Thomm Quackenbush, author

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    Xenology: Melissa Remains

    The day after I learn Melissa is dead of a heroin overdose, I am awash in dissociation. I am aware this is occurring - I know my mind well, even when it is not working well - and just accept this numb fuzziness as part of my processing. I feel as though I am something other and outside my body, caring for the whims of a curious and illogical being who I pretend is actually me. This avatar in the world, this shell, he is processing Melissa's death. I am calmly watching and making sure he isn't going to break over all this, then getting worried when it seems he isn't becoming the right amount of distraught. I could barely hold it together when Todd killed himself and he got on my nerves about as often as I liked him. I loved Melissa and, aside from a few crying jags when I think too hard, I am continuing to live as usual. At the moment, because of the dissociation, I am not able to remember things well, but I know enough to know I am handling this too well.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Melissa Dies

    I get out of work and I turn on my phone. I harbor this slight paranoia that massive things occur while I am indisposed teaching and that, for whatever reason, I need to know these things before bridge the five miles between my job and my home.

    There is a text and a voice mail. Texts are easier to deal with, so I check that first and find a message from my mother, asking for information because my father and she are going to have their wills made up. I roll my eyes, because I do not want to think about mortality Valentine's weekend.

    I click the voicemail, tap my phone to speaker, and set to driving. It is a voice I do not immediately recognize. Telemarketers seem curiously unaware that they are not supposed to call me.

    "mwmmshfh Melissa passed jjfhaseigj didn't rhehstihsghf from Facebook."

    I pull my car to the shoulder and replay the message. "Hey, Thomm, this is Krista. Melissa passed away this morning. I didn't want you to find out from Facebook."

    See the rest.

    Xenology: The Saddest Lines

    Early in our friendship, Daniel asked me what message I had for him. In his experience, new people joined his life to give him some pseudo-cryptic information, the closest I believe he came to religion or a belief in predestination. Once they said it, I assume they became less valuable to him and he had more of an excuse to fade away.

    Then, I told him that I knew of no message I had for him. I just liked being around him. I wondered then if that was an antidote to his leaving, my inability to give him some sort of missing puzzle piece.

    Now, when his leaving has ceased to be my future but my past, I feel an obligation to find a message for him from our collected time together. I will address him directly, though I know from his statements and experience that he does not read things I write about him. He does not, after all, trust writers and is write not to. We remember what we can and assemble what we cannot, just so long as the story still holds together. Still, it would be disingenuous not to put this out in the ether.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: I Will Miss You

    Daniel pauses by the door, getting on his coat. "As much as I am capable of it, I will miss you."

    From most people, this declaration would be weak tea. From our reptilian Daniel, this was borderline effusive emotion. He told us then that it might be a year before he made it up here again, but he would "For the food... and the hang-outs."

    "Kest can always drop you off with us to babysit," I said.

    "Yeah," added Amber, "and we’ll chain you up in the studio so you can never leave us again."

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Childfree Anxiety

    This is for me, to, I hope, look at when I feel the tendrils of anxiety mounting. If you are not me and get something from it, that's great. If you want to convince me I am wrong, trust that I have already thought it through enough to cause chronic physical discomfort and save your breath.

    Also, in editing this, I realized that I was prescribed too large a dose of a medicine that makes me anxious and obsessive. Once I detoxed a bit, once I got through withdrawal, none of this seems quite so dire (though still extant). If I am feeling catastrophic about this, I should make sure I am properly medicated, not sick, not hungry, not sleepless to allow my rationality some chance to break through.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: An Accounting of Best Friends, Past and Present

    In the interest of privacy and safety, I will not include names where unneeded or contemporary. Instead, it is a chronological list, mostly of pronouns. Girlfriends, though they served effectively as best friends, are likewise excised for obvious reasons. In addition, when sexuality beyond a few initial kisses entered the picture, those friendships always bore the weight.

    There were many overlaps in these friendships. It is my privilege that I could gather two or three of these people together and watch them interact during sleepover parties or nights wandering town. Never in my young life had I felt so excited for the future, so in tune with what I believed the world could be. I wish that I had more pictures, more to remember them by and share now. They largely existed in a specific time and place. Like most species - aside from the invasive - they could not thrive outside their context, chronological and social rather than geographic (though geography often played a role in the endangerment and extinction).

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    Xenology: Last Sushi

    Maybe it is not my duty, but I did it anyway because I am not certain he would on his own and I like to interfere where there might be stories. I want him to have no regrets when New York ceases to be his home again.

    I asked if Daniel was available at any point over the weekend and he gave me a probability that he could do something after work on Saturday. Kest returned to New York to help him pack and move another load of his possession to Maryland or, more likely, she never left from the last time we saw them. Her schedule has different restrictions than most people, fixed around shows at which she will be selling her masks rather than a boss breathing down her neck about vacation days. She can linger in his apartment for a week without anyone much noticing her absence from her world.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: The Art of Losing

    Daniel comes to our door a little before nine in the morning that we could get to Mass MoCA when it opens. Despite stopping for sandwiches, we arrive at the museum fifteen minutes before it opens.

    Amber and I dozed in the back seat. Where usually there would be Cannibal Corpse, Die Antwoord, or an episode of Harmontown coming from the speakers, today there was only silence. Before nodding off, I asked Kest what sort of music she likes - she will be taking Daniel away in less than a month and I still know so little about her. She answered that she likes circus music and this seemed obvious.

    Before Daniel picked us up, I told Amber that I've felt this urge to discover and describe their flaws. She astutely fingered this as the anger stage of grief.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Four Short Weeks

    I may not be remembering the facts right, but I know how the night felt.

    "I need to tell you something," said Daniel. Kest and he had been over under an hour, during which I stuffed them with fried swai and we watched videos about intentionally deficient robots. It felt so normal, though I knew Kest wanted tonight to end in sledding instead of recording a podcast.

    I feel a lurch, a sick tension in my organs. I remember this last when Melanie left me, this sense of "What has been coming has been brewing a long time. That does not imply I am ready for it."

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Through the Snowstorm

    Wandering by others through a snowstorm, there is a feeling that, no matter what brought us to this moment, we are here together. In all likelihood, they were drawn into the cold and wet with a similar stripe of insanity.

    Given the weather and my proclivities for my free time on this winter day, I saw that my typical workout gear would not suffice. I searched my closet for my sturdiest pair of boots - my mother has, in recent years, given me three pairs with increasing utility because anything worth doing is worth doing three times. As I put the best and still newest on, I noticed that there was a lot already in the right one.

    See the rest.

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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