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Heaven Is Not Waiting | 2012 | Inquiring Minds


You always look so cool, like no matter what happens, it's got nothing to do with you, but you're not really like that. In your own way, you're out there fighting as hard as you can, even if other people can't tell by looking at you.  

-Haruki Murakami


The Person Who Gets It

No, really...

"Marry me."

Amber smiles. She bounces on the see-saw, toward the trees, then falls back to earth. I see the full moon reflecting in her eyes.

"I'm not joking. Marry me. Say you will."

"Eventually." She looks away because she is already blushing nearly scarlet. "When you ask properly."

These moments have been happening with her more and more.

When I was a teenager, I used to facetiously ask people to marry me. It did not mean more than "Oh, I like what you just said, aren't we cutely fond?" Then a particularly attached and desperate girl thought I was remotely sincere. I immediately lost all interest in saying these words unless I could handle their target taking me seriously. Since then, I have proposed marriage once, aside from a bit of passionate whispering later to another woman that I would like to keep her around and plan a life together.

I was, as some of my high school dalliances will say still, addicted to commitment. More exactly, I was a serial monogamist because I felt a compulsion. While I did not see a need to define myself by who I dated, I felt validated by the idea of being with someone. I liked being a boyfriend, but I did not care as much whose boyfriend I was. Once someone expressed particularly strong interest in me - if I could remotely conceive of her as a prospect - I was smitten (until I wasn't, which tended to be why we broke up).
Seriously, think about it...

Melanie changed that. While dating her but parted for the summer, I had a crush on a friend who was wrong for me, but who was present. Melanie allowed me to see for myself that it was not that I wanted to be with Jess, charming though she was, but that I wanted someone convenient, someone less likely to leave as Melanie would. She let me see my issues for what they actually were and not what I wanted to tell myself they were.

My entire life, I had been influenced by this specter that told me to cling. It informed much of my time with Emily, and ours was a relationship that nearly resulted in marriage. Seven years of my life partially indentured by a pathological need, which thankfully did not increase to eight or nine. (I do not think that Emily and my marriage would have resulted in much more than a less-than-amicable divorce.)

After Melanie left me, I started to internalize how little I needed to be with someone else to be happy and, though I had no wish to leave Amber, I knew I didn't have to be in her arms except I wanted to be. I was and am more than capable of being on my own and being content, something I do not think I could ever believe possible before. That is likely why Emily said that I loved Melanie more than I did her, because I actually loved someone instead of needing her (and why, though it was devastating, I was a far more functional human being after the end of my romantic relationship with Melanie than I had been with Emily).
Explain what this "asking properly" involves...

I no longer need someone slightly broken in hopes she won't leave. At one point, I know I did need this and unconsciously sought it out. I felt incomplete and did not wish to be alone in that. But I don't need that, I can find validity and affirmation through my writing or simply my honest estimation with how I am doing. Having a stable day job helps, as it is one more need that is being met and that I do not require a lover for.

Amber is the first partner I've truly chosen from the start, rather than a pairing initiated by my neuroses. She is like a cat: this largely self-reliant entity that lives in my apartment, wants to sit on my lap when I am reading or writing, causes inexplicable messes, follows me around, insists upon being petted, and generally requires that I feed her. And I love her, because she is an autonomous being. She doesn't need me, she is just fond of me. She is contained within herself and doesn't seem to need external validation. Despite her social anxiety - which she is working to repair - she has this serene confidence. When Melanie visited, she was not threatened as many might have given the tenor of our former relationship, but understood that this was simple another person I loved.

After that visit, Melanie said of Amber, "Now this is a person who gets it." Amber is totally involved, just not verbally, until the right moment arises. She radically accepts the situation without imposing egotistical perceptions onto it. I can say anything to her (such as explaining that one of my initial drives toward her was to destroy her to improve her art and that has never totally abated, or that I would otherwise be single and content about it for the first time in my life if it were not for her) and she thinks about it without deciding if it means something beneath the surface. In Melanie's words, "It's indicative of a profound sincerity... but not a nave one. I could imagine her being a very good mirror. She lets people be who they are and do what they do, and then, when they glance at her at the right time, then see themselves just as they are, and it's a bit shocking, but also sort of moving... Its really relaxing and rejuvenating to be around."
Because I can't get enough of you.

It's one of the things I found unnerving about her initially. She didn't require complexity. I didn't have to impress her to interest her. She lacks ulterior motive. She even admits her flaws pretty honestly, such as when we had a conversation about what would happen if I ever left her and she said calmly, after a moment's thought, "I would probably be really obnoxious to you on your Facebook and post a lot for a while." But it wasn't a threat, just an awareness that she had done this in a previous relationship and was liable to do it again if provoked.

Over the summer, there was this crystal minute where I knew that I could marry Amber without regret. We were at a family picnic at my father's work. We decided to have a foot race between the bouncy castle being exploited by my nephews and an ignored volleyball net. Amber insisted we go barefoot to compensate for the broken flip flops she clung to well beyond reason. Halfway there, Amber pretended she didn't want to race, then sprinted ahead when I slacken my pace to convince her. I chased after, laughing. She grabbed at me to slow me, then preemptively declared herself the victor and would hear no dissention. It was this holy moment, even when I was in it. If my life were a movie, this would be the moment the editors slow down to a crawl, put to soothing indie pop song, and narrate over.

Soon in Xenology: The Discontinuity.

last watched: Avatar: The Last Airbender
reading: Postmodern Magic
listening: Amanda Palmer

Heaven Is Not Waiting | 2012 | Inquiring Minds

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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