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    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.

    Xenology: My First Victim: the Little Girl with Black Eyes

    puddle in a tree
    Should be here. Try not to question it.

    In the third grade, a second grader with black eyes, a new student, reciprocated my crush.

    I grew up in a safe, quiet, middle-class community. It fed into a middle school, then high school, each progressively less of these cozy adjectives.

    She never made it that far. <

    Xenology: Picky Aardvark

    rocks
    No, none of these are the right pebble

    Walking with Amber, I wonder aloud in how many people's stories we feature as nameless background character.

    I spend my summer weekdays writing in the library, earplugs in to ward off the distraction of coughs and mouth sounds, the elderly people supplementing their retirement. I clock in over five miles of steps a day, often in town. Some people recognize me, but I am not known to them. Likewise, there are people I know enough to reduce them to sets of descriptors - the bearded man in the t-shirts with cut-off sleeves, a baseball cap, and a pipe; the gangly twenty-something who seems to work everywhere and nowhere and who has recently grown a goatee to mask his no doubt nefarious activities; the middle-aged bottle blonde who peddles free samples of apple cider doughnuts outside her home in hopes we'll buy a dozen and who is never without a smile; the thin girl with the dawn blue eyes and off-kilter smile who serves us ice cream; the dozen of people who show up for Pokémon Go raids and melt back into the night without further conversation. I do not know them, but I would eventually miss not seeing them.

    Xenology: Fabio, the Goose, and Infinite Consequences

    Threads
    Tear any at your doom

    The world turns on a dime. History is made on the zig and zag of chance.

    There is a meme that the 1970s Buffalo Bills could have stopped there from being The Kardashians. In short, they fumbled a pass, so they were able to get their first pick in the draft: OJ Simpson. In Buffalo, he met Nicole Brown, the woman whom he would marry and later allegedly murder. Robert Kardashian defended him and became a household name, allowing someone to give a damn about his daughter's leaked sex tape years later, sparking her fame. If a pass had been completed in a game in 1970, two people aren't murdered and the current low point of pop culture isn't shouted from every sidebar.

    Xenology: Some of Them Want to Be Used by You

    Trees
    Don't let the brightness be wasted

    I harbor a not-secret judgment that nothing much was ever done to capitalize off my apparent intellect. My school, prodded no doubt by some higher authority, fingered me early as somehow smarter than the average bear in kindergarten because I was given to intuitive leaps about exactly how to game the system and could decipher which clown face ought to come next in a pattern on standardized tests. (The fact that I can vividly remember this test and who sat on either side of me as I took it - Jason Oakes and Alison Wood, both strangely arboreal names to pen in a Quackenbush - might mean that the label was not completely unwarranted.)

    Xenography: Enjoy the Silence

    There is always a lighthouse
    Shh. I'm busy not doing anything.

    We confuse a need for silence with spirituality, usually of an Eastern bend. That is not it as all. When I tell you to let yourself be in silence, you picture a dark room, a patchouli scented cushion under your lotus position, candles lighted at a safe remove. You picture yoga, meditation, months if not years of practice until you can finally truly appreciate the quiet. You picture window dressing and excuses for why you won't ever let yourself be silent.

    No. Just, for a little while, shut the hell up. Disable your Wi-Fi, close your laptop, turn off your phone.

    Should you read a book? No. That is noise.

    Xenology: Fleeing Happiness

    Me, with Bigfoot
    At least one of us is happy

    While I am uncertain that happiness is supposed to be something with which people healthily concern themselves, it is impossible to suggest that I do not strive for that state and often fall short. The more one runs toward it, the quicker it flees. It seems to be the human condition, this striving, this failing.

    In the last twenty years (give or take a few years on the other end), there have been only a few periods of prolonged happiness. The rest of the time was not necessarily unhappy, just not explicitly happy.

    Xenology: Radical Times at Lake George

    Scotty's
    The family at Scotty's

    Vacations are an exercise in radical acceptance. I have little control over what happens. All attempts to pretend otherwise are fraught with friction. I am exuberant to be here yet again. If this is the paradigm with which I am presented, the vinegar I taste yearly, I intend to find it sweet, which comes from accepting what vacation otherwise entrails. I pay few expenses (aside from getting discounted tickets to Great Escape, along with meal and parking vouchers, though my union; I am no cheapskate) and, in return, I nod at the generalities.

    Amber and I arrive to our annual family vacation to Lake George within forty-five minutes of the requested time of 2pm, which is nearly early for any member of the Quackenbush bloodline.

    Xenology: Stolen Time

    Gravestones
    Photography 101

    The cemetery spreads around a white church, the steeple reaching into the blue of the sky. Amber and I arrive before anyone else. Until they arrive, we play Pokémon Go, which I think Melissa would have liked. She isn't around to contradict me.

    Xenology: Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

    When one thinks of a romantic weekend, one thinks, of necessity, of ax murder. Usually avoiding it, but tastes differ.

    Lizzie Borden was acquitted after a trial, but posterity had decided to ignore that and, to wit, has memorialized her in schoolyard rhyme, though third graders miss some of the nuance and facts of the trial. Aside from neglecting her murder acquittal, no one was given forty whacks to say nothing of forty-one. That is simply an excessive number of whacks. The victims would be a slurry at that point. Also, we say "ax" only because it rhymes better than "hatchet."

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