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Six Months for Two Seconds | 2014 | Left in the Garden


Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.  

-Rainer Maria Rilke


Inside the Dragon

Amber and Daniel  
Amber and Daniel

"I am inside the dragon," Daniel texts, "you can't miss me."

Owing to a miscommunication involving the erstwhile organizer of the community garden, Amber, a bottle of blood spray, and exactly when and where we would be meeting Daniel for Beltane at the Center for Symbolic Studies, we ended up missing him by several hours. I had been gone from our apartment only a few minutes to bring Amber the supplies she needed (the organizer removed all the fencing overnight, necessitating whatever deterrents she had to keep her garden unmolested), but it was time enough for Daniel to arrive at our apartment, find we were not there, and decide that we must have gone to Beltane without him.

He could have been angry or resentful of our absence, but he wasn't. He went about his day. I would have at least grumbled at the flakiness of my friends in this position and in startled by his good humor. When we eventually arrive, he is contentedly exploring the booths despite the occasional drizzle, having already acted as a segment of a dragon in a parade.

We wander together for a while, feed Amber a soft pretzel, and eventually end up on a sunny hill, watching people in the muck below dancing around the Maypole. In the moment, it seems the ideals situation, sitting beside my fiancée and best friend, offering peanut M&M's to strangers so I no longer have to lug them around.

Once night falls, he is a calm spectator when Amber and I get pulled into the ritual. It is not his religion-he is a firm atheist-and he could have acted put-out about this, but he isn't. He waits patiently on the edges of the crowd, but near enough that we do not long lose sight of him. When the ritual has ebbed or translated into people around a different fire swinging fire poi or unnerving the crowd by repeatedly and accidentally setting their legs aflame, he is at our sides. I dance with Amber, he perhaps sways a bit.

Sociologists in the 1950s decided that, for friendship to take root, three conditions must be met: proximity, repeated interactions, and a setting that allows for unguarded confiding. I tend to have a glut of the former two people, but I do not excel at letting my guard down. Yet, with Daniel, I find excuses to tell him of my lukewarm feet about getting married (not that I do not want to marry Amber, I just fear irrevocable act) while we kill the Infected in Left4Dead days before. I feel free to vent my concerns about the world because I know Amber and Daniel will listen and respond without judging, without looking to score points because I stumble in discovering just what I think and mean.

He is more patient and kinder than I know myself to be, no matter what he may say o the requirements of his reptilian brain. He appears to have a confidence and independence that I feel I lack, but envy. It has been a while since I could open up to another man, to say nothing of another person, without fear of the use of privileged confessions against one at a later date. I believe I understand him well enough to trust him.

I've know some decent guys, but not a lot of good men, like Daniel (who is soon to be my best man). When I first considered proposing to Amber, I trusted Daniel to weigh in, saying that it made sense that I would want to marry her, which was about as effusive as I could expect him to be on the subject. He knew I loved Melanie, but I think he would have talked me out of proposing to her. I know that he gently remonstrated with her for prolonging the breakup, which I took as an act of compassion on his part, since he had lived through a breakup gone much too long.

That night, we end up at a diner until one, watching Cartoon Network with the captions on and talking. Even though we have spent all day together, it wasn't quite enough. With Daniel, as with Amber, I can feel comfort in the silences because I trust that I am as safe not speaking. I have nothing to prove, because nothing in our friendship needs proving.

Soon in Xenology: The perils of poverty. Praise and negotiation.

last watched: Superheroes
reading: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
listening: Jenny Dalton

Six Months for Two Seconds | 2014 | Left in the Garden

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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