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The Wrong Color | 2011 | Hand of Fate


Love, she said, should be said more slowly, and ran from the house. Words could not catch her as such. Honesty is so slow, that is the trouble.  



Know By Heart

Oh, don't pout. I'm yours.

At the risk of another sappy entry, I am again going to discuss my relationships. Forgive me.

I am no longer infatuated with Amber. As you no doubt know by heart, the triangular theory of love states that any relationship beyond acquaintanceship is composed of one to three qualities: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Simple friendship has one: intimacy. You can have other friends and you certainly do not feel passionately about one another, or we are dealing with another animal. Most romantic relationships begin with a dollop of passion, usually to the exclusion of anything else. The person in your arms is the best in the world, though you barely know him or her. You have never before felt this way. Any gaps or deficits are temporarily puttied in by the passion. When most people envision romantic love, this is where they stop. This is indicative of a flaw in our societal consciousness, as infatuation is designed to end. However, romantic comedies but only rarely deal with washing your lover's dishes because they have to be up early for work, since no one wants to see the mundane truth when they can flip the channel to a desperate, emotionally limited frottage. The passion of infatuation triggers the release of addictive chemicals in our bloodstream and we would rather get another hit than cope with the relative dullness of intimacy and commitment.

For the most part, when I was a teenager, my dalliances ended when the wave of infatuation rolled back (if light can be both a particle and a wave in the same instance, infatuation - being a state made all of light at the expense of definition shadow casts - can manage the feat of being a dollop and a wave without seeming a mixed metaphor). The girl I had erstwhile dated ceased to float above, all her movements so lithe as to be choreographed, and was now a gangly urchin failing to fill out a badly tailored swimsuit, shaking water out of her ears and dislodging sand from crevices. I would have difficulty imagining just what it was I had seen in her in the first place and - oh, look! - there might be naiads cresting a bit down the beach. Really, better that we both went our own ways - you've got a bit of seaweed clinging to your thigh - and we're still friends, right?

I am not faulting a single one of these girls. Once we had to stop snogging long enough to have a conversation, I am certain I had seemed to them less like an aquatic danseur and much more like the unsteady teenage boy I was. When our frenzied fantasizing eroded - once this person was in any way not witty enough, crafty enough, pretty enough, stable enough, caring enough - we did not have it in us to develop the intimacy or commitment that would have allowed a further relationship.

Infatuation is typically all one can muster until one is out of high school, because the real work (and fun) in a relationship comes when it fades. Usually, it does this gradually, until one is left on a sandbar remembering what seemed to be a bottomless tide. Then, one must either get to building foundation or languish in the mud. The washing away of simple infatuation is beneficial, since any romantic relationship that has only one of the triangle of qualities - intimacy without commitment or passion, passion without commitment or intimacy, commitment without intimacy or passion - is likely to be a brief one.

For me, the transition from infatuation to something more worthwhile comes down to the thought "Am I willing to trade unfettered freedom and the chance at other loves for this person's kisses exclusively?" Infatuation initially makes this seem like a brilliant idea, once I succumb to something grander than unrequited longing. When the infatuation ebbs, I am left with the fear that I have led some poor woman on and have cornered myself in a trap of my own device. Infatuation is all chase. Once one has suitably attained the object (not, mind you, subject as that would require treating this poor person as a fellow sentient being) of infatuation, the charm is canceled. Where is the fun in having someone more than once, beyond that initial pounce, cries Infatuation? Infatuation cannot surmount pebbles. It positively crumbles in more than a breeze. Any adversity means this relationship was never meant to be, so once might think one (at least one with a smidgeon of maturity and experience) would ache to for extinction of the infatuation period.

