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The Disappearing Act | 2018 | Twenty-Seventh Kiss Is the Charm

01.08.18

To be a person is to have a story to tell.  

-Isak Dinesen



Three Interesting Topics

You are meant to have three interesting things to talk about, three topics on which you are experienced, beyond the weather -- unless you are a meteorologist or climatologist.

I can talk about sex dolls, paranormal history and theories, and the necessary morality of self-driving cars. People assume I have other topics after that, because these are so niche, and no one knows such specific things without gleaning further context of the rest of the world but, no, this is my depth. All else is trivia enough to get through the cocktail parties to which I have never been invited.

I can pepper in some political kvetching, based mostly on the regurgitation of late show hosts, but I am soon in over my head. Once questioned more deeply, I begin to sound like Bridget Jones rehearsing how to say "Chechnya." I can recommend -- or more than likely criticize -- books I have read recently, but don't dare ask me about anything read before a decade ago, since they were read by a stranger. I can entertain and baffle with anecdotes from my day job educating juvenile delinquents, and that can keep the conversation going a little longer, but I really have maybe three or four interactions before I have exhausted trolley problem variations, the Kelly Goblins, and the presence of RealDolls in brothels.

Talking about my writing seems like vanity and I become bashful, because of course I am an impostor and everyone to whom I mention my series knows it instantly. I'm published, that's certain, but I am not published well enough that strangers are at all likely to know who I am. One might assume that, being a writer, I would have a lot to say on the subject of my craft, but I either consider it so basic that I might as well explain how I piss or it falls under "When you meet a swordsman, draw your sword. Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet."

After watching a musical with Sarah T. and Chris, we somehow end up in the inevitable discussion about sex dolls. Who really knows how these things develop, but develop they do in my nurturing presence. My eyes flick down past my ramen bowl, the boiled egg bobbing among the noodles, as though the lacquer on the table contains the articles I reference so airily. In the matter of ten minutes, I have touched on the high points of my curious knowledge on sex dolls, the articles and debates I've scanned, the Netflix documentaries I have watched with focused amusement. Then, minutes after the conversation drifts to more pedestrian topics, I interject other aspects of the world of sex dolls ("Did you know a Japanese company makes anatomically correct child dolls they swear aren't for sex?" "Were you aware that there was a feminist uproar because a sex doll was damaged after being put out at a trade show?") without segue because it turns out I was not quite done yet. Those at the table tolerate these interjections, but do not let them interfere with the natural flow of conversation.

Sarah is rightly amused, but only because she doesn't realize that I now only have two topics left to our friendship. Then I will gasp like an earthbound goldfish in absence of quirky material to exhale.

Yet maybe I am incorrect as to the brevity of my expertise.

Before the movie, we got on the topic of fetishes, which is always the appropriate topic in close quarters with strangers with whom you will be sharing the space for the next two hours. I mentioned that I have a friend whose kink was being seduced by friends, which Sarah pronounced a good one and then implied she thought that, when I said that I "have a friend," I simply meant it is my kink but we are to pretend it isn't. I needed to toss out extenuating stories which further explain the friend, which I surely could not have come up with on the spur of the moment as a professional writer.

Amber tossed in, "No, I met her once," of the friend, which doesn't suggest the topic of kink was then broached. Who in their right mind, who with an iota of decency, brings up fetishes early into their initial encounters?

After this, Amber and I fell into some easy bantering, likely about popcorn or something both topical and trivial. Sarah looked to Chris and said, "They're fun. I like them."

There is a possibility, however remote, that I am myself interesting outside a few eccentric subjects on which I am inquisitive. Following in the wake of passionately wandering lovers, story-worthy experiences accreted around me like successive nacreous layers. At the center, I am an insignificant speck of sand that irritated the universe enough to have accrued luster and worth. I cannot begin to take full credit (or blame) for all I've become. All I did was remain without being spat out.

My three topics are a start, not a finish. Those who survive them all without sneering or rolling their eyes gain access to the rest of my unassuming tales.

I am sparing when it comes to asking for others' stories, because I will otherwise ask question after question until I turn obsessive and pesky. I am ravenous for as much of the story as I can get, to be amended by written follow-ups when I exhaust my personal inquisition. But I am not a trustworthy receptacle for their confidences because I need these stories for my own. I am a writer and I use any lives within arm's reach as my muse. I have damaged several relationships by repeating and discussing what was apparently related in private.

Perhaps better then to keep to the impersonal fringe for a while.

Soon in Xenology: Apocalypse. Meaning.

last watched: Ash vs the Evil Dead
reading: Fire and Fury
listening: She and Him

The Disappearing Act | 2018 | Twenty-Seventh Kiss Is the Charm

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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