Between large amounts of excellent Mexican food and BBQ in Texas (ironically, I like the Texas-style beef brisket in Boston - Blue Ribbon BBQ - better than the brisket in Texas - but the ribs are lovely), staying up 'till 4 or 5am every night talking, sparring (I've forgotten much of my Aikido), or playing Rock Band with Mark, and a surprising visit to his lab (the ability to curse is sometimes useful in getting people to debate tech and business with me as if I were not a delicate flower, heh)... it was a good trip. Didn't do my financial end-of-month reckoning yet on account of being in Texas; have to do that later tonight and catch up. Note to self.

Mark is one of my favorite sparring partners - intellectually, martially, just about everything. That's actually what I call him, what I tell him - my sparring partner. We pull each other along as we argue; he never holds back his punches when we're sparring intellectually, and won't let me get away with anything when sparring physically; when I get a technique right on Mark, I know I've got it right, because he won't go down unless I really nail it.

It's actually what I'm most afraid of losing, with him. I don't want my sparring partner to go away - but the fact that he's a guy and I'm a girl makes it more likely that this may happen some day. It's not that there's any romantic tension between us - there never will be, because that's just not the way we work together. I couldn't have a crush on him if I tried; I've wished I could in the past, because it would be quite convenient - we're good friends and compatible in a lot of other ways, but that sort of chemistry just isn't there, never has been, never will be.

But Mark wants to get married someday, and the someday is going to be relatively soon. Couple of years, before the thirties hit (sooner for him than for me - like most of my friends, he's older). And girlfriends and wives may not like it so much when Mark and I drink beer and talk 'till 5am while practicing wrist locks and throws. It's happened a few times before when friends of mine have paired up with women who don't know me, don't understand that I'm not a threat and never will be. (Usually this happens when they haven't actually met me. I think it becomes relatively obvious once they do.) Often it's not really a conscious thing, nor an order, it just... happens. Fades.

I've never really worried about the reverse problem. Part of the package deal is being fine with the fact that most of my best friends are guys, and that yes, I'm going to hang out with them and work with them and wrestle with them and occasionally crash on their couches and air mattresses during trips. These are my comrades; why should being female make me any different? Oftentimes it doesn't, but sometimes it does, and it (b)others me. Not so much because it's unfair - the reverse effect happens as well for guys, I'm sure - but it bothers me because these people are my friends, and I don't want to lose them, and I may someday.

So when Mark drops me off at the airport and crushes me in a bear hug before I walk into the terminal, I wonder: will you hug me like that next time? Will we pummel each other in debates all through the night next time? Or are things going to be different? I never know. I trust and hope, but I never actually know.

Sparring partners. My best friends are my sparring partners. I'm pretty sure I'm going to cry during their bachelor parties (crying being something that I basically never do) because I won't know if I'll get them back afterwards. But their lives are their lives, and their happiness makes me happy, so... sometimes you just let go.