WickedEye's Quotient

6/10/2011 at 00:58

OUTWARD: SUMMER [Lake, Galaxy, & I]

At 2:30 am on the morning of my birthday, I went for a drive

[the dam at Devil’s Kitchen].

2 am on a small lake in the middle-of-almost-nowhere is many things.


[insects and frogs and me]


[sigh of wind and susurrus of water flowing]


[no lights for miles].


I saw the Milky Way for the first time in a decade.

Stood on black asphalt, leaning on the white concrete of a small dam

[dark shallow waters below and behind me]

looking up at the stars

[scent of honeysuckle weaving together sound of water & brush of blown hair]

while mind gave body a surfeit of summer night

[wind on water on skin].

Stood on the inside of the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Γαλαξιαζ (Galaxias)

[standing in and looking out]

moving at approximately 0.07c (the speed of light)

[eyes ears tongue funneling the world backward into my skull]

looking outward at its edge

[neurons firing the reality of night & lake & galaxy].

Visual cortex filled to overflowing

[band of horizon skyglow rising 15° above black-spiked trees]

with a near-hemisphere of starry night

[dark pastel fade of cerulean to sapphire]

the attenuated night deepening quickly

[to silky midnight with diamond-bright flecks of fire].

And stretched behind that fire

[compressed by an angle 60° off the galactic plane]

the milky, rippling ribbon of paler flame

[stippled with staccato darkness: nebulae known but unseen].

Now the Milky Way hangs above the roof of my study

[shimmering as it spins through 600km/s]

but it is time and past time for me to go to bed.

So I will fall asleep on damasked sheets

[inside a minor arm of a barred spiral galaxy]

on a small side street in Carbondale, Illinois

[quietly merging with the Virgo stellar stream].

At home

[I will not need sweet dreams].

at 00:49

And I Fell for Him Like My Heart Was a Mob Informant and He Was the East River.*

or, Aquarium-based Fishboyfriend Schematics and Other Implausibly Romantic Musings: A Meditation In Ten Parts. With Subheadings. And Sharks.


I. In which I preface the long-awaited description of my decision with a few disclaimers.

1. This post is visible only to those tagged to it. (With few exceptions, that means those who took part in the original boyfriend v. aquarium debate on Facebook. Based on past conversations about romance/acknowledged attractions/romantic involvements, a few other interested parties may have found their way into the tag list as well.) For that reason, it’s quite a bit more candid than most of my other posts—even some of those which give the reader interesting close-ups of various scars. It is, in other words, not meant for general consumption. Thus, if I find people recopying bits of it—other than into correspondence with me—they will be hunted down like a dog in…er, a place where people hunt dogs.

2. As you may have deduced from the (sub)title(s), some of the thoughts here will be serious; others…not. Forgive me the more outrageous cracks; I can’t really help the way my weird sense of humor overpowers me. (And my romantic escapades have been more than outrageous enough to justify almost any crack I make about them.)

3. If you have absolutely no interest in reading about this stuff—for the love of Pete, let me know! I have no desire to bother people with tags to pieces they don’t find interesting, and in fact have stopped tagging several friends because they told me they only occasionally read things I write.

4. Comments, as with the original fishboyfriend debate, are welcomed. However, a little of my heart is out in the open here. Whatever your thoughts, please at least try to be tactful in expressing them.


II. In which I describe an 18-way conversation.

The original question: Aquarium or boyfriend?

The discussion went on for 95 comments, with 18+ participants. It was revealing on several different planes. Many people came out of the woodwork to participate. And the level of concern expressed—especially by my guy friends, and especially by those privy to the magnitude of the disaster that was my last ex—gave me all kindas warms n’fuzzies.

On the other hand, the unparalleled amount of cynicism displayed by my male friends—gay and straight—about the possibilities of finding a man who’d be able to treat me well was disturbing. When challenged, they bluntly stated that they didn’t think I realized what guys were like (!), and then gave me a rendition of the male psyche that forced me to apologize to female friends whom I’d accused of sexism when they said the same things.

Not very encouraging…but not totally discouraging either. And more importantly, the process of engaging in the debate clarified some things that I’d (carefully) avoided realizing.

III. In which I begin my blatant Abuse Of Capitalization.

When I posted the question (no, it wasn’t a joke), I was under the impression that I wasn’t dating because I had Other Schtuff To Do than search for that One Special Person I wanted to annoy. (Not for the Rest Of My Life, but On An Exclusive Basis.)

And perhaps secondarily because I was in An Awkward Position when it came to finding Men Of A Suitable Age. (As in, they’re probably my professors. Eeeek.)

And possibly tertiarily because I am Unfortunately Incompatible With The Majority Of Straight Men. (No, really.)

Like so much else in life, the truth was both simpler and more complex than that. And realizing it made me take a long look at that list of six men I was attracted to and considering asking out.

And shred it.

I still find them attractive. But the thing that made it impossible for me to ask any of them out was realizing (finally!) the way attraction works for me.

IV. In which I (re)discover that my brain Controls My Emotions to an Often Unsavory Extent.

It’s long been a truism amongst me and my friends that the only way to my heart is through my brain.

The only way. There may be a few bypasses to other things (most of them via a dance floor), but for my heart that’s the only way. (Though artists and musicians have a bypass too, of sorts—I find certain forms of artistic talent as intriguing as I find certain forms of intellect.)

This has a number of unfortunate side-effects. In the past I’ve been blind to other considerations when caught in the thrall of a truly unique intellect—other considerations that have a tendency to come whiplashing back later on, sometimes traumatically. Witness my panicked call to Dave two years ago when I realized I was attracted to a man 11 years younger than I. My side of it began with: “Oh my god, Dave, I’m a perv!” (To Dave’s everlasting credit, his responding “What?” was laced with laughter rather than wariness. There are very good reasons he & I are friends.)

Other considerations had (thankfully) supervened at the time, preventing me from acting on the attraction, but I hadn’t even thought about the man’s age until almost two days later…when I was appalled.

It took Dave a while to convince me I wasn’t a perv. And I still have problems with the idea of dating a person substantially younger than I am—hence the Men Of A Suitable Age dilemma: I have no wish to hurt or take advantage of a person less romantically experienced than I. (Many of my male friends have told me emphatically that this concern is nonsensical. However, a fair bit of my moral code is considered nonsense in this day and age; that doesn’t stop me from formulating or adhering to it.) My friends did, however, manage to convince me that age is not the primary quality that must be considered when weighing romantic experience.

Fine. Good. Great. But that’s not the only problem. In fact, it’s not even the main problem.

V. In which I realize that Heterosexuality is the Least Of My Problems.

Nor is the Unfortunately Incompatible With The Majority Of Straight Men issue.

Which is surprising. Because since I’m straight (“intractably straight,” as I generally say, which to those paying attention implies—correctly—that I’ve attempted to rectify the matter often enough to realize that such attempts are doomed to failure), you’d think Incompatibility With The Majority Of Straight Men would be a rather large stumbling block.


See, that one faded into insignificance when I realized that I’m incompatible with the majority of people. Neat solution, right? [Insert violent interaction of my head with my desk here.]

Once again, it comes down to the way attraction works for me. And since I haven’t clarified that, let me do so now: In order to make me want a man enough to ask him out, he has to fascinate me.

VI. In which I rediscover Fascination as both Vice And Privilege.

There are several layers to that—including all the layers that make me want to be friends with a person: High intelligence, ethical code, verbal wit, humor, interest in the world, a sense of adventure.

But it’s something more as well. An added spice. A twist to the language or ideas or playing field. A level of contest in the decoding. An impression that this man may be playing chess while everyone else at the table is playing checkers.

A provocation.

A sense that he might just be playing a few levels above me, and would I like to step to the table to find out? A sense that I’m dealing with a man whose mind has many levels, and that he’s capable of operating on more than one at a time. A sense that I have to actively try to keep up.

A sense that he’s an equal—who can challenge me.

And it’s not the traditional bad-boy fixation (though I admit to one in terms of fictional characters, both written and read): I’m not challenged by emotional disturbances. All mature adults carry some emotional baggage, and I don’t discriminate on that basis; but anger issues or mommy issues or daddy issues, or many of the varied flavors of emotional incapacitation are, at this point in my life, easily identifiable. They may not prevent me from being interested by a man’s mind, but they’ll back me from romantic to friendly interest faster than you can say “chess.”

And please don’t think that all of this has to be in play for me to say yes if I’m being asked out, rather than asking a man out. To say yes, I have to be interested and entertained; I have to enjoy his company. Most of my friends meet those criteria—they’re not terribly demanding. All that’s necessary past that baseline is the potential for fascination. I’ve had fulfilling relationships with men with whom, before we dated, it would never’ve occurred to me I was compatible. (I am, as several of you reading this know—yes, Joanna, I’m talking to you—rather slow on the uptake in that and several other regards.)

Which brings me to the matter of physical attraction.

VII. In which I address a topic that is Generally Awkward with my Usual Tact And Grace.

There’s a reason I left this till last, or almost-last. And that’s that to me, until that fascination is in place, the physical stuff’s irrelevant. (There’ve been exceptions to that; but I was younger and dumber—and, sad to say, so were the exceptions.) I’ve heard many women say that the physical characteristics come second, but on exploring further I’ve found that this isn’t true for them in the same sense that it is for me. Female friends whose judgment I trust (Marie being the most recent) have also told me that I’m the exception to the rule when it comes to my responses in this area.

Most women have physical characteristics that they prefer, and I’m no exception: Men who catch my eye in a “Wow, check him out” sense tend to be tall, dark-haired, and dark-eyed, with wide shoulders.

But I don’t really look at men on the street in terms of attraction. I look at them as aesthetic specimens—the way I’d look at a piece of sculpture. I look at women the same way; if you’re good-looking, graceful, exceptional in some way, you’ll catch my eye. I’ll appreciate you. But I won’t be attracted to you.

Attraction takes something else. It takes knowledge of the brain behind the mouth, eyes, smile, jawline, shoulders. And once I’m attracted to that, everything else about you will be attractive to me as well.

Which is why the list of men I’ve dated includes tall green-eyed blond reprobates and short half-Korean honors students, Italian-American basketball players and African-American chemistry nerds, blue-eyed saxophonists and brown-eyed business majors, redheaded models and brown-haired poets. All brilliant. All men I was desperately attracted to, both body and mind.

The former is impossible for me without the latter.

And that’s the problem.

VIII. In which I describe the Method by which I normally Proposition A Man.

I can’t ask out any of the men I had on that list—because if I were attracted enough to them to ask them out, I would’ve done it already.

When I’m attracted enough to a man to ask him out—or rather, to make my interest clear, which as often involves me asking to kiss someone as it does me asking him out—if there’re no intervening factors (significant others, sexual preference, age, etc.), I’ll do it as soon as possible.

As in, “You know, I find you really attractive. Would you like to have dinner/coffee/a drink tonight/right now?” Or, “I’d really like to kiss you. Would you mind?” (Several of the people tagged to this Note have experienced some version of this from me. I don’t expect you to attest to it—in fact I’d prefer you didn’t—but the rest of you should bear in mind that most of the people with whom I’ve done this aren’t one-offs. This is how I’ve started several relationships.)

And in the absence of that kind of attraction, I don’t want to pursue anybody.

IX. In which Sublimation collides with the Reason Why I’m Single.

I don’t want to date someone just because I’m single, or because I’m lonely. I’m single because I haven’t yet met anyone eligible whom I truly wanted to date. (As implied above, if I had and he hadn’t made a move, I would’ve.)

And everyone gets lonely. There are several answers to the physical side of that—if you, like me, aren’t into casual sex—and one of them is sublimation. Weightlifting, swimming, a heavy bag…yeah, you get the idea. The emotional side—well, I have wonderful friends; it’s not often I feel lonely. And dealing with the occasional bout of loneliness is part of being a grownup—and sadly, not exclusive to being single.

So the limiting factor isn’t compatibility, or age, or any of those things. The thing lacking for me to take the initiative is, quite simply, interest.

As someone else recently pointed out to me, I clearly need to meet more people I find intriguing.

X. In which lurk possible Members Of Class Chondrichthyes, with no other End In Sight.

I agreed with him. Clearly I do. But neither of us had any idea of how to resolve the problem. After all, twisty, multilayered, perpendicular thinking isn’t a characteristic of a whole lot of people in medical school—or, surprisingly, law school (at least not the one I attended). And medical school—and residency—is where I’ll be for quite some time.

Which is why, all things considered—and absent any serendipitous dropping of intriguing available males in my lap—I’ll be going with the aquarium.

So Stacy, I hope you’re still working on that aquarium-based fishboyfriend schematic.

Maybe eventually I’ll upgrade to a shark tank.


*This phrase is not original. To see a long list including that and other utterly delicious analogies, see “It’s Like This” in Style Invitational, a Washington Post contest which has been endlessly pirated (including here, although unlike the others I at least had the decency to attribute the source correctly).

at 00:37

Black Irises

They sit at my eye level at the last stop sign but one before the parking lot: black irises.

Two of them, grown on the same stem, swaying against a field of lighter purple-and-yellow cousins.

They are not truly black, of course. The slant of the 7:45am sun burnishes their darkness, pulling their true tint—a plangent shade of abyssal sanguine-purple—to the surface of the rumpled petals. Caressing from them a gleam too subtle to be satiny, too tender to be silken.

They should seem out of place. It is a lovely spring morning, sun already coaxing cerulean from the sky; the all-but-black flowers shimmering slowly, entrancingly, in front of their more vivacious cousins should tarnish that liveliness.

They do not.

They make everything, everything—the other flowers, even the sky—more vivid.

Their pale cousins are more luminous in the black blooms’ shadow. And if the cheerful, slender purple prettiness seems shallower than the sinuous elegance of the dusky blossoms swaying (slower, more…deliberate) in the same breeze as they… Still, that prettiness is blazoned more brilliantly on the morning for the presence of those inky crimson-purple petals.

The cant of the morning light itself is sharper, its angle more acute, for the deep heartsblood stain it strikes from the soft weaving of the two entwined stems.

They are arresting. Enthralling. Heartbreaking. Resplendent.

And I will stare at them a few seconds too long before snapping to myself. Before making myself leave. Before parking and walking slowly towards the rest of a day that’s been rearranged by a lustrous dark beauty.

Before wondering what it is in contrast, chiaroscuro—darker shades of shadow—that lets me see more clearly.


[For my friend Andrea, a woman who brightens all around her.]

at 00:35

Thank you, Mom.

[Below is the present I gave my mother for this Mother's Day. She gave me her permission to republish it.]


My mother made me who I am.

She knows that, of course. But in everyone's heart there lie things which we think and know about those we love—think and know and never utter. And all too often, those things are the qualities we think best. The things we hold closest and tightest, and therefore most secret.

We know that we should tell the ones we love. And we will—someday.

But we remain silent until someday is past, and we are left with a pale cold recounting to those who will never be able to experience the things we treasure.

It is not given to any of us to know whether or not we will be here tomorrow, or the next day, or the next—or whether our loved ones will be. And so on this Mother's Day I wish to tell my mother what I really and truly think of her. How I would describe her to someone who lived on the moon, or one of the planets which circle the star Gliese—someone who could never meet her.

I would tell the strangers that she is flawed, and human. That her failings aggravate and frustrate and occasionally anger me.

And that even in that she is exceptional. Exceptional, unique, singular—for the fact that she can have such flaws and failings and yet manifest virtues that eclipse them as surely and vividly as the sun would the moon. In terms of luminosity, in absolute magnitude, she shines so very brightly.

And that her virtues—those of selflessness and humor and compassion and fierce protectiveness—are acted out on a plane that removes them from the ordinary human sphere. Enacted in ways large and small during every minute of every day.

I would tell them that it is easy to be dazzled by large, florid gestures; by conspicuously manifested intellect; by words prettily and loudly spoken. That it is easy to overlook the stunning, overwhelming sum of luminance shed by a person whose every simple gesture, whose enormous intellect, whose softly spoken words, are directed almost totally towards the betterment of those overlooked or shunned or scorned or forgotten.

That such lights shine in dark and light; but their absolute magnitude is misjudged by those blinded by brief flamboyant things.

That she taught me that we are responsible for each other by being responsible for those around her to a depth and extent that still confound me. That when others, even others whose beliefs I share, speak disparagingly of goodwill, of the power of small individual actions to shift the levers of the earth, she is at the forefront of my empirical evidence to the contrary.

I would tell the strangers that she is astonishing not only for the incredible consistency of her compassion, but for the fact that she has maintained it through enormous personal cost. That her kindness and empathy and idealism have survived intact through pain and despair and the kind of vicious, staggering blows that fate seems to strike against only the most shining of talents and spirits.

That when I think of her, and of her life, I am awed.

And humbled. And moved almost beyond bearing.

And proud—so very proud—to be her daughter.

And so afraid that I will never—can never—live up to all she has given me and all that she is.

And convinced that it is worth everything in me—every good thing she saw and named and nurtured through the long, long years in which she raised me—to try.

Thank you, Mom.

Happy Mother's Day.

at 00:32

Unvergänglich Geliebten [Immortal Beloved]

[Notes made on the program during intermissions in Herr Professor Stephan Möller’s concert this past Tuesday night.]


Over & under Sonata No. 14 in C minor, for Piano—called 'Moonlight'

I don't know why they chose to say “Moonlight” of this single one. All his work is moonlight; moonlight over dark, swift water.

Did the girl with whom he was in love hear this? Did her bones melt for him, liquefy and weave with the music he called forth and threaded with his longing, with her beauty? Or did she listen, and smile, and leave the tempest as untouched as she'd come?

Through Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, for Piano

Why is this not named?

Then again, what does one call a cry of pain and despair that holds radiance as a blackened chalice holds pure water?

Ad astra per aspera indeed, Herr Professor; through the thorns to the stars. But light cannot be unwoven from darkness. And some thorns leave wounds that can bloody even the light of the stars.

And after what star would one name this? No Latin, English, Greek word shines warmly enough, though the Persians have a name which might not disgrace such luminous suffering: Anwar i-Suhaili, Light of the Brightest of Stars.

How does a man craft such music from a ringing prison of silence?

How does he mix with a cry from the abyss the incandescence he can no longer see?

at 00:30

Fire Next Time

Note: This is another one of those "intensely personal" posts; only those tagged to it can see it.


Extreme physical sensation has a useful side effect: it is very difficult to feel intense emotion whilst experiencing/enduring it. (Difficult, but not impossible. It generally takes effort and practice, however.) Usually emotions come before and after the physical sensation—hurt, longing, fear, attachment. (Which is why some very odd emotional phenomena can occur at extremes of sensation. Given an overload of the occurrence with the right personality and circumstance, both orgasm and torture can scramble emotional circuitry—a bit of advanced Abnormal Psych for your delectation.)

I know all this because I think. A lot.

The very first person who ever told me I thought too much was Mrs. Ralston. She was my 3rd-grade teacher. I've been hearing a Greek bloody chorus of the same refrain ever since.

To no avail. I like thinking. There are certain things about myself that I can't change, but I don't think that's one of them. If it were, I wouldn't know such a myriad of ways to turn my brain off. I also wouldn't avoid the more common means of doing so (TV, computer games) so devotedly.

My disclaimers having been issued, there are times that thinking grows too painful—even for me.

This weekend is one of them. And this weekend wouldn't be so bad if the 365 days that preceded it hadn't been... somewhat stressful.

(Those who don't wish to read a canticle—literally—of my woes in the past year should avert your eyes now.)

So I heard the searing crash outside my window just as I finished typing my last Note, with all its reflection on a set of vulnerabilities I can no longer display.

I needed to feel something on my skin. Something shocking. Something overwhelming.

A thunderstorm would do the trick nicely.

So I walked out into one.

Stood in the darkness of the drive, at the blind side of the building (so as not to disturb my neighbors' sleep or sensibilities). Turned my face up to the sky.

Let the noise and darkness and the rush of cold—water and wind and thunder that sounded both threatening and forlorn, lonely somehow—wash me.

Rain is primal, rainstorms more so: power that cannot be leashed or governed or lessened by any human agency imagined or contrived.

It is important to remember the existence of such. Humbling. And...reassuring.

Storms put things like suffering, grief, anxiety, loneliness, despair, back into their very small, very human places against the larger span of the earth.

So I stood and breathed in cold and a little water. Felt it sheeting liquid down my skin.

Tasted it—slightly sour, slightly metallic—on my tongue and lips every now and again.

Felt it sting my eyes, gather against my lashes. Blinked it away to be able to see—to keep looking at the sky.

Didn't move or make any sound—why try to form words when they were what I was trying to forget? (Ideas, images, memories—almost all ride a tide of words for me, sooner or later.)

Eventually the storm did too.

A tide I didn't summon. A tide I was trying to forget. Words that tied themselves to others I've known, others I've sung.

A tide made of song and suffering and James Baldwin and lightning and

[It's gonna rain]


[It's gonna rain]


[You better get ready]


[And bear this in mind]


[God showed Noah]


[By the rainbow sign]


[No more water—]


[Fire next time.]

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