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Pride March | 2011 | One Wedding and a Funeral (Mention)

06.11.11 11:44 p.m.

Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night  

-Alan Ginsberg


Night of the Fungible Cellar Door

Esther Knudson  
Esther Knudson

Despite the insultingly minor rain that followed us all evening, I meet Marisa outside of Isamu - a sushi restaurant - in Beacon. She and I had attended middle through high school together. Though she lingered in the area for years - I think I saw her in a play at Marist once - we were not in steady communication. I did not think anything but well of her, there just seemed no compelling reason for either of us to make the attempt. But she posted that she would be in the area and, within a few minutes of chatting, we had set a date.

Only, of course, I did not actually know whether it was a proper date (which I have yet to have since the breakup) because one cannot very well ask. I knew she was single and that she admitted to having been thinking of me, but that hardly constitutes a date. I dressed attractively but not ostentatiously so, a black v-neck and well fitting jeans, just in case. Even were this not a date, we would be wandering Beacon for Second Saturday - when all the galleries, stores, and restaurants stay open late - and it could only behoove me to remain easy on the eyes. The only difference in my behavior tonight would be that I would not flirt with the fellow gallery wanderers if Marisa were officially my date. That would be tacky. In this way, I did not want this to be a proper date because I acknowledge the greater potential for finding someone compatible among bad art and cheese cubes.

As I watch Marisa approach, I know in an instant and without explicable justification that this is old friends meeting and nothing more. I relax, much more comfortable with this paradigm. Nothing against Marisa - she has become a lovelier woman than her profile pictures let on, one whom Melanie (in her polite cyber-stalking) described as "carrying sunshine with her" - but I would rather spend this time catching up rather than wishing I had more thoroughly cleaned my apartment for a first impression. (While not quite living down to the expectations of a bachelor pad, my apartment's cleaning schedule has become contingent on my moods rather than the promise and threat of weekly overnight company.)
Esther Knudson  
la fille danse...

We order sushi and attempt to fill in the gap a decade has left between us. She tells me that she was in a ten-year relationship and, in the course of counseling, she and her partner gained psychological tools enough to realize that their coupling had reached its inarguable conclusion. They remain friendly, but are leading lives apart. Marisa is, by the nature of being a professional stage manager, nomadic, so much so that she left him her beloved cats in the breakup. She is in town for a few weeks, unemployed, but there is little doubt that someone or other will solicit her managerial services because no one wants to deal with actors. It is not a lifestyle I could imagine ever wanting for myself, spending a few months in any given place and not knowing where one will be come the fall, but she seems to thrive from it.

As I am filling her in as to the month since my own breakup - being a substitute teacher and tutor gives me little to say when contrasted with backstage stories and actor shenanigans and all of my writing stories can be boiled down to "I sat in one place for hours, pressing bits of plastic, then I stopped" - in walks [Evie] with a group of what I believe to be her family. I explain to Marisa the strangeness of this, how I feel like [Evie] and I are meant to know one another because we keep meeting, but I cannot figure out why or how. As I had been to a writers' meetup the night before, I even show her the book cover that [Evie] failed to inspire.

"If this were a sitcom," Marisa says, "they would be dragging her out as your love interest."

"I know! But I do not think she is. She told me having tea with me was too forward and I've done my best to leave her alone since then, though she did ask to dance with me at a swing event a few weeks ago."

"Mixed signals," she pronounces.

I swallow my spicy tuna and say, "I'm sorry, do people give anything else?"

After dinner, we wander. We had both grown up in Beacon, though when it was significantly more run down. Since the Dia Museum moved in, money from the City has made great strides in gentrifying Beacon into a place where one might intentionally spend one's evening (not seeking crack). "When we were in school, I wouldn't have even come to this end of Main Street in the daylight," she says. "Now there are coffeehouses and hipsters."

"Beacon is like the girl you pity date in high school. When you see her at the reunion, you find out she is now hot and successful and can't comprehend it."

"It is trying to be a little corner of Brooklyn. I can't imagine what I would be like now if this is what I grew up around," she says. Shortly afterward, we pass some annoying teenagers and I tell her that we would likely be the same, since there are still obnoxious punks drifting around pretending they are the first in the world to ever adolesce.

We stroll from one end of Main Street and back without finding much to catch our attention. Yes, there is art that Marisa wishes to touch (how dare paintings have texture if one is not allowed to pet?) and much free food that I wish to nibble on if just to deprive the aforementioned hipsters of its taste, but nothing compelling. Before we can make a circuit back to the southeast end - the cultural parts of Beacon are the bread on a ghetto meat sandwich, providing bookend to a place one might still wish to dash through - it seems our night was nearly at its end.

We pass a building that I think used to be a courthouse. Marisa wonders aloud why people are entering. If just to prolong the evening a few more minutes, I suggest that we owe it to ourselves to find out, expecting no more than a few artless paintings and then a parting.
The Tinman and Scarecrow fell in love on the Yellow Brick Road...

People mill in the stairwell, pressing us forward from behind and blocking an easy exit. We proceed to a desk manned by a pretty woman in thick rimmed glasses and a flowing skirt tailored from what I imagine to be a tablecloth. She is busy chatting in a clipped way with an older woman, taking enough time for Marisa and me to notice that there is a "suggested" $10 donation. We look through the doors, seeing art and people eating, as well as hearing lilting music from another room. However, for this unknown event, I can tell that neither Marisa nor I are willing to hand over cash.

"So, what do we do?" Marisa asks, assuming that the answer is going to be that we leave.

"We could leave. Or... Or..." I motion toward a doorway blocked only by a sign advertising the requested donation, "we could step behind this piece of cardboard and, look at that, we are in the party!"

Having not only done this but having announced what I was doing, I look around for some guest or organizer to herd me back to pay the admission or to leave for my insolence. Instead, we mingle into the crowd so as to lose our obvious interloper statuses.

With all the will of moths, we float toward the source of the music, coming upon a tall, blonde Scottish woman behind the mic. She apologizes for her broken ukelele, as this means she has to quickly loop tracks of her voice to provide melody. As Marisa and I claim chairs near the stage, next to a scarecrow that would terrify birds into sterility, these loops of sound weave into haunting melodies and I cannot fathom what the woman feels requires forgiveness. I thank Marisa for making us curious about this place (called the Beahive) and she thanks me for the audacity of crashing. "I always want to do things like that, I just need someone to push me."

"I will be delighted to push you, especially if it is going to turn out like this," I say.

Marisa disappears for a few moments. I refuse to get up, as I feel the need to zealously guard the seats we have stolen. A red-haired woman settles on the floor next to me with a plate of pepper slices and hummus. Though I look at her as much as the food, she asks, "Do you covet my food?"

"I covet something." I introduce myself.

"I'm Shannon. Would you like some?" she asks, raising the plate for my inspection. I slowly take a red pepper and some hummus. "Take more," she insists.

"No, this was enough." I did not want the food as much as for her to have offered it.

The Scottish girl gets off the stage and it replaced by an older folk singer who is glorious and animated and who soon encourages another woman to dance interpretively within inches of me. I cannot believe my luck at being here at just the right moment. This is something my life should contain. This, it occurs to me, would not be an experience I would have had with Melanie. Her love needed to be contained in the walls of my apartment, even as this would have made her glow with glee. I know that I am here because I wish to be here. Marisa could opt to leave and I would be under no obligation to do more than give her a hug and wish her well.
Just about perfect

The singer asks for suggestions for lyrics for a song she is going to improvise. A man suggests "fungible" and I define it aloud when the singer inquires as to its meaning. I then offer "cellar door", having heard it is among the most beautiful English phrases for foreign speakers. She looks askance, but accepts it with a shrug. She weaves these in with a smirk but little comprehension and I grin.

I make my way upstairs, slipping the admissions till some money to make up for our crashing. I had overheard that there is food waiting. Within a small attic packed with people in a phalanx of organic goodies that would have obviated my need for sushi earlier. I make Marisa and me a plate and fill two plastic cups with red wine. I do not often drink, but I feel this night requires it. However, given that I do not drink, I do not have the slightest comprehension of my actual tolerance.

On the stairs stands the Scottish singer.

"I thought what you did was lovely," I inform her. I think, had I hands free, I would have offered one of them in greeting. Instead, I shrug and try to avoid spilling my bounty on the people squeezing past.

She seems startled for a moment. "Thank you," she finally says. "I am sorry about the ukulele."

"My god, don't be. That was one of the prettiest things I have ever heard." Does she not understand how she has earned what feels to me the mildest of praise?

She all but blushes and I thank her again, uncertain how long I can keep our food and drink aloft and not wear it.

In short order once I return to Marisa, I gulp half my drink and feel the warmth of it radiating outward. Good heavens, I think, I'm tipsy, aren't I? Hm. Good stuff. I would like to hug someone right now. Or kiss Shannon Who Gave Me a Pepper Slice, for such kindness should be rewarded with affection. Where is she? Oh, she is with that guy. He is old, but he deserves love too. Instead of impressing my warmth on someone else, I hug my knees to my chest to keep the feeling from wriggling out and opt to feel agape toward whoever is within my line of sight, which, very suddenly, is a sitar player and horn accompaniment.

An hour later, fond of the night but sober enough, Marisa and I part ways. The misting rain turns each streetlight into a glowing cylinder. This is my life and it is just beginning.

Soon in Xenology: Coping.

last watched: Six Feet Under
reading: Anansi Boys
listening: Cake

Pride March | 2011 | One Wedding and a Funeral (Mention)

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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