I call it the "No Conversation" pin, after Rebecca West's short story "There Is No Conversation."
I love the pin for itself--it's a wooden circle about an inch and a half in diameter, handpainted in black and shades of cream and beige, with a leafless tree and a full moon. A boy gave it to me in high school--the boy I was in love with junior year. He was never my boyfriend, because he was in love with my friend M. From time to time we would do a bit of kissing and then afterward he would be sure to mention that he would never get over M. and of course this did not mean anything had changed between us. After the first couple of times I should have gotten wise--well, honestly, I did get wise and I decided to go with it.
So then this boy went on a trip to England with his parents, and came home with presents for a bunch of us. He gave me the pin. I would say with certainty that his mother picked out the pin except I can't believe she was sufficiently aware of my existence to think I warranted a present. He gave M. a t-shirt from a Peter Gabriel concert in London.
She would far, far rather have had the pin. But I knew which was the "best" present. This boy loved early Genesis, worshipped Peter Gabriel. It was a tremendous coup and a treat for him to have caught this concert abroad. The t-shirt was a hard-won and rare trophy. He assumed that M. shared all his passions and that she would value the t-shirt the way he meant it. The pin--which looked to casual eyes like the more romantic, the more intimate present--meant less.
So I also love the pin because it reminds me of how very little we know the people we love sometimes. And also how well we know them, and what little difference it makes. That at the end of the day we are trapped in this frustrating, terribly human, inevitable psychic isolation. But we keep making loving gestures, we keep trying to communicate anyway. Despite the fact that there is no conversation.
It spends most of the winter on one lapel or another.