Thomm Quackenbush, author

There Will Come Hard Rains | 2011 | Which a Minute Will Reverse

09.06.11

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.  

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 


Traveling Companions

Amber and Xen  
Wibbly-wobbly, lovey-wuvey

Over the summer, Emily called and asked if would like to meet with her. I hadn't seen her in years, though we talk on the phone every month or so (more when I am going through a trauma - I've had a few this year). With twenty minutes warning, I could just make it to the appointed location ahead of her.

I saw her through the window when she showed up. Her hair seemed darker and she looked thinner. On her side was her daughter Sophie, the cutest baby I have ever seen. Emily apologized for how the baby smelled, though I was given to accepting apologies since Sophie reeked of her favorite food - curry cauliflower - and not unchanged diaper. Emily and I spent most of the time we were together cooing at her child, who is among the proportionally loudest beings I have encountered. Every face Sophie made was perfectly expressive and photogenic. I asked if Emily was still considering baby modeling, but Emily does not have the time to devote to that and doesn't think this is the right life for her daughter.

She talked about her life, the struggles and quiet glories of it. I noticed her new (to me) milk tattoo on her left wrist reading "Forgiven", which I found powerful and beautiful. If anyone I know needs to forgive herself, it is Emily. After Melanie broke up with me, Emily apologized for how she had left me those years ago - how she had to leave but wishes she could have done it differently and more kindly - and I understood how much guilt she must still carry around for sins of which other people have long since absolved her.

After she decided Sophie was done with socializing and needed a nap, I went to my parents' house to print out a teaching application (which was ignored by the school because I am the wrong gender and race, on which more in a future entry). Melanie called from a conference in New York City and sounded near tears. I had spoken to her the day before and she had been distraught, convinced that the only way to get her head together was to move to France for a year and live in her parents' apartment because, in her words, she is more reasonable in French. She wanted to get a job or an internship, take a class, join a gym, and somehow find ways to meet people - particularly lesbians. (At first, I did not take her plan with full seriousness, since I had finally internalized that not everything Melanie says in a pit of sadness should be taken as gospel, but she moved to Paris early in September and has been settling nicely.)

She told me that what I said after the breakup, per her and [Miss X], was sadly spot-on. (I said rather a lot, some of it the verbal equivalent of a tantrum flail, so I was a bit fuzzy as to what she meant.) [Miss X] was at the conference too and made it clear to Melanie that she was not interested in the relationship Melanie presumed, that one can either get to know her with glacial slowness or once can be banged by her for a few weeks before she moves on to another's bed. Melanie could not believe she would be a victim of the latter - [Miss X] seemed so fond before school ended, because she was the only one who had accepted their affair had a time limit. ([Miss X] was downright chilly to Melanie at the conference until she agreed to spend a few hundred dollars to push her flight back a few days so she could go upstate with [Miss X] and a former professor.)

We talked over an hour while I tried to calm her down, as she walked from the conference to the Strand. I think she felt abandoned, and my having then begun a new relationship with Amber may have subtly contributed. I am, as she is not shy to note, Melanie's only experience with actual, adult love and she does not expect this to change for a long time. I reiterated to Melanie that I still care for her. I shared most of myself with her during our relationship, more than I ever had before because I was finally ready. I am not going to give up on her because we no longer have a sexual or romantic relationship, and that is the crux of why I am writing this now.

I try not to dwell over the ends to my former relationships but try to focus on the times we shared. The closest analog I have found - and forgive me this, I am watching my way through the series for the first time - is the Doctor with his companions on Doctor Who. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the Doctor is a Time Lord, an alien who travels through time and space using a sentient machine. On occasion, he will pick someone up and have them join him on his adventures until they leave/die/are brain wiped. (I think it is telling that my last three partners left because - literally or metaphorically - they felt the need to travel, either alone or with someone else.) He cares for them as individuals, loves them, but does not begrudge their impermanence. He operates on a different level. It can never be forever. He cherishes them when they are there. He thinks well of them when they move on because they have to move on.

He does not need a companion, in the strictest sense. He can go about Doctoring perfectly well on his own. But it's lonely and he can go a bit crazy without someone at his side. He loves humanity, possibly best of all the things he has seen, and has this undeniable twinkle in sharing the vastness of the universe with a companion. As far as I know, none of the people are so amazing that someone else would pick them out of a crowd to be the Doctor's companions - in fact, outsiders would no doubt pick out far more flashy people - but he sees something in them and he is invariably right to. With only one exception - who I loved on sight - I have disliked all of the Doctor's companions for the first few episodes before being so won over that I get misty when they leave. Traveling with the Doctor changes them both, makes them both better. For all the Doctor can do, for all he is, he needs these companions to balance and refine him. He needs someone else so he can share his life, since he is (more or less, in a sense, sort of) the last Time Lord.

I could do without a partner, though not without people. As I hope is evident, I had arrived at a point in my life where I decided I was better off on my own. My relationship with Melanie effectively killed my abandonment issues and my active pursuit of a mythical girlfriend after Melanie left was bearing only frustration. I was done looking and had witnessed firsthand the amount of fun and contentment I could have on my own. I had lost the inner frenzy of the search, it was obscuring what I actually wanted to be doing - namely, enjoying my life.

And then, I met Amber, who fits remarkably well in my life. Of all the people I have ever loved, she fits the best and is most ready to travel with me, no matter where I will go. She is not simply swept up in my wake - nor am I swept up in hers - but standing prepared for what comes next, slipping her hand in mine. She knows the companions I have had before - she is reading everything I have ever written - and is quietly confident that she will last the journey, even if no one else has.

Soon in Xenology: Cake cat. Discrimination. Indecision.

last watched: A Scanner Darkly
reading: Bizenghast
listening: Edith Piaf

There Will Come Hard Rains | 2011 | Which a Minute Will Reverse

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

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush