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Stuck in the Middle (of Lake George) with You | 2015 | A Balloon Made of Skin


Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers' gardens.  

-Douglas Jerrould

Falling in Love (in Small Quantities)

I used to say that I could grow to love anyone I could tolerate initially and who kept me interested enough not to wander away to love another. It is perhaps a flaw that I grow to like people who simply stick around, who seem to like me. I originally credited this to my abandonment issues, that they figured it was better to reward longevity with dopamine than someone new with whom I might be more compatible after initial infatuation.

However, I think it is more about fractals. At first blush, you may appreciate their beauty, but you don't grasp their intricacy until you have meditated in their infinitely branching arms. Falling in love for a few palpitating seconds is not being in love.

I feel as though I am just beginning to know and fall in love with Amber. We begin to speak the same language and, in coming closer to mutual comprehension, we can understand how we are loved. (Though, my doubts whisper, maybe it is only that marriage has made Amber the safest woman I have ever encountered to burden with the fullness of my adoration.) My marriage to her has rendered the miraculous commonplace-and vice versa.

I do not connect with most people because I have no motivation to make the investment. Despite maintaining social media profiles, I have filtered them such that I barely see the posts of anyone who I've decided isn't that important to me (the crucial step is not feeling guilt about this supposed selfishness. Not being important to me is not the same thing as not being important). I would rather focus my attention on the few people I can really understand than be awash in superficial relationship that end with me unable to really talk to anyone; I find many surface level friendships more isolating than a few deep ones. I doubt I am alone in feeling this way, though it does seem to run contrary to the ethos of this age.

Exposed to most social situation, I can mimic the required responses-I am polite, civil, and (in rare circumstances) charming-but I am often trying to suppress my anxiety until it is socially acceptable to sit alone and write. There is a fine reason why the two people with whom I feel closest in the world are introverted artists.

When Daniel was over some time ago, Amber and I fell into working on respective projects while we half-watched a movie. Daniel, as usual, was sketching sad monsters on his phone. He asked what we would be doing if he were not over and we confirmed it would be pretty much the same (though possibly lacking pants, the shackles of social propriety). He nodded thoughtfully and affirmed that this was a good thing, that he could live with us if the occasion required. Our companionate love doesn't require a constant battle to keep the others entertained. We can simple be and do and work. That is enough to sustain us.

I am not at all cold to strangers, despite what all this might suggest. I am occasionally overwhelmed by other people. Amber buys a tea from a young lady in a town I do not expect to visit again and my mind starts eating her up. The gold band on her left middle finger becomes a focal point, filigreeing my attentions up her capillaries and veins. She represents someone I will likely never see again and she has led a life I can imagine but will never know. The extent of our connection is customer's husband and clerk. I want to make eye contact, make a connection to our mutual humanity. She wants to complete her job as efficiently as possible without bothering to be engaged in an abstract and silent conversation about the server-served dichotomy. There is a whole world that has fostered her to this point. She has had loves, losses. She has had teachers who inspired her and customers she hated. I could watch her all day, a mute angel in the corner, except that this is lunacy and I have to drive back to New York. There is no way to touch her fingers and say, "In this moment, I am grateful you exist," without being unforgivably creepy. However, this is all the love I will ever be able to offer a stranger. If I knew her, I would love her less than. I am granted a moment where I am the part of the universe observing this barista and am satisfied.

This inert adoration had as much to do with me as with her. I was in the mood to love the world, randomly personified. On a good day, when my basic needs are exceeded, I can fall in love with a dozen people, then release them back to the fog (occasionally pickpocketing them for a characteristic I will use in my fiction). Most days (most weeks), I fall in love with no one new and do not mind it. If I did not practice catch and release, I would go mad, since I cannot love them as individuals. I cannot love their contexts and it is best that I only imagine what they might be. I know that I do not love them, that I don't even want the right to love them. They are the light from a star I cannot even see without squinting.

Soon in Xenology: Depression.

last watched: Hannibal
reading: Hyperspace
listening: Jill Sobule

Stuck in the Middle (of Lake George) with You | 2015 | A Balloon Made of Skin

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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