Thomm Quackenbush, author

When You Would Rather Be Engulfed | 2011 | Peace Breaks Out

06.19.11 11:58 p.m.

It's my new thing. I don't take care of anybody else so I'll be forced to take care of myself.  

-"Brenda Chenowith", Six Feet Under

 


No Soulmate Stone

I suppose I am under some religious obligation to attend solstice festivals, but this is not why I drive almost an hour to one of the more secluded portions of Pine Bush, New York. I presently feel as though I must occupy my every weekend day with activity so as to refrain from becoming one of those single people who sits home and stews over their loneliness. Also, loving Melanie cut off my circulation in both sacred and mundane circles - which was a sacrifice I do not regret making. However, I am keenly aware that I now need to work overtime toward reconnection. And, yes, I do have it in my head that meeting women at a solstice festival allows me to presume some similarity of souls.

When I get there, there seems something like promise. Several vendors have set up on the grounds (which implies this is not simply one coven with delusions of grandeur), there is a lovely house set in a sylvan glade with the trees adorned in gossamer. I make the circuit, sussing out the vendors and lightly scrutinizing the other attendees. I realize in moment that, though I invested an hour's drive and five dollars admission, I have no compelling interest. There is nothing wrong with the event - though the four foot peace mosaic is actually a Mercedes symbol - it just isn't for me. I don't feel that spark that I did almost instantly at the new moon ritual. I am of course allowed to be here, as I have a peace symbol stamp on my hand (with the proper number of spokes), but something in all this leaves me cold. With my investment, I figure I had better try to enjoy it before venturing home, having been brave but unrewarded.

I assume a position on the lawn and listen to the crystal vendor matching the people around me to various rocks that will somehow complement their lives or energies. He looks at me several times and then conspicuously doesn't match me to anything. I take to playing with his basket of rocks and ignoring his ignoring. I root out a speck of moldavite, a green tektite I like, and ask him to price it for me. He overprices it and then tries to talk with someone else, who is not actually paying him any mind. I do not know what I have done to vex this stranger so quickly. I don't need to be matched to a rock, though I do finger his so-called Soulmate Rock with some interest, but find his omission of my presence almost funny. Do I have a reputation? I could be a good customer, I have money. I decline his offer to be ripped off and move on.

I go to a class on comparative religion that is ostensibly focused on beginners to the human race. The speaker is so afraid to give offense that I opt to doze in the leather easy chair I claim and sprawl awkwardly over. I pop my head up once when he starts talking about LaVeyan Satanism, interjecting that it is really just a form of radical humanism, then realize that I have given myself a reputation if I did not have one already. For however touchy-feely many Pagans come off, they are superb at demonizing what they keep in the shadow.

This lecture transitions into a class on archetypes, and I stick around if just because my chair is so cozy and I will snarl at anyone who tries to take it from me without a receipt for its purchase. The woman leading the class asks if anyone knows the term and I keep my eyes shut, assuming that "archetype" is a common enough concept - especially in the Pagan community - that someone else will assure her we are not dullards. But no one speaks nor raises their hands. I blink to more alertness, catch her eyes, mumble, "Yes, Jungian. Hm. Archetypes. Right." and give her a thumbs up. Isn't this notion a core component of high school? Did everyone else miss that day?

She hands out a packet with dozens of archetypes. I look them over, amused that she has subdivided "Child" into six largely valid subchildren, and then curl up again with my eyes closed. She proceeds to do that thing I dislike most in presentations; she reads the packet and then asks questions that are answered directly next to what was read. A woman across the room mentions that she is in her fifties and it still waiting for her knight on a white horse to sweep her off her feet. The idea of this, the glint of relentless and relentlessly dashed hope in her eye, nearly makes me cry. I don't want to end up like this, old and thinking the last person who made me feel loved and attractive was a twenty-one year old who believes she is now a lesbian. The only time I speak up after this was to mention Buffy in terms of the hero's journey. She rules this off-topic and seems kind of annoyed, even though Buffy and crew are repeatedly mentioned in her packet as archetypal figures. Another woman, Shea, piggybacks onto what I said, agreeing that Buffy is an excellent example of a Warrior in modern myth. From across the room, I tell Shea that we'll talk later.

After the class, I opt to get a hotdog and Shea is already there. The vendor, a man in his sixties, asks if she is single and if he can marry her. She says that she cannot get married in this state. Of course. I felt a rapport with her so she constitutionally had to be a lesbian. My gaydar is excellent, it is just cross wired with my libido. If I like you, there is a goodly chance you own a Melissa Etheridge CD and a case of unquenchable girl lust. I can intellectualize and justify all I care to, but the fact remains that a good proportion of who I find appealing specifically count me out because I am male. For some reason I do not admit then, this interaction upsets me rather than making me laugh and shrug at the ridiculousness of it.

Every time I am in the proper place and meet no one with potential, I feel all the likely I simply will not meet her, that there is no her. I feel, in a sense, that I am perhaps not meant to find anyone this time. Unlike when last I was single and looking, the fairer sex seems curiously reticent to do more than lead me on. Of course, I don't want to be with just anyone or I would be. But I want the option of feeling I am selective, not that I am single because I am forced. If I were half as attractive as Melanie made me feel, wouldn't someone express interest in me, aside from women looking to have their egos stroked via novella length letters? I am adamant that I will not settle in who I come to love, but that implies I even have offers from women I find insufficient. I do not want to be the emotional equivalent of a thirty-something woman in a faded sorority a sweatshirt going to bars alone night after night.

I write for a bit before the solstice ritual, as I feel I have exhausted my capacity for fun until then. However, in my writing, I get so sad and angry (as the above paragraph demonstrates), so I opt to leave. Grumbling in my car as I drive has to be better than pushing myself through a ritual where I feel no connection. These strangers deserve better than to have my drag down the group energy.

I refuse to acknowledge until I get home that I am getting a cold, that my mood coupled with falling asleep in a stranger's living room should be clear indications that my body needs me to mope at home and not try to force myself into social lepidoptery. I allow myself to accept the lesson for today is that I need to take care of myself before I thrust myself into the world, full of unrealistic hopes.

Soon in Xenology: Parties.

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

When You Would Rather Be Engulfed | 2011 | Peace Breaks Out

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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