You seek knowledge from books, ridiculous! You seek pleasure from sweets, ridiculous!
You are the sea of knowledge hidden in a dewdrop; you are the universe hidden in a body three yards long.
The Rest of You
In any new friendship with potential, there begins a process of mutual acculturation. It amounts to "I like you, so I want to make certain we are capable of speaking the same language. Here, let me give you my referents!" It is not a process that I make organic, unfortunately, such that Amber was lucky to get out of my apartment with only one book (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) the first time she visited. I wish it were socially acceptable to mutually quiz new friends so both parties know what needs to be shared. "Have you seen Gremlins? Have you ever listened to Julie London? Have you ever eaten calamari? What have you read by Neil Gaiman? Hm... clearly we have work to do."
E.D. Hirsch Jr. pioneered the concept of cultural literacy, believing this was almost as important as traditional literacy. To function as a full member of this society, Hirsch felt, one needed to be conversational on certain names, places, concepts, and dates (and was criticized as a neo-conservative because the ones he chose were so unevenly white-bread and European). It is hard to argue that you would think someone was bizarre if they did not know who Abraham Lincoln was or what an electron is. Some argue that cultural literacy on that scale is largely only useful if one intends to win big on Jeopardy, but there is something to be said for the idea, at least in the small scale.
It is not about changing the new friend, for the most part (though I would be unpleasantly surprised if a person I care about could read Illusions or Franny and Zooey and emerge on the last page exactly the same as they were on the first), or that they are in any way inadequate for having not seen Pan's Labyrinth or listened to a solitary Regina Spektor song. I am certain that there are joys untold to which I have yet to be exposed, as there was a time before I had seen my favorite movies or read my favorite books. Also, I have been made to feel belittled by former friends for having some deficits in my knowledge and this is never something I wish to perpetuate on someone new, particularly Amber. So what if Amber has mostly read fantasy novels and manga? I have never made my way through at least half of the books on my shelves and stare agog when people mention Russian literature (also, I have read precious little manga and only a few dozen fantasy novels).
I confess to Amber that I have amassed no fewer than twenty-four more books for her to read at her leisure.
"Then you are going to have to keep me around until I finish," she says.
"I think I can handle that. And you are more than welcome to force things on me as well, this is a two-way street."
"What happens when I finish them all?" she asks, with the edge of teasing.
I pause for a moment, as much for effect as to rally my words. "I think I can find you more by then."
Much as I am enveloped by all I have read, these couple dozen books are only an excuse for what I really want. I wish already to know Amber completely and to be utterly known to her, because to feel intimacy - and I don't just mean sexual attraction - with a near stranger is discomfiting. She has taken to reading my entries from the beginning, bit by bit on her smartphone, in an effort to know me longitudinally. I am no longer the person who wrote most of those, so I apologized to her in advance for what she will possibly think of me and try to anticipate any questions she might have. But, much as how I want to kiss out every bit of her, she wants to comprehend the journey that brought me to her arms.
I know so little about Amber yet. On our first date, when she blushed and averted her eyes whenever she remember I was still holding her hand or when I flirted at her prettiness, I mentioned Henry Cavendish, a famously retiring scientist (and discoverer of hydrogen) in the late 1700s to early 1800s. He was reputed to be so shy that he could not even be spoken to at meetings of the Royal Society Club. (Anyone wishing to have their views heard by him would have been advised to stand near him and speak into vacancy. He might reply if what they said was scientifically worthy. More likely, they would find themselves talking to an actual vacancy because he would have fled.) Because of his solitary nature, no one knew for more than a hundred years that he actually discovered or anticipated many other scientific laws and simply never cared to mention them (by which time, credit was almost always assigned to others). He simply could not stand to be praised.
In a far less severe way, I could see a brilliance within Amber that first night at Cabaloosa, fed on the half dozen conversation we had between our initial meeting and then. However, she seemed so beyond bashful that I wondered if I wasn't wasting my time trying to provoke her to talk. It was only once we kissed that I believe I began to have some comprehension on her character, that she came out of herself enough that I knew she was worth that kiss and so much more.
I am just beginning to understand her wants. Before she left my apartment, as I squeezed her small body against mine and I kiss the circumference of her neck, I asked her what she was looking for.
"I want a long term relationship," she said.
"Me too. Eventually," I said, but then feel that urge within me to be completely honest so I cannot ever be construed to be leading her on. "I don't know if that is with you - it might be, you are the only person who has come close to making me want this, but I was just getting good at being single. I adore being the friend you kiss..."
"I know. I love kissing you too. So, what do you want to do?"
I shrugged and then smirked. "You've infected me with your shrugging," I chided.
"So, first I'm infectious and now I'm addictive?" she asked, grinning.
"Your kisses, at least, are addictive. I haven't tried most of the rest of you."
Soon in Xenology: Amber.