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Immemorial Day | 2017 | Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose


Love is a capricious creature which desires everything and can be contented with almost nothing.  

-Madeleine de Scudéry

Sweet Sorrow

It will be the first time we spent the night apart since moving in together over five years ago. Amber quibbles that times she spent all night awake making thousands of denim bracelets while I slept almost don't count, but I don't buy that. We were fewer than twelve feet apart, which is as good as together. She was not an hour and forty minutes away in Delhi, learning the care and treatment of lab mice at RATS Camp. She mopes that she will simply give up on science so as to leave our streak unbroken, but only so I tell her she has to do the painful thing for the chance of the life she deserves.

I do not do this. I tell her she can be a receptionist in a cubicle and housewife. I can't be the one to tell her to do this hard thing. She has to and does, promptly contradicting me.

"You'll leave before me tomorrow," she says. "So you are really leaving me."

"I'm going to work," I remind her. "I'll be home after eight hours."

"I can't know that. You could be at Falcon Hall at Delhi."

"But I won't."

"You might. I'll look for you there."

She plans for us to watch Netflix together while talking on the phone. She is stealing my bathrobe to comfort her and cuddle against. I will be surrounded by reminders of her, our seven pets in need of care. A friend is coming over the night Amber will first be gone so that we can write in the studio Amber generously cleared out. I would like to think this relieves tension but it is a different anxiety.

When I get home from work, I try to spend as much time as I can with her, but I still go out for a run without her because I get itchy if I have not exercised. Yesterday, she took a meandering walk with me to hunt Pokémon, but the main point of it was not to waste a single more moment than we had to.

In the morning, she wakes a few minutes after me to get aspirin, then cuddles beside me as I get ready for work. I wondered how this would go down. I did not think that she would release me willing. Indeed, she claws my back and bites me, because she will take my skin cells, even if she will not take me.

She doesn't want to go, but not because she has the least bit of anxiety about this program. I believe, given the amount of research she has done, she could teach it at this point. She just has never had the experience of my absence and has no interest in rediscovering what a night without me is like.

I sleep poorly the first night, cuddled against Amber's robe as, I assume, she is cuddled against mine. It does not provide much in the way of comfort, since she does not often wear her robe so it smells of laundry detergent and terrycloth instead of my fresh from the shower wife.

Veronica was supposed to come over with pizza so we could write, but a hailstorm savaged every town around us while passing us by. Instead, I cleaned, bought comfort writing supplies, and talked to Amber on the phone for an hour. It is strange to talk so long to someone whom I am accustomed to simply being present. All the same, we manage to fill the time with trivialities. She talks of which animals she will rescue from euthanasia. The rabbits are enormous, bigger than cats, and I am sure to be allergic. Besides, they are meat rabbits and will be returned to the slaughterhouse, which is oddly a comfort. The mice are simply no fun, meant not to be pets but the filler of snakes' stomachs. Monkeys, though Delhi has a colony, are not open to adoption and Amber reminds me that she is not supposed to touch them at all. That leaves the rats, which are worked with in pairs and prefer their own company, but Amber wants three of them. She may steal someone else's rat so it is not killed.

She has with her the stuffed lemur I bought her for her first birthday with me (I went to Pine Bush without her, supposed to be infested with alien lemurs, and she asked me to bring one home for her). This toy has accompanied her on every trip we have taken. It came to our wedding and honeymoon.

The days without her are long, but they are not impossible. I am used to considering her presence when I plan my daily activities: when we ought to have dinner, when I will write, when I will exercise. Absent these, I find myself late and early to chores. I have compensated for a constancy in our relationship that her seminar prevents.

I resist falling into a new routine, because she will be home after a few days. She tells me that she cries without me. I don't cry, but the apartment feels hollow and cavernous. I struggle for sleep every night and don't remember my dreams.

When she returns, I am a little distant because some animal part of me needs her to prove herself again. She asks me to bring in two large but shallow containers. In one, the two rats she promised, one whose breathing is wet from Amber having flinched when giving it a gastric gavage. In the other, four mice, even though she assures me again that they are no fun. She just couldn't let them be sacrificed after having spent days experimenting on them. She spends an hour setting up a cage for the rats. They hide in a small house, huddled together, and glare up at us with gleaming red eyes.

I understand the sentiment. In another week, Amber will spend a week at farm camp, staying away from Sunday to Friday. I would like few things more than to hide in my home and chide away the world that might ask anything else from me.

Soon in Xenology: Adventures.

last watched: Under the Skin
reading: Another Roadside Attraction
listening: Temple of the Dog

Immemorial Day | 2017 | Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

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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