On Intimacy

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

The blue cloud of light settles over the gray tin of the watering can.

I am losing my touch with words. Perhaps that’s what all this is about. If you could describe why we fear intimacy, then we would have solved too much. It’s a cliff’s edge, stark as a kiss. It’s a superimposition, an optical illusion, an assumption we make––it’s what I chase. 

Cigarette smoke is lost on the edge of the orange stub. Everything settles inside of me like a black stone. I can hardly feel it, the blunt edge of my own belly bursting with blood. It leaks into me. Pins fill my skin. The shiver of the leaves that ripple above. The greens of the eyes of a panther. 

The sun on the shingles slides down without mercy. I lay prone, my bones curled into themselves. My body crawls forwards without rest, subsuming that which lies around it. I am a pool of static, buzzing for mercy. I wait for the knife to fall.

Lately, I am looking at the way the lamplight falls and thinking to myself, I wish my heart did not curl into itself like this. Lately, I am looking at the way that I don’t know what I am looking at, except I just walked back from a dimly lit room full of party hats bobbing this way and that, handing each other false names and false smiles, wasting glances at a boy wearing a white bandana who holds a large clock. “Someone stole the time from me,” he said. All I could think about was a someone else who was someone who was not whole and yet not there, either. I have willingly played the fool, like the Cheshire cat stares into a pond. I have tricked myself into liking a tree; I have tricked myself into liking a bundle of ribbons that spill over themselves. I have tricked myself into attempting to grasp a puddle of smoke with gloved hands, but it whisks off the leather of my fingers and disappears into the void. 

Intimacy loses itself. Vanishes into the horizon without even a kiss goodbye. You can feel its wake, its footprints on the road. 

And yet it comes in warm flashes. I touch the inside of my wrist. On my screen, a digital panopticon of a little frog with bright black eyes, music that raps out a soft rhythm, a lo-fi track’s album cover. It is like the warm smell of cigarette smoke on the roof of my residential college, the rain tapping my shoulder, reminding me to look up, to feel the leather of my friend’s jacket, our limbs leaned against one another. It is like the flash of my friend’s teeth in the darkness and the warm orange of the camera lens. When I hold a camera, I feel like a child with putty at my fingertips. 

And yet it comes in colors. Exposure to light, soft orange, sharp trellises of a green so minty I can taste it. I remember things so dearly that I cannot bear to let them go: curling my fingers around the simple blue shirt of a friend whose hair was so bright with eagerness, waiting for someone’s silhouette to approach me, pretending that I am less excited than I feel. Soft whites, like the edge of an eggshell, draped in shadow; pale darks that make me think of creased, faux leather. In neuroscience, we learn about on-off receptors, populations of neurons bobbing in our minds to emphasize contrasts, using our assumptions about the world to interpret our sensory signals into what we believe reality to be. Thousands of simple binaries trickle past our optic nerve to tell us: take a breath. Look at this; taste this paint. Let your shoulders fall. You are at home. Why? Vintage movies with grainy static, a Wong Kar Wai film thronged with a red so sweet I can taste it in my mouth. We crave it so badly we try to map our lives onto these movies, even drawing threads between colors––intimacy is a self-referential, self-reverential story we tell ourselves. 

And yet it comes in the empty space. I am thinking about smoke from the edge of someone’s mouth, and I am thinking about sitting on a bench in California, the tips of my toes swinging in the sand. I am thