that you did something that sliced me to shreds."

"That's because I spent so long feeling guilty for what I was doing to you. I burned out on empathizing, that's why I went to the therapist. There was a time when I considered suicide as a valid alternative to leaving you."

"I'm glad you aren't dead," I say, rubbing her knee. I went to a therapist, too. I took herbal supplements to try to manage the quagmire of emotions her uncertainty provoked in me. Perhaps I was not properly suicidal, but her vacillating darkened my life for months and led to anxiety issues that I am still glaring back into their cages.

She says she regrets not figuring herself out sooner, not leaving me much sooner so she did not have to put me through this. But she acknowledges that, had she left me, she would be a sadder and angrier person for having lacked my company. She had a wandering eye, was looking for a woman to leap onto, since at least September. I can think of several phone calls she made in my presence that I found suspect, a few new friends who seemed to exist purely as potential (but insufficient until [Miss X]) avenues for infidelity.

I say, "I've told people that it would have been easier for me now if I were less virtuous in our relationship."

"Yeah," she says, a touch sadly, "I wanted you to be less virtuous for about three years, but you wouldn't be."

"I wanted to be exclusively yours too much. I didn't want to make the same mistakes I had with Emily." I think, perhaps too hopefully, that she will come to see this as a good thing one day. The idea of someone wanting to be faithful to her should not make her feel sad or trapped. She should grow so that the idea of loveless and faceless groping no longer titillates.

She does not want me to feel minimized. What she knows about me is, she says, unquestionable. She loves me. She loved me. I am more a part of her family than people who share her blood. I am, to her, one of the best people in the world. But she became complacent about understanding herself in this relationship. She realized that she was not "being true" to herself by not sleeping with other people. Fidelity made her feel resentful and she did not want to start hating me for holding her back, however much, in her words, she "left the topic of sexuality to people whom [she] sneeringly imagined as those frantically searching for impossible self-fulfillment through sexual relations with others." But she herself was not satisfied and felt she owed it to herself to pursue infidelity, even given the profound cost.

She says she cannot understand how this was a hurtful thing to say to me, how I could be offended by her "going off to make [her] fortune" when her other option, to her thinking, was to "die pent-up and self-righteous" because our relationship could not be salvaged successfully and honestly. That the other choice for her was to become a nun for me and force herself to stop thinking about sex with anyone else, to close herself off to that aspect of life. In her mind, she suddenly grew wings and I was asking her not to fly by continuing to be faithful. I tell her I see it as overjustification of a drastic decision, that spreading legs is not the same as spreading wings, that [Miss X] looking at her for a moment too long did not make her into an angel. Having taken these actions, she must convince herself that she was righteous. Had she not, had she decided to stay with me, she would be justifying that decision just as hard, except continued love without fear is less exciting than a fling without someone she will not have to see again.

Unlike Melanie, and against her expressed wishes, I refuse to see her leaving as an inevitability. Her bisexuality is not a choice, but leaving me was. Later, she will say it was simply that she was not ripe for my attentions, leaving out the parts about how wrong my body is, ignoring that she wanted to sleep around more than she wanted to spend any more time as my lover. When she is ripe - if she grows ripe - I won't be waiting to sample. She was ripe for years and has spoiled.

For tonight, I ask her only to not to talk about [Miss X], but she does. Repeatedly and ostentatiously. She says that she does not really know [Miss X], despite two weeks of sex and helping her move out of her apartment, and does not want to.

"Yes, that is because the entirety of your relationship with her is in the infatuation stage. Actually knowing her, letting yourself see her flaws, would ruin that. You don't like her, you like the idea of a random woman," I say.

She says that one of her friends, who was visiting before graduation, independently knew [Miss X] and referred to her as a "recruiter", a lesbian who impresses her sexuality on whatever woman is nearest without regard because the only way to prove one is gay is to proselytize. Melanie told him that she did not need to be recruited, but I wonder if he was not trying to warn her in his obtuse way.

She tells me stories of a night with [Miss X] at a party - though I audibly wish she wouldn't - which casts her in such an unflattering light that I am opting to omit the details here. I struggle to reconcile the Melanie in these stories with the Melanie I had loved. Was this always a part of her? How can her exhibitionistic anecdotes have come from the same woman who furiously cautioned against displays of affection when we were still together and I planned to go to graduation? Is this who she is in [Miss X]'s presence, trying to emulate her? (Or did she not wish to be outed as other than homosexual in front of people she admired but misinformed?)

"I didn't understand sex before you," Melanie says. "I'd had sex with a boy maybe five times, and maybe five other times with various girls. You were novel, it was strange to be able to have sex when and how I wanted with someone who loved me."

She then says she wants to leave so she can moon over [Miss X] over Skype with the friend who called her a recruiter, putting her arms over her face and falling back on my bed, smiling. I do not find this to be a sufficient reason to leave now and tell her so. She reaches for her phone and I ask what she is doing.

"I'm going to call her," Melanie says.

"Are you kidding? You do not get to call her in my presence. If that call connects, I'll start talking."

She puts the phone back on the floor, her bluff called.

"What happened to the fish?" I ask, worried about the fate of my ichthyological children.

"Oh, we gave them to some girl to put in a goldfish pond."

"Ah, I bet they are running that place now," I say, but I am surprised that Melanie did not give them to someone whom she might visit, especially as she openly mourned when one of the fish committed suicide by leaping from the tank. On the other hand, I am grateful they were not given to [Miss X], as I am certain we would never see them again.

Because she asks and I don't stop myself adequately, I mention a woman on whom I briefly had a mild crush.

"Show me her," Melanie insists.

"I would prefer not to, thanks."

"Come on, I want to see!"

I narrow my eyes at her. "Fine. No judging."

"I wouldn't judge her!" Melanie protests.

"Melanie, you judge everyone and everything constantly."

"Well, I'm trying to get better about that," she maintains.

I pull up the woman's Facebook and show Melanie a few pictures.

"She is toothy and anemic in the way that you like. I don't like her."

"You don't need to like her," I say. "Actually, neither do I, since she turned down coffee. And I thought you weren't going to judge."

She shrugs. "Maybe she's Mormon, they can't have caffeine."

"It's not a big deal," I say. "Maybe she'll turn out to be a friend."

"You should give people a chance," Melanie chides. "I met [Miss X] years ago and just thought she was so boring." She will have to forgive me if I do not see cause to take advice so phrased.

As we are getting along (despite how this reads) and she is yawning, I suggest she spend the night, specifying I mean only that she sleep on my couch or on the air mattress rather than driving three hours and spending money on a hotel room. She says she thought of this, but felt weird asking.

"I thought you might have been hinting around it the other day, but I ignored it because you were rather busy talking about being a lesbian."

"Oh, I wasn't hinting," she says.

She opts to stick around, saying that she is going to crash on my couch as offered, and would like something to eat. She searches through my refrigerator and says, "You don't have food."

"Yeah, I don't really eat food anymore. Sorry." Teasing her, I lift up my shirt to show her that I have lost conspicuous weight since last I saw her.

"Don't do that! Do you want me lifting my shirt at you?"

I bite my lip. "Do you really want me to answer that?" Then I realize that she does.

She kisses me tersely and settles on a lime popsicle (she was surprised I did not throw out all the food that had to do with her, but I did not see the point - the food did not dump me) and an English muffin. I say, "I'm not making you an egg. You have lost egg privileges."

As the muffin pops out of the toaster, she asks for the Brumel spread. I get it out of the refrigerator and inform her that I had a sudden urge to fling it at her head. She seems fine with this, though I choose not to.

On the sofa, she shows me a picture of [Miss X], though I told her I did not want to see. The less I know about [Miss X], the better for everyone concerned. This picture she thrusts at me is so bad, makes [Miss X] look beyond unattractive, that I playfully-but-not-lightly shove Melanie onto the next cushion and shout, "That?! You left me for that? Are you insane? What are you even thinking? You picked her over me?" This is the angriest I get in her presence, the angriest I feel like getting in front of her. "You honestly have some of the worst taste in women I have ever seen."

"No, I've just had bad luck."

She later, and with no preamble, gigglingly pulls up pictures of the two of them together than make it clear they are naked on a bed and I very nearly tell her to get out of my apartment. How dare she? I cannot fathom the thought process that would make her decide to look at these in my presence, on my computer, to say nothing of showing me. In [Miss X]'s shoes, I would be horrified Melanie showed her ex such pictures, but perhaps that's all part of the game.

