Jack and I became very close our junior year, when all of our friends went abroad and we felt like it was us against the world. We lived in ugly soviet-looking dorm modules and spent the slushy, barren semester reading out loud to each other and eating chocolate chips.
Later that year, we heard that one of our favorite artists, Maira Kalman, collaborated with Daniel Handler to publish a great young adult book called Why We Broke Up. I went to a reading with Handler and Kalman in Brooklyn and I bought a copy of the book for Jack. Maira drew big, stylized asterisks around his name.
It's funny, the book its self kind of reminded me of us, because the female protagonist and her flamboyant best friend always had a degree of sexual tension between them. Jack and I were attached at the hip most of the time, and people started to ask about us or, on the other hand, prod me to see if he had come out "yet." We actually never talked about love or romance much, except on the occasions when I would complain to him. Our conversations tended to stay within the literary realm, which was kind of refreshing at that time.
For his birthday, I bought Jack an M&co; watch, co-deigned by Maira Kalman, to match the one I already wore everyday. He started wearing his every day too.
After the summer, when we reunited, as housemates for our senior year, Jack handed me an unwrapped copy of Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty, which I still hadn't read. I squealed and thanked him profusely, but he interrupted me: "No, open it." Drawn on the inside cover was a big, stylized asterisk, the words "To Avery" in that signature loopy handwriting, a drawing of two little eggs, and the signature of Maira Kalman.
"You met her this summer?" I asked.
He told me that he actually had not. Jack had been rummaging around a sprawling used book store and pulled it out. It just happened to be already signed to me.
It was amazing coincidence, almost divine, and it really solidified our friendship before a year that would put us to the test. Jack came out to me a few weeks after giving me the book. After another few weeks, he came out to the rest of our house. Then to the rest of our friends. Then to his family. And then he was just out. And we changed. Now we talk about sex and love. We fight sometimes. We don't spend as much time eating chocolate and reading in bed, preferring instead to go dancing or to parties. But sometimes, when we're out and about in a crowd, we'll find each other, tap our wrist watches together and share a wink.