I remember the exact moment my infatuation - my limerance - with Emily ended because of its suddenness. I was late to our first date because I got lost and took too circuitous a route through a city I hate in the daylight. Prior to this, we had been emailing and then talking on the phone. She made for a good story and was entirely too charming. That night, I arrived at the appointed diner and she was sitting on a wall beside the parking lot, writing in a small journal. She was pretty, her dress was cute, her carriage perfect as she jumped down but she was a little too real. She wasn't the magical antidote to my Kate malingering. She wasn't some soul mate goddess who I could love without effort. She was not so unburdened of baggage that she could help me unpack the steamer trunk I rolled after me for most of our relationship. She was then simply a woman looking at me with expectant eyes, someone using me for balance as she exited a bad relationship into something in which she could invest more hope.

I wish I could have given her more of my infatuation, that it could have lasted until it washed me further into our relationship. She deserved at least that much, but I was not in a place to extend it, still half tortured by and half fond of Kate. I cared for Emily, I came to love her, but the infatuation had ebbed by our second date and I was stuck trying to build a relationship with someone for whom I should have still been blithely twitterpated.
I don't think I ended up wasting her time too badly.

I struggled for a week to remember when my infatuation with Melanie ended. I know I was very taken with her prior to our proper meeting, when we were only talking on the phone and exchanging instant messages after having met on a dating site. I know I was unquestionably infatuated with her, sight unseen. The answer came to me as my computer scanned through pictures for me to identify. There is Melanie - eighteen, more rounded cheeks, shoulder length russet hair, a world different than the short-haired, Franco-lesbian dilettante - in a black, heavy winter coat and the velour purple scarf whose perfume I may always know. She leans against a tree at Bard College, looking heavenward as I take her picture. I know with awkward clarity what I was thinking when it was taken: "I don't love her. How much longer am I going to waste her time? How long can I keep her at bay?" I grew prodigiously as I came to love her - and I loved her more than I had ever managed to love anyone because I finally got over my issues - but there was a time when I was largely concerned with how I was going to let her down.

Melanie says she was never infatuated with me. She adored me - she still does, in fact - but she sees infatuation as an emotion reserved for that which is unattainable, for the unrequited. From the moment we started talking until she left - and perhaps for a bit after that - I was attainable and therefore not entitled to her infatuation. Now, she spills it upon new faces, people who do not demand much of her, people who fit into her ego map, people she will be in a tizzy about until they want more than she can give (or until she expects more than they wish to give). For all her attempts at cynicism, she is a romantic at heart and wants to be infatuated with a dozen pretty faces and believe each one is love. It is a glorious, if aching, way to feel and may get her the experience she needs to become who she has always been.

There was a period, maybe a week or two, where I was uncertain of the direction of my relationship with Amber. I loved her and she had done nothing wrong (almost to a ludicrous degree had she done nothing wrong). It was simply that the initial novelty of the relationship had worn off. Perhaps, in the parlance of Melanie, it was that I had attained Amber more than anyone else ever had. I half-joked with her, every time I saw her, that she was lucky that she was so very good at making me fall in love with her again, but I did mean this on some level. However, I remember my experiences with Emily and Melanie, knew that this was a temporary stage. My mind was testing me and I had only to be uncomplainingly patient to get to the other side. Seeing Amber reminded me how much I do feel for her, it just not longer had the fizzy inebriation that infused our early relationship. After a few nights together, a few days out, I realized the extent of how I felt about her and that proceeding with her in exploring her love is more delicious than the candy sweetness that marked the beginning of our relationship.

After almost four months of knowing her, I am finally sussing out secrets and definitions. I have seen her cry because something struck her as beautiful and because we happened upon one of those secrets we all keep from ourselves. I have woken to her on my chest so often that I do not sleep as soundly without her there. We have cuddled through several of my family occasions, she always with a smile on her face. I have told her secret fears and saw that she accepted them. We have bore inconvenience together, have survived a power outage. She has sat near me at two book signings. I have brought her to places sacred to me and felt peace, not a concern that I was bothering her. Each moment has made our relationship stronger because they have let it be more authentic and three dimensional, not a hologram that cannot hold definition outside the artificial lights of my apartment. I didn't only lust and like, I absolutely love this woman.

Soon in Xenology: A job? Halloween.

last watched: Devil Doll
reading: We Shadows
listening: Nightmare Before Christmas

The Wrong Color | 2011 | Hand of Fate

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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