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What I Do on My Summer Vacation | 2017 | Fireworks Apocalypse


Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.  

-William S. Burroughs

Thirty-Seven Questions

"There is this app that can make you fall in love with anyone," says a woman at Holly's housewarming party and goes on to explain that one asks another person a series of questions - I think she said thirty-seven, a number which I think I would only let someone ask me in a row if I already thought I had a good chance of loving them - and then stares into the other person's eyes for five minutes. I don't see why this needs to be an app. The job could be done just as well with a sheet of paper and a stopwatch, but she is pleased with the concept. "Except I haven't found anyone I want to love, so it just sits on my phone."

In a smaller sense, I feel this way at the party. There are many potentially interesting people, but I cannot feel entitled dive into their depths. You reach a certain age and the conversation ceases to be about amazing concerts or drunken exploits. Instead, you discuss polyurethane top coats and real estate prices for each street in town. To a degree, these make sense. It is a housewarming and the topic cannot be avoided. On the other, I lack a few crucial years, money, and experiences these people have under their belts, all of which skews the guests' interest toward more domestic pursuits.

Holly's house is perfect for her, in no small part because she has spent over two weeks from dawn to dusk renovating it from the floors up. I don't know what it looked like before, but the realtor, a guest at the party and the source of property prices for the area, mentions that it was garishly colored. Now, the scheme is pale, sanded wood floors, soft blue walls, white doors and beams. Her art hangs on every wall, but everything feels suited to her as though this were the house's destiny. She is an art professor and professional artist. One would expect nothing else from her.

I crave conversations I may have missed or taken for granted in my early twenties.

One of the guests, a woman for whom Holly had been storing decorative hula hoops, one whose shirt reads "Surely not everyone was Kung Fu fighting," lets drop that she interviewed to be the attaché of my literary idol. I did not know the position was open, though I am sure I could not afford to take the job. This is more of a position she suggested for herself, but she still warranted an interview. This is precisely a conversation I want to have and I try, but I get that feeling she doesn't really know what to make of me and would prefer I do not pester her much further, so I bring the conversation toward the topic of food.

"Do you like cupcakes?"


"Lemonade? Earl Grey?"

She allowed more answers in the affirmative. I offer to get her one of the cupcakes I brought to the party, but she tells me she cannot eat it now - I don't understand why and it seems rude to ask - and could I find a way to wrap it up for her to take? It is not my kitchen to paw through, so I drop it into a disposable cup. I do not know that it will be eaten, but it is one fewer for which to account later.

At parties, I feel I alternate toward putting a few bites worth of food on my plate, sitting somewhere to maunder with Amber, then return to the kitchen for another few bites. I hope to bump into someone in between, but I tend not to.

It is only when we are leaving that one of the later arrivals begins talking about ghosts and paranormal investigations - exactly my wheelhouse - but we cannot stick around much longer. I will just hope for another opportunity to ask up to thirty-seven questions.

Soon in Xenology: The nature of happiness. The sound of silence. Underutilization. Infinite consequences. Fireworks. Daniel.

last watched: Sense8
reading: 1984
listening: Fuel

What I Do on My Summer Vacation | 2017 | Fireworks Apocalypse

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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