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Friendless without a Fight | 2016 |


One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away.  

-Stephen Hawking

A Place Where We Would Meet Ourselves

Since this idea of farming for a new friendship has become my current hobby - at least until I get distracted and lose interest - I have sought to go about this in the most logical way I can.

To find a new friend, I must plumb in the locations known best to me. I must understand who I am so that I can find either a complementary or similar person.

This pretty nearly precludes a Craigslist ad, as funny as that was to imagine, since I am not presently trolling Craigslist for any reason and don't know I would have much in common with someone who did for anything but secondhand pets or used cars ("For Rent: Two Friends, Gently Used"). More than likely, my people are not Craigslist people.

When I was younger, each new friend held the possibility of a much larger and more intricate world. I used to be emotionally promiscuous, giving a modicum of attention to anyone who caught my eye. I had dear friends who only existed for a single day or, once, a single visit to a café. Even if these interactions were abbreviated, they let me believe that there was a massive realm almost at my fingertips, one I could reach with their help.

Daniel, even as he understandably devotes far more of himself to Kest and the life they are building together, represents a vast universe whose contours I have yet to even guess. I have certainly tried, though respecting those spaces he asked to be left unexplored. So much of our friendship was like taming a wolf, respecting its territory and never forgetting that this is not a puppy, no matter the physiological similarities. Of course, anthropologists will tell you that we did not domesticate the wolf into man's best friend. No, they decided as a species to domesticate themselves because they saw more plenty at our sides, as part of our pack, than they did in the wilds. So it was with Daniel, as he chose to spend time with me, with us, when it would have been easier to lope through the world unencumbered. We have loved him for this, this mutual taming.

How can I hope for this now with another?

Of course, I cannot. Each experience is unique and unrepeatable, even if it is only so because of the burden of the time before. We will never find another Daniel, if he should leave, nor will we try to have someone fill shoes not even abandoned. Our hope - or, to be blunt, my hope which Amber occasionally indulges - is to find someone companionable. In my experience, if I can endure them for a few weeks, I might come to like them - though it is infrequently that I really endure someone long enough. I have only so much time in my life and cannot give it to the incompatible. Instead, I decide on first look if I can like someone and it is a struggle to change my mind. My instincts have only once been wrong in my adult life that I recall, and only then because said person's friends surrounded them in a cloud I was not eager to break.

The problem is that I am somehow lonely. I understand I am far less lonely as some and those lonelier have my sympathy, but are not my present concern. The probable eventual leaving of Daniel introduces a vacancy that has been filled for years, nearly a decade. I have grown complacent in the sureness of his company.

Of course, I want his happiness and growth. I would be a poor friend is I valued my wants above his needs. Kest and he stand a good chance of further happiness and I want that for them. However, this too is not my concern here. What Daniel does and how I react are nearly preordained, bodies moving in predictable orbits.

My concern is more direct, the discovery of new people to make my orbit eccentric. Otherwise, I know Amber and I will continue a lovely, but fairly quiet and unbothered life. Where is the fun in that? Where is the rediscovery of nooks in the commonplace to which we hadn't before paid attention?

Amber is an anodyne to complete solitude and I am constantly grateful for her company and influence, even as I feel I do not get the fullness of experiencing her outside the novel stimuli of people not a daily part of our routine. She says she is satisfied with me alone and I appreciate the sentiment. However, since I get on my nerves when left to my own devices, I can only imagine she might without the hope of additional company. She had it at work and school, when both were in session. Now, she has a month with me alone, except when I go to work.

Being open to friends is a change in mindset. To date, I have not greatly wanted for close friends. Now, it occurs to me that I might be overdue. In the past, new friends were as close as my new girlfriend's peer group or the person sitting next to me in class. Most didn't take, but I did not need most to because there would be another opportunity on the horizon. Age has limited opportunities to encounter likeminded and fresh strangers, as has Amber ceasing my serial monogamy.

However, I am the worst culprit of my current loneliness. I have calcified around a few wonderful people and have ignored the potential of other people and situation. My dear friends have not asked for this exclusivity - and certainly they explored close friendships outside mine and I encouraged this - but it was emotionally and psychologically easier than investing myself in a new person with this devotion.

When I mentioned my prediction to my therapist, in between her earning her fee by refilling my prescriptions and showing me the door, she expressed shock that a man of my years would be concerned with acquiring and maintaining friendships. Women care about that but men gruffly lose friends and die, apparently. I've never clung to stereotypes when it comes to my gender, ones that result in my lonesome death most of all.

I have no illusions that I am not a good friend to have. Daniel calls me the male equivalent of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, there to be witty and help premature curmudgeons see the brightness of life with my antics. I am fun at parties without being overbearing. I am not going to try to seduce your siblings, parents, or partners. I have enough disposable income to support an artist-farmer-student in comfort and still afford to take trips. I am a talented author you can show off to your other friends and I will possibly describe you at length in public detail (which I am given to understand some people do not enjoy). I come with a spunky, brilliant, clever, hilarious, eclectic wife who improves most occasions by her presence. I may not be the most low-maintenance friend, but I do tend to make clear how I feel. I'm physically active, but still down for watching movies, good and bad - particularly if said movies are at a drive-in. I will find interesting events going on locally and then present them like gems to those closest to me. I have varied and even occasionally learned opinions on dozens of topics, from prison reform to the true nature of Sasquatch to the vileness of Sir Richard Owen's treatment of Gideon Mantell, and keen to hear others.

Over burgers and fries - because we will not let age determine a healthy diet and because I enjoy the experience of burning it off again - Amber discusses my situation. However happy she is with me alone, she cannot abandon a topic of interesting plotting. I mention that, as we returned Christmas items that were not quite right, I looked around at the people. I understand that this does not bespeak a true cross-section of the world around me, those choosing to spend an otherwise beautiful day inside the belly of the commercial beast. In conclusion, I determine that most people are not my type, which is not a new notion for me.

"If you do not have your act together - whatever that means for your age - I cannot imagine we will end up friends," I say. "I knew a guy who was awesome when I was seventeen. However, when I was twenty-five and he was still that same seventeen-year-old, I knew we wouldn't be friends much longer. If you cannot get out of your head or apartment, if you bounce between daddy issues to mommy issues, then we are not going to hit it off."

This evolves into the suggestion that we make our own situation where we might meet likeminded people (and, if we don't, we are basically performing a public good) by holding monthly spiritual-by-which-we-mean-witchy craft nights. I know the owner of a local café who encourages spiritually-minded events to be held there as an excuse to peddle his wares to the more enlightened, who I am positive would foster us.

"The problem would be that I can easily imagine most of the clientele of our events as either Bard kids or fifty year old women, neither of whom is our target demographic for friendship," I say.

"It is a place where we would meet ourselves," Amber says, which is all the logic I need to mull this plan over.

We quickly imagine a few crafts we would feel competent teaching. Amber is so naturally crafty and has so many supplies that this comes naturally. As almost an afterthought, she mentions that I could do something involving crafting words into a usable format.

Maybe it is all fancy and will never come to anything, though it is nice enough that she will join me in the dream. We have been in social hibernation too long, it seems.

"If I want Stars Hollow," I declare, referencing the idyllic (though overwhelmingly white) town in Gilmore Girls, "I've got to take steps to build it in my backyard."

I dared to write to a quirky nearby lesbian on a dating site, who I thought safe because she is quirky, a lesbian, and reminded me in no small way of Kest. If a Kest is robbing us of continued years of a discontent Daniel, it seems only fitting that we get a Kest of our own. I don't really expect said lesbian to reply or, if she does, to reply favorable to the straight, cisgender guy messaging her out of the blue, but it was a declaration to the universe that I am willing to debase myself by again using that site for the purposes of friendship. There will, after all, have to be sacrifices to expand the world and my dignity seems a fine first one.

Soon in Xenology: Faces.

last watched: Gilmore Girls
reading: Sleight of Hand
listening: Die Antwoord

Friendless without a Fight | 2016 |

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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