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    Xenology: The Neuroses of Accidental Lives

    Amber
    Let this matter

    I had been listening to podcasts, culminating in a session of repeated TED Talks so I would not feel guilty blindly deleting them. I have a tendency to download them with good intentions and then listen instead to conversations about monsters and embarrassing personal stories.

    The man who created Story Corps said that the stories show that people are, on balance, good.

    My MP3 player is nearly dead, so I dart into the corner to charge it, then ask Amber whether she thinks people are actually good because it seems like a good point of discussion.

    I find the words thick in my throat. I am surprised, since I considered this a more philosophical than immediate question. I start crying and do not stop for half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes, while I try to explain myself, having not realized until I started that I might need to.

    I don't think people are inherently good or bad. I don't think we are anything beyond accidental. <

    Xenology: David and Grillades

    I text Susan to inform her of this unexpected hitch in our plans. She is gluten-intolerant, though not specifically celiac, so I tried without much success to find her wheatless pancakes before she granted me absolution enough for my efforts that I could just find a place that served food I would want credit for having put in her belly.

    Xenology: Dr. Susan

    I knew a guy who, after returning from climbing a mountain, found only Cheerios and a block of cheddar cheese in his kitchen, which he ate with gusto, one to each fist. He swore it was the most delicious combination ever and did not understand why everyone didn't know this.

    He repeated his culinary experiment when he was not ravenous and found he experience revolting.

    I am too hungry to be trustworthy.

    Xenology: The Presence of Predators

    Little Me
    Leave this little guy alone.

    I met a predator first in elementary school.

    I was best friend with a boy, in that we were in the same grade so we cleaved together. Outside of the Nintendo and playing in his swampy backyard, we didn't share any interests.

    Over a video game, he told me that he had a neighbor who would give us toys and candy if we went to her house and let her try to teach us math. I recall only going once because the amount of candy and the quality of toys was not enough to endure extracurricular math. She as old, wizened. Her very appearance spoke of decay and dust, clothes hanger bones, a deeply lined face and a loose, pink dressing gown. (In truth, she could have been any age over forty. "Old" is a nebulous concept to a second grader.)

    Xenology: A Fork Stuck in the Road

    Melissa
    She deserved better

    Today, I shsould be officiating Melissa's wedding to Rob. It was overcast all morning, not too cold. After lunch, the sun streams through the breaks in clouds, dappling this still green grass though thinning branches. It could pass for spring instead of autumn, aside from the crunching of leaves underfoot. She would have loved it.

    Had Melissa not died eight month ago, we might have shared this day.

    Xenology: Pico the Immortal

    The best hamster
    Seems lively

    Amber talks of using her skills and intellect to create an immortal hamster. Given that rodents' ubiquity in science makes them lab equipment, a mouse or rat will be the first granted the gift or curse of biological immortality.

    But she wants it to be a hamster. Specifically our teddy bear, Pico, because he is docile and loving in a fashion I was unaware rodents could be. If we had in addition an eager parrot, the phrase it would repeat would be "Hi, Pico! I love you," as Amber says it half the time he passes the wood and mesh cage she built for him over the course of weeks.

    Xenology: The Bicameral Mind

    Looking upward
    "God?"

    We used to hear the gods.

    Theory of the bicameral mind states that, in the too recent past, we attributed the voice in our head - the one telling us to regret what he had or hadn't done, the one planning our day, the one condemning the Widow Corey for her wantonness - to an external, usually supernatural force. We had yet to taste the bittersweet of introspection, accepting that our internal narrator who was not in some way divine. We took intuition for gospel. (Bicamerality is not a widely accepted or respected hypothesis any longer. Whoever heard of the mind talking to itself? However, the legitimacy of the theory does not affect its rhetorical usefulness.)

    Xenology: September 12th

    Three friends together
    Community

    September 12th, 2001, was the beginning of the best few weeks of my life.

    We had all suffered a massive psychic wound, unsteady and nervous. Rumors fomented. In this fertile ground grew overt xenophobia. The preceding day defined the lives of a billion, rarely for the better. But, for a little while, we were part of a massive community that cared and would take care of one another without a second thought. Everyone had a common experience, a shared trauma that reframed the lives we thought we were leading and shook us out of our delusion that we are not intricately connected.

    Xenology: Fantastic Beasts and How to Lose Them

    At Michael's wedding, the underside of our place card designates Amber and me for the Harry Potter table. I know how long Michael has been planning this wedding in a practical and not merely imaginative sense. He assiduously chose my place and companions.

    All of the tables represent some fandom or other, though the theme often extends no further than the homemade pixel art magnets; I doubt Michael sorted us by what book, show, or movie spoke most to our souls or wallets - except my table.

    Xenology: Sometimes the Abyss

    Preying mantis
    Not a monster, Thomm.

    When I was small, the summer night terrified me into insomnia. I got it in my head that the incessant croaking of the tree frogs, in conspiracy with the chirp of crickets and the sudden insectile whine of cicadas, amounted to the monstrous. I'm not sure an adult ever attempted to correct and reassure me, partly because I doubt I had the courage to ask why the night screamed for sacrifice during the warmer months. (I likewise refrained to tell my parents I had chicken pox because I assumed it was lethal and I didn't want to worry them prior to my early death; I am not great expressing my fears.) I eventually understood I heard crickets but the sound of frogs - so obvious at ground level, while near a pond - made no sense elevated into dry branches.

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