Days before, I had spent from waking until after my second job with this muck of sadness about me. Driving home, the thought "Melanie thinks she can only find herself by taking her clothes off" floated into my mind. This infuriated me. I raged at the ridiculousness, that this woman I loved could be so perfectly clueless about the real world after three years with me. What was wrong with her? But the anger - even at so outlandish a topic - cleansed me of my sadness. I did not feel righteous, simply unburdened of the mourning I had been carrying with me because one mourns only for what one wants back.

Once fed, she vacillates on whether or not to leave, preparing to stay, then gathering supplies from my pantry for her drive, then sitting back down.

"I am worried we will fall into our old habits," she says, a touch confused, her arms around me.

"What do you mean?"

"We'll sit on the sofa, I'll get the canned whipped cream, I'll ask if you've seen the latest Fringe, you'll say yes but that you'll watch it again with me, and we'll cuddle."

"That won't happen. At the very least because we saw the last episode of Fringe already."

"Hm. Good point. But, if I don't go, we'll both stay awake all night five feet from one another, thinking about the other person."

I don't disagree. Ten minutes later, she says with a twinkle in her eye, "Do you want to be really skeezy with me?"

"Yes," I answer after a second of studying her expression, not really sure what she is about to propose but wanting to hear.

"Do you want to drive to Scranton and spend the night in a hotel with me? We won't have sex. We're just having such a good time, I've missed you so much, and I don't want it to be over."

I think about it a moment. "I don't think I should do that." Taking this show on the road, as it were, seems too onerous. While it now could be fine to have her sleep on my couch, driving to another state and sharing a hotel room with her is too intense for this new stage of our relationship. Sleeping in a bed with her in Pennsylvania implies too much.

"Yeah, see, that's how I feel about staying the night here."

Kissing me, her arms around my neck, she laments that she can no longer sing the song she composed for me years before, the lyrics of which are "Oh Thommy Bou, my Thommy Bou, I want to give you kisses". This is not to say that she does not sing it to herself accidentally and frequently, but then stops herself with a frown.

Holding her tightly, I say, "I hate that, when you are here, everything is fine. We love one another and are friends. But when you leave, it is going to have to go back to this resentment and anger. I don't want it to happen, but it will."

"Let's not let it. I don't want to do that either." She hugs me and says, "I don't resent you. You didn't ever do anything wrong." But the fact remains that we are still at the beginning of bizarre friendship and this is going to be rocky.

She raids my refrigerator, taking a couple of seltzers, then eyes the unopened bag of corn chips. "Can I take that?"

"I don't eat food, feel free."

I walk her to her car. She hugs me long and hard and there are a few more of the strange kisses, the "I love you" of them obvious. I do not think, as she suggests, that they are a habit. They are the best thing we have done tonight, so clarifying. They are the only reason I can have hope that we will be truly friends someday, as strangely as that reads.

She coos at me, "I think you'll have to be careful in letting future girlfriends know about me. It would be too cruel of me to break up with you and then cause others to break up with you, too."

This startles me out of my friendly reverie. Has she misunderstood tonight? "I don't think it will be a problem. Though, when I start dating, there will be no more of these kisses - forehead and cheek, maybe, but that's it." She has no commitment to Ella as tonight shows - they are going to potentially hook-up until one of them finds something more serious, but they seem to understand they will never be serious - but I only deal in full fidelity in real romantic relationships.

"I love you so much," she says, kissing me again.

"Love you too. Now just say that every three or four days and we should be fine."

When she leaves, all feels so okay that I worry. It has been a strange night, one of the weirdest emotional experiences I have ever had. On one level, I have spent the night realizing that I love one of my friends in a largely non-sexual and non-romantic way. (She wants such different things than I do, I could not want a relationship with her now, even if I enjoyed the serenity of her odd kisses tonight.) There is a relief that, as she drives away, I do not feel an upwelling of negative emotions. I return to my apartment and make a quick business call and palpably sense I should be expecting the other shoe to drop.

I end up calling Jacki and, in my disjointed way, explain roughly what happened. She says, in essence, that she thinks I am again letting Melanie dictate the terms of our relationship, that she now gets all the good stuff of being with me (fondness, friendship, warmth, limited affection) without anything I require in a romantic relationship (commitment, exclusivity, unlimited affection, devotion). I do see her point, but I am honestly not sure if I feel I am following Melanie's diktat instead of chipping out what I want. I am not having a romantic relationship with her, nor do I want to have one. She is far from ready for the level of love we once had. With a summer of space, I have hope we can heal enough to forge a friendship in the ruins of our relationship.

