Sunday, August 25, 2013

Parallel Paths

I saw an old friend today. My oldest friend. An old girlfriend, if you can call the little bits of fumbling romance we eked out of high school to count. You always have to wonder, when you haven’t seen someone in a long time, what will they be like now? I’m reminded of a section on campaign advancement in Fate Core, that says sometimes the bad guys will advance along with your characters, becoming just as powerful and just as tuned in to the PCs’ circumstances as they were the first time they interacted, while others will stay static and be quickly and easily outpaced by your protagonists. The same can apply to your friends: you never know if they have stayed the same or grown with you—or will they have leveled up, but in a new and unpleasant direction? I’m not the same person I was in high school, I don’t have the same tastes, the same day-to-day activities, the same physique. But when I met my friend, I found that somehow we had traveled along parallel paths in life. We’d both read the same authors and watched the same television shows, and started playing geeky board games.

All of these things had their seeds back then: the Lord of the Rings cooperative board game, watching The Princess Bride over and over and trading old copies of The Hobbit back and forth, but I had never heard of Joss Whedon when I was sixteen, I had just barely discovered Neil Gaiman, and I don’t believe China Mieville had even started writing yet. And somehow, this old friend and I, who I came together with when I had a different set of interests and a different way of looking at the world, has fallen in love with the same authors and activities that I have. Not quite the same, of course: she says she seldom actually likes Neil Gaiman’s books, and Whedon’s tendency to kill off beloved characters throws her for a loop. Nonetheless, when we sat down to play a cooperative card game that neither of us would have played in high school, she just adored it when the game kept kicking our asses. We watched Doctor Who, which I didn’t discover until 2005 (at which point it proceeded to control my life for the following eight years), and we talked about how Torchwood was a good idea but just wasn’t quite the same. We were in just the same place together as we had been, even though we’d both changed along the way. I wonder how many people can say that about their own friends, how many of my old friends I could say that about. I don’t know. I have new friends, as well as those who I’ve kept in touch with along the way, but there is a certain magic in finding that synchronicity that two people traveled down parallel paths.