"'I have ice cream at home'" Hannah sneers for the third time in two minutes, no longer needing to give us the privilege of a context. Daniel instantly makes some dismissive comment about Hannah's boyfriend and tells her to get over it.
"But what kind of a person, when asked if they would like to go out for ice cream, responds that they have ice cream at home?" she asks.
We three agree that the kind of person she is dating would say such a thing as best evidenced by his doing so.
"I do find it passive aggressive," I continue. "Ice cream at home is a completely different species from ice cream out with friends, ideally ice cream from a stand. I specifically refuse to keep ice cream in my house to give myself one fewer reason to decline ice cream with friends." I nearly offer to bring her to the nearest ice cream stand, but as we are sitting in the Palace Diner in Poughkeepsie, there are likely closer and more logical sources for frozen dairy treats.
I am just getting out of my observational stage in my interactions with Daniel and Hannah. They are so close that it can be difficult to get a word in and, while is it enlightening enough listening to them bantering about the rules of fictional magic or debating whether the curse of immortality is appealing, I wish to be their friend and not simply a fan. Still, partially inspired by the fact that Daniel wrote to me that I seemed uncomfortable in my skin, I interject my thoughts when appropriate and possible. It is no use having new best friends who actually haven't the slightest idea who you are, and this is the role into which I have decided they will be cast as if there were any choice.
Better, my interjections begin to reveal the grains of individual back story that will fill out the castles I am building for them to reign over. Daniel and Hannah relate prior living situations, old jobs, and their lives before the Hudson Valley. There aren't vast surprises yet (rural, religious parents from whom they fled as soon as it was legally viable) but these give them added depth and I try to memorize what I can for future reference.
Daniel gets into a tarot reading for Hannah, utilizing an ever-increasing hexagon of the major arcane as he asked her questioned about her relationship with her boyfriend that seemed obvious to me as a relative outsider to the affair. Given that he lives and carpools with Hannah, I assumed the questions and cards were unnecessary except to externalize his thoughts, though his explanations of the formations did seem to add credence to his statements. I know enough tarot to recognize if someone is only putting on a show for the rubes, something that was far from Daniel's prerogative. He could be a convincing palm reader dressed all in black with a dark red ties, flashes of silver from his mouth as he speaks, but he is completely sincere.
Seamlessly and concurrently, the tarot reading overlaps with Daniel explaining the finer points of Hannah's novel in progress, a futuristic fantasy dystopia. The finer points escape my memorization yet, but not the fact that Daniel knows Hannah's writing as well as she does, if not better. He makes wry comments about this plot contrivance or that character's flaw, but in the way a fan could critique their favorite book. To the multitude of levels on which I revere their bond, I add to this that he loves her well enough to take such interest in her work. As a writer, there are few things I would want more.
The hours slip away and this further convinces me, despite Daniel insisting I would be lonely on a dying Earth, that I could handle being frozen in time and living in a changing world. I told him that I would be infinitely sad, but able to handle the deaths of my loved ones because I would have had the experience of loving them for a lifetime of ice cream and kisses and learning ever more about the perpetuity of the human experience. In friendships, as in life, we concern ourselves with the beginnings and never consider the ends until they are impossible to ignore. At best, we find an ever-growing succession of new beginnings with the ones we love. Daniel and Hannah, by their telling, have known one another the entirety of their adult lives and, even if the conversations no longer need antecedents to spring back to life, they never seem at a want for things to discuss and debate. Theirs, it seems, is a connection that could outlast eons.
Soon in Xenology: Engagement. Hanniel.