Melanie sends me messages full of hearts from the hotel, wishing I were there with her, hoping I will come with her next time, telling me how much she loves me and how she is surprised that we do not hate one another. She expects, not without reason, that I will begin hating her again now that she is away from me. Even with only the few hours' space, I do feel the inklings of it coming, revulsion that she wants to love me as she always has and then will go take her clothes off for people for whom she is only a warm body. The concern that she is clinging, that she is subconsciously trying to use me as a cushion, or stringing me along. All I feel in the moment is a bit lonely, that I was with someone who cared about me and now I am not, that I see no indications of this changing soon.

She calls me "my Bou" and tells me how glad she is that she still has me. I wonder what this means, in what way she has me. She says later that she regrets nothing in having seen me, that it was deeply comforting to know she had not utterly lost me. But she did give me up, she chose to lose me. She cheated and she left for someone purely because that person was new, clinquant, and female. We discuss the kisses, how she is glad that they happened because they showed her that what she feels around me is real and that we are amazing friends. I do want to be, but I need to do it in a way that is not going to make me crazy.

After Kate (the girlfriend before Emily, for those of you following along at home) left me, she clung. From the night she dumped me and insisted I stick around to watch the movie she had rented, to the dalliances in her dorm or bedroom, to the affectionate letters, to the loving phone calls when she visited England, she did not want to let me go. She wanted to (and did) hook up with guys and do things I would have ended our relationship had we remained together, but she still wanted me in the background, in her stable. She wanted the opportunity to kiss me, she wanted my friendship, she wanted on some level to know I would be available. It almost destroyed me because I somehow convinced myself that we would get back together, because I pinned my self-image on loving someone who needed to stumble. I refrained from pursuing a relationship with a woman who adored me (who was likely too young anyway), I skunked things with my friend Eileen (who would have found another reason not to date me), I let myself be abused by a few women who were more confused than I was, I very nearly slept with my friend Alison because feeling horrible for committing that sin might have been better than feeling good about kissing Kate. It was seven months of being dumped again and again, of giving myself to Kate for a few hours and then raging that an orgasm didn't mean she had resumed loving me, not in the right way. It crippled my self-esteem for months after I started dating Emily. As much as I see parallels in my breakups between Melanie and Emily, I see my worst fears in my breakup with Kate a lifetime ago. When I threatened both Emily and Melanie with never speaking to them again if they dumped me, it was because I did not have the confidence to say it to Kate then and mean it. (Of course, it has been over a decade by now and Kate is among my favorite people, but I needed the space from her then and wouldn't take it for fear it would mean I was giving her up.)

Things go well, fondly, in the conversation with Melanie tonight until she tells me to find [Miss X] on the dating site where I first met her, that Melanie drooled over her profile months ago when she was still with me. It is a simple matter of changing my filter based on an age range (19-21), location (Red Hook, NY), and orientation (Gay) and there [Miss X] is, looking over her right shoulder. Her profile doesn't interest me. I would not have spoken to her based on it, but I do not make a habit of trolling for college lesbians. Had Melanie not told me to look, there would be no chance I would ever be curious enough to check. Melanie promptly insists that I hide myself from [Miss X]'s cyber-sight, because she does not want [Miss X] to know about me and she especially wants to make sure [Miss X] never reads what I write. I joke that I have already sent [Miss X] a few messages in the past and Melanie rages that she can't stay friends with me if I have. Melanie, in fact, tells me I should like [Miss X], that she is good, but I cannot imagine how she thinks she can ask this of me. I will not insult [Miss X] - I do not know her at all, I was never given the chance to meet her before she supplanted me in Melanie's bed - but I will never like the person who assisted Melanie in leaving for selfish gain.

Days later, when I confront Melanie about all of her inappropriate behavior and disrespectful comments this night, she explains that she felt threatened by the comfort of being in my apartment with me. She did not want it to feel as it always had between us, but it did. In my presence, she was content loving me and it worried her. She acted that way to, in her words, "shake it up, to make it different." She was also, according to her, flirting and trying to get a rise out of me, though I cannot fathom to what end. There is no point in flirting now.

Soon in Xenology: Coping.

last watched: Scrubs
reading: Anansi Boys
listening: Tori Amos

Already Met You | 2011 | New Moon Rising

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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