Thomm Quackenbush, author

Love in the Wings | 2011 | No Soulmate Stone

06.18.11 11:12 p.m.

It is by attempting to reach the top at a single leap that so much misery is caused in the world.  

-William Cobbett

 


When You Would Rather Be Engulfed

Krumping against fracking  
Not a party

I sit on the trunk of my car and write. In van beside me, one member of Siki Spacek snores in the passenger's seat. Before me is a yard sale, barely picked over, being tended by a short blonde woman from the anti-fracking organization (from whom I bought a hardcover of David Sedaris's When You Are Engulfed in Flames an hour earlier in a weak attempt to engage her in conversation). The concert - my whole reason in being here - was to have started already. Either no one notices me sitting here or readily accepts that I am doing something that is normal enough for this setting, since other band members wander by without looking my way.

Daniel arrives and the first words out of my mouth are apologies. I tend not to invite him anywhere he should want to be, but he occasionally shows up anyway. I inform him of what little I have sussed out: the music has obviously not started, the anti-fracking coalition is going to regret having sent representatives to this event, and I was the only thing approaching an audience until he showed up. He receives this with considerably less eye rolling than I would, which likely means he is a better person.

We reconnoiter the area. The house is open, which I take to be an invitation for my intrusion. I walk through the crowded kitchen and decide that the bowl of hummus and chips is communal property by virtue that all this waiting has made me a bit peckish. Temporarily sated, we wander to the location of the music, which is to say, the location of Siki Spacek tuning up at 120 decibels. The equipment is set up on an abandoned parking lot broken with weeds, next to a hopefully empty building. The lead singer of Siki Spacek wears a thin red cloth on his head and uses this as his excuse to behave as though he were Captain Jack Sparrow.
The fuzz!  
Suddenly, a party ensues.

Though Daniel and I consider watching this tuning process out of pity, we can't stomach the discordance long. We move toward the house when we are stopped by a slightly worried woman.

"The police are here," Halle - one of the residents of the house - tells us.

As this does not directly impact us, Daniel and I retire to a more accommodating position to observe. We do this will all possible, if casual, haste so that no one with a badge will find us guilty by association. A very attractive police officer drives up and speaks to Pete, Halle's partner, the organizer of this event, and a man I picture with dreadlocks however long they have been shorn off. I pronounce that this is now a real party because it is about to be broken up by the fuzz. I am not upset at the idea of never seeing the bands perform, since police intervention makes for a better story.

The officer discusses things at length and waves around some black box. It comes out that one of the neighbors called the police because the music - and there has yet to be any, just tuning up - is too loud. When Pete comes down, he tells us that the police will arrest "someone" (him) if there is another noise complaint today. He seems, if anything, disappointed that one of his neighbors could be so uncool as to get the law involved when they could have simply called him and asked him to turn it down. Where is the vengeance in civility and neighborliness, though? This situation read as less a "noise" complaint as a "socially conscious hippies bring down property values" complaint.

As no one gets hauled away, even after some gathering guests imply we ought to offer Officer Beautiful a beer from our keg, the tuning up goes on, if fractionally more quietly. Daniel and I occupy ratty chairs on the front porch.
1000 Hours  
Would you drive eight hours for this?

"I flirted with that blonde anti-fracking girl before," I tell him, "just to pass the time."

"I do not think she goes that way," he intones.

I am startled and examine him for the traces of a joke I don't find. "You think she is gay?"

"There was some very suggestive hand holding with the other anti-fracking organizer."

I squint at the two of them in close proximity, looking over some clothes on the lawn. "I should have known. It seems like my attraction is the surest sign of homosexuality in the other person."

He nods his commiseration. "Yeah, about 70% of the woman I find attractive prefer women." He explains and I echo that he finds desirable those who are not fixated on the gender binary. Such women, having rejected out of hand traditional notions of femininity, are far more likely to seek to get their hands sticky in other fulfillments of the feminine.

Halle approaches and thanks us for manning the yard sale. I lazily look at the solitary, middle-aged man on the lawn picking up and dropping objects, but who is definitely going to turn feral the second I look away. "No problem," I assure her, "at all. So why is it so empty? Twenty five people RSVPed 'yes'. Eighteen 'maybe'. So I don't know where these people are."

