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On the Fine Art of Note Passing

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Likewise, although the salutation strikes me odd seeing as we have, in fact, already met.

well, sure. but i mean officially so! we didn't get around to exchanging names the last time.

True.

actually...
eh, never mind.
hey!
what is it you're drawing there? there is quite a few of them.

Studies of the zoologically dubious, along with a few ideas dipped from the wellspring of my own imagination.
Mostly the former, though.

so you mean, like, elusive creatures of legend?

Well.
Yes.

nifty!
and those tentacle things...

Ripped straight from the decadently macabre pages of latter-day H.P. Lovecraft.
But I doubt you've heard of him.

can't say that i have, sorry.

It's fine. I came to terms with having precisely zero age-appropriate peers in whom to confide and engage on this subject matter a long time ago.

aww...
say, what if i tried drawing one of those tentacle monsters?
no, wait, it'll turn out awful and this lovecraft guy probably doesn't deserve that.
ahhh, wait again, maybe this is exactly what i should do!
these are really detailed. if i don't challenge myself with things like this once in a while, i will never improve.

... You don't find my Elder God sketches,
The tentacle ones, I mean,
At all,
Somewhat,
Unsettling?

well, they are a little strange, but you seem to enjoy drawing them and you do it so well...
oh hey, maybe you could give me some pointers on drawing!
if you don't mind, that is.

John.
If there is another shoe you plan to drop, I would more than appreciate you getting on with it and allowing the discussion to proceed into less contentious territory.

haha, rose, what are you even talking about?

All I want is a clear indication of how much I and my interests are or are not being mocked in the present discourse.

what?
wait.
rose, you think i'm making fun of you? in a really gooberish roundabout way?
i mean, i'm all for a good prank, but i can assure you one-hundred percent that i am not lying about how good your drawings are! or about anything else, for that matter!

...
Forgive me, John.
I read your compliments as thinly-veiled sarcasm.
Which,
When taking everything into account,
Is more than a little insulting towards you.
I really am sorry.

you have had people pull that sort of thing on you?

Not infrequently.

well, that's horrible!
nobody should be poking fun at you for thinking or being a little different.
personally, i think you are really, really keen for a girl!
heck, for anyone my age!

I thank you for that last qualifier, John.
Now I won't have to retrieve my knitting needles and forcibly prod a dose of common sense into someone I am otherwise favorably disposed towards.
Though neither the urge -- nor, I suspect, the need -- are entirely dispelled.

wait, so you know how to knit too?

Don't change the subject.

sorry.
anyway, about the mocking (i am sorry, we can talk about the other thing later, i promise!)
i just find it sad that you are taking any knocks at all for being smart and interesting.
i should be taking at least some of those for you! i have enough lameness to go around to merit that, haha.
so, yeah.
i don't understand why.

see, i have inscribed a sad face next to these words as a guarantee of their absolute and unqualified sincerity.
from my tiny brain to your giant one!

All right, I am going to lay out three points.
First, while I appreciate the gesture and its intent to stamp a seal of gentle hyperbole atop heartfelt candor,
You are sitting less than a yard from me.
I can tell by looking at you that your claims to distress on my behalf are, in fact, a thing that not only existed moments past but has not stopped being a thing that exists even as we speak.

haha, all right. i will cut back on the horrible face drawings.

Second, what I don't appreciate is you taking yourself down however many imaginary pegs you deem warrant, much less as a means of cheering me up.
I do not gain anything when you take away from yourself, John. You don't deserve the deprecation anymore than I do, whatever our differences.

... you really think that about me already?

Of course I do.
It's not a matter of how well we do or don't know each other. That is simply how things are.
Or how they should be, if people allowed it.

oh.

And third,
Thank you.
For the compliments, as well as your overall vote of confidence.

you are more than welcome, rose!
(psst, do you see me smiling?)

(Of course I do. I am not so engrossed in the fine art of note passing to ignore something lighting up the room like a Fresnel beacon.)

(... )

(Um.)
I believe you mentioned wanting some pointers on drawing, correct?

hey, you are no more allowed to change the subject than I am! fair is fair.

Don't be ridiculous, that was a parenthetical and doesn't count.

what.

