Atlanta (2006.3) - flourishes

She and I are the unintentional peas in a pod; five or six years ago we were introduced by friends who knew her, and her husband, first, and who thought of Jeff and I as "another Brian and Suzan." They were as right in many ways as they were wrong, for we are as radically different as we are eerily similar, and our friendships keep doubling over and crossing themselves and coloring and re-coloring over the lines as a result.

I had been late getting to her house, due to a set of scheduling changes that meant I stayed somewhere else for a second night, a night that for some reason felt as right as it did necessary and, after all, hadn't I planned on coming to Atlanta sans plans?

* * * * *

By the time I'd gotten there I was toting a new fountain pen that I hadn't planned on buying, tucked securely into my notebook where dozens of cheaper pens had briefly languished before. I'd walked in with the firmest of intentions of buying only a couple of bottles of ink and the barest of consideration for perhaps just trying a new pen. I'd just try one, I thought, and I'd see what I thought about how it felt in my hand. I'd learn what intrigued me and I'd be prepared for later.

I expected the seductive siren song of the fountain pen but not the blatant, luscious feel of putting that saucy little Aurora in my hand and understanding that whether I denied it or not, that was my pen. Others wrote smoother or cleaner or felt lighter in my hand, but I understood why this one had been relegated to the sale rack.

"Not a lot of market for broad italic nibs these days," the salesman agreed. He brought out other pens, sleek blue and chrome numbers with fine, racehorse-filly nibs that laid down gently variegated widths of ink depending on delicate pressure changes, but this one whispered too me. I'm too broad for little words and too angled for straight ones, it said. Use me, and I'll take those subtle linguistic flourishes in your mind and paint them in permanent ink for you.

I bought the pen and resolved to never, ever regret the work clothing I should have bought with that money.

* * * * *

We were on a kamikaze run for paper before the nexuscon meeting, and it had been a long time since we talked. The freshening breezes of days prior were sharpening into rain-bearing winds, and I found myself grateful for the purple sweater I wore that day. We talked about marriage. Hers. Mine. Our parents. Our friends. We talked about fears, and she spoke words that gave voice to fears I've harbored for years: "I'm afraid of dying first. Not for me, but for him."

"I know how independent I am, and I know just how devastated I would be after losing him."

"I think we all fear being the one left behind, even more than we fear death."

"There are some thoughts that, once said, take away some part of your innocence. You can't take them back, and you can't go back to the person you were before you thought them for the first time."

I looked at her, looked again and thought of the changes she's made in her life in the past few months, new glasses and makeup and hair and clothing and life choices, and I knew with this aching, settled certainty that life truly is every savoring shade of bittersweet that I always thought it might be. We will change and keep changing in directions that we can't predict and can't prevent until those scattered, far-flung days when we ourselves will stop changing. If we're lucky we'll carry memories of moments like these, of tromping in parking lots with combat boots and cashmere sweaters, and if we're luckier still others will carry them for us.

* * * * *

I thought of these things, thought and couldn't write, pen hovering over paper and ink waiting through the magic of capillary action to be painted onto paper. Thought of the purple koi scarf and the cashmere sweater and Suzan's red hair and cat-eye glasses and hoped that I'd find some way of committing these moments to memory before they, too, vanished.

As we ran for the hotel lobby, the winds sharpened to needle points of rain.