"Is that the current count?" Halle asks.

"As of my leaving to come here, yes." She gives me an amused sideways glance. "I like to know who is supposed to be where I am going." When she wanders off to deal with the man quibbling as to the price of a camera, I explain further to Daniel, "Basically, I currently judge social occasions for the potential that I will meet the right sort of women there. I don't like that I do this, it's nasty programming to indulge, but I can't deny it's a concern. I would like to just enjoy where I am without begrudging that it does not contain someone to kiss."

"I do the same," he admits readily enough. "That's why I was resistant to coming."

"I can see that," I say, looking at the only two people in my sight line, aware that there are fewer than ten other people here and of them only two women, both into one another. "I swear, it seemed better on paper. Big RSVP list, near a college town, socially conscious, cheap admission, nice weather. I guess that the bands are heavy metal... still, I've got to say, not loving being single."

"I've been single for five years," Daniel says.

"And you like it now?"

He sighs. "You can get used to anything."

I do not love the notion of acclimatizing to being alone. "I feel it will take a very specific woman to make me want to be otherwise. I start speaking to most and they grok I am not like them and lose interest."
Dominick  
"I WILL BREAK YOU LIKE A WISHBONE... WHY WON'T YOU STAY?!"

"I feel the same. I open my mouth..." he indicates his row of metallic teeth, "and that's the end of it."

"But there are worthwhile women who will appreciate you, teeth and all. Plus, women are always mentioning your cheekbones to me. They apparently marvelous and could 'cut glass'." I shrug, like a heterosexual man must in this culture when he has genuinely if inadvertently told another heterosexual man parts of him are appealing. I seek a change of subject to a friend who seems to surround herself with people who have crashed and burned out of serious relationships and never fully recovered.

"You don't want to be in her harem?" Daniel taunts, giving me the joke I expected before.

"God no. That is the exact opposite of anything I would want. I am recovering, I did not burn. I won't be in her harem or any. I don't want to get used to being alone, but there are worse things. Which isn't to say I am not damned curious where these women are who I would fit with."

"The City. But that comes at the expense of moving to the City. It's a huge dating pool, but you'd be dealing with a range from crushing poverty to insane wealth there."

"Sounds awful. And I like it here. Why would I move for a potential that might still end up with me alone, but now in one of the most crowded places in the world? Much easier to be single where it is green and I know people."

He nods in sympathy. "I met a woman in the City once. I was surprised how easy it was to navigate because five different games had come out that year that used parts of the City as locations. When I told her this, I pretty much sealed that I wouldn't be getting a second date. She told me I didn't seem like I was in my thirties. I have no concept in my head for how old I am supposed to be."

We return to the concert area and last through 1000 Hours (who, at the advice of their manager who wore his ponytail in front of his face, drove from Cleveland, Ohio to upstate New York to play this show for ten people and two dogs) and Dominick (who would have been popular in the mid-90s if we were fifteen-year-olds). As Dominick's lyrics involve him promising to break a woman in half and asking her why she would want to leave him, I start writing Daniel notes assuring him I know the location of a side-show and telling him that I fire-breathing hula hooper would have to be better than sitting on pavement and consenting to being a part of this. Finally, he agrees to leave and I entice him into town with promises of food.

Over dinner, I let him know that our friend Karen - who, as a therapist, had felt professionally disposed to talking me through my breakup from Melanie - had said he would be a fine wingman for me.

"I don't think I would be a good wingman, actually," Daniel says. "We would be competing for the same women. Also, we might give off a couple vibe."

"Okay, true on the first point - though I don't think I would have gone for anyone you did and vice versa - but we can use the couple vibe to our advantage. Women drop their defenses around gay men and we are very pretty." We, in fact, are both wearing black shirts of nearly a matching cut.

"Except they think you are gay," he reiterates. "Women don't actually want to sleep with gay men. They want to shop with them."

"Psh, they'll figure out how straight I am soon enough."

Soon in Xenology: Parties.

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

Love in the Wings | 2011 | No Soulmate Stone

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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