(Proper punctuation, John.)
Well, considering my own skills are self-taught, I doubt my usefulness as a proper tutor.
But I don't think I am remiss in recommending more practice. Practice is and always will be on the curriculum.

hehe, of course it will!
speaking of which, i've been wondering... maybe if i draw something for you (aside from extremely shoddy pencil faces, ahem!), you can grasp where i truly stand among the various rungs of mastery of the fine arts.

Hmm. Seems reasonable enough.
Well, for whatever it's worth, please proceed.

all right, here i go!

 

...
um.
actually...
something i just realized right this instant?
is that i get very, very nervous when someone is looking over my shoulder while i am drawing.
so,
would it be a bother if you looked the other way until i'm done, please?

Not at all. I will turn around and grant you the necessary peace of mind to press on.
Just give me a tap on the shoulder when you're finished.

will do!

 

 

 

 

tah-dah!

...
Well.

yes.
so.
i decided to attempt drawing one of those elder tentacle gods.

Yes.
That I could tell.

all right.
good.

Quite.

...

...

rose.
my father says i am old enough to walk to market and buy our week's groceries on my own.
not that i have taken proper rein of this responsibility yet, but that is beside the point!!
i am a big boy. you can tell it to me straight.

Well, John,
Considering the pains you took to imbue your honesty towards me with kindness,
I can only do likewise in my own assessment.
So I say,
In both forbearance and utmost equity,
That what you have committed to paper,
Is certainly
A place
To start.

...

...

...

bluuuuuuh.

"bluuuuuuh?"

yes!
what you see there is most, and very definitely, a word.
a word that i just wrote.
and it will continue being a word, even if only through sheer force of my using over and over, wherever i deem appropriate.
which is, of course, under incredibly specific conditions.
because it is in fact a real word, with real points of usage and is not a fakey fake by any stretch of the imagination.
this is also why i deigned not to write it out again just to reinforce my point.
incredibly!
specific!

Why, John,
I never would have guessed you were this passionate about imaginary words and their hypothetical parameters!

of course i am, rose.
because in case it wasn't clear,
i am the master of coining new words.

It is you.

exactly.
... although i sense in your own words more than a passing whiff of that human disease known as...
SARCASM.

Gasp!
No.

yes. for you cannot kid a kidder, nor jape a japer.
it is in my blood to know these things.

Good sir, I cannot begin to imagine what would saddle you with such a ludicrous notion!

see! once it gains full momentum it is nearly impossible to stop.
that is the point you have reached, rose.
save yourself while you can, if only to spare those of us who are otherwise bound to get caught up in its wicked tendrils!!

But, you see, John, this is where you hit a logical impasse.

oh?

Yes. For I believe I have spent enough time with you to make the following observations with reasonable confidence:
You, John Egbert, are incapable of fluency in the sorts of maddening riddles which denote a tried and true sufferer of this disease known as SARCASM.
You are, for all intents and purposes, immune to it.
For whatever your achievements in the art of japery, your core character remains both undisturbed and unperturbed. Consistently.

uh.

Said character can, with fair accuracy, be described in full with the blanket terms "open" and "honest."
I would even wager you are the latter to a fault!

all right, wow.

Well? What say you?

i am not sure i understood all of that...
but,
i think i got enough of the gist to know that if you are right, even a little, i could be in big trouble.
good thing i don't believe you.

You don't say?

yes. i do.
i am supposed to be a master of pranking, and i have seen no evidence to the contrary.
color me skeptical.

Very well, then.
I propose a test.
I want you to tell me two things that come to mind when you think of me.

oh.
well, that's easy!
you are both very smart and pre

 

... Yes?

cise in your use of words! haha!
yes.
those are certainly accurate and true things i said about you.
just now.
and are also what i think about first and foremost.

Hmm.

"hmm"???

Yes. "Hmm."
You see, my instructions were fairly open-ended. More than you suspected.
Look up. There was no requirement to choose the "first" two things that came to mind.
Yet it seems this was your belief!
That is, until you decided to allow the inner filter you usually cast aside to work its atrophied magic.
But the thing is,
Even after you answered, and fully within the test's established framework,
You felt guilty, visibly so, because you believed you had broken the rules in order to preserve whatever unfiltered notion very nearly slipped past your pencil.

all right, so,
instead of just answering without thinking things through,
(an occurrence which would NOT, by the way, lead to revealing any incriminating thoughts whatsoever)
i paused to switch one answer out for another.

Yes.

so...
i passed???

Well,
In effect.
Although now that you have come out and said you made a switch...

aww jeeeez.

I think this requires further investigation.

uh!
how about that definitely NOT being a thing that happens??

Hm.
As you wish.

good.
good.

...
Although,
I would like to reiterate that I have, and continue to be, interested in your honest opinion.
About me, I mean.
That wasn't just a test, John. And this is not sarcasm.

 

... well,
there is this one thing i have been meaning to ask you about.
since before we started talking, actually.
but i was afraid the answer might end up being a little too personal for you?

?

but hey! at an exchange rate of one piece of personal information for another, i think i could swing telling you about the... thing...
you want to investigate,
in return for the answer to my question.

Hmm.
Honesty has become a zero-sum game, then?

...

I'm teasing, John.
Though perhaps in bad taste.
Arguably more so since the previous method of my prying could be construed as,
Tricking,
I wouldn't blame you if you don't feel up to sharing anything else, whatever the agreed transaction.

um, actually,
i didn't understand that "zero-sum" bit.
but if you think it was a bad joke and you're apologizing for it, along with being...
nosy, i guess?
well, those are completely forgivable in my book!
we are still trying to get to know each other after all, right?

...
Yes.
Right.
So,
Ask away.

all right.
you remember us meeting the other day?

I would hope so.

haha.
well,
i had stepped forward to shake your hand, and after a few seconds of me just standing there...

Oh.

you just sort of
brushed past me.
yeah.

...

so my first thought was, "wow, that was incredibly rude!"
and actually,
that kept being my thought right up until we walked into your house this morning!
i had even prepared this big speech on manners and making good first impressions.
but now that i have gotten the chance to talk to you...
and i see now that you are in fact very classy and smart and funny...
i can't help but wonder if maybe i was the one who did something wrong?
so.
that is what i want to know, rose.
was there something i did that day to leave a bad impression on you?

... Oh wow.
John,
I am going to be completely frank with you.
I don't think there was a single thing you could have said or done to change that particular course of events.

really?

Yes.
I was not in a... hospitable mood.
Still grappling with the personal repercussions of my mother being courted beneath our social class;
(No offense.)
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed;
Pick your dubiously extenuating poison.
Either way, I was bound and determined not to act kindly towards a single soul in the Egbert household.
Much less the mussy-haired offspring of the man my mother was foolish enough to fall in love with.
(Again, no offense.)

(none taken on either!)

...
On the other hand,
There is, perhaps, one thing that might have stood a chance of salving the wound of that first meeting's debacle.
Something that could have been enacted on your end.

oh?

Mm-hmm.
You see, while social conventions which dip their toes or even simply skim the razor edge of old-fashioned chivalry tend to do little for me,
There is one gesture I find myself partial towards.

i am going to take a wild guess and say:
it is not shaking hands.

An accurate deduction!

hehe.

John, a gentleman greeting a lady for the first time is more apt to take the form of...

This.

I notice you say "oh" a lot.

heh.
sometimes that is all i have to say, i'm afraid!

Fair enough.

so...
kissing the hand
is the correct greeting.

Yes.

well...
good.
i will certainly keep that in mind for the future.

You would do well to.

...
so!
you have answered my question.
i suppose it is only fair that i now
tell you
what i meant
a few minutes ago.

John.
Look at me a moment.

 

Good.

There are certain things,
Many things,
You are under no obligation to let loose into the world before you are well and ready to.
Especially when the parties involved are in the process of getting to know one another,
Right?

... yes.

Let me tell you a secret:
I don't think that ever stops happening!
You do, eventually, reach a plateau where there is enough trust built up to make confiding in one another on a far less conditional plane an affordable expense,
To trust that depths yet unplumbed will not tear the bond asunder if neither of you allow them to.
... At least that's what I've heard.

The point is:
In the future,
If we are still friends

wait.
so...
we are friends now, rose?

I suppose
Yes.
Yes, I think we are.

ah.
...

(sorry, i couldn't resist!)

(Though still somewhat paltry, our Coffers of Shared Experience have accrued enough funds to allow this slight against common sense to go unpenalized.)

(hehe.)

Anyway,
If we are still friends,
And your thought still relevant,
I hope we will be far enough into our plateau for you to want to tell me, John.
And that when the time comes,
I will be there and ready to receive it.

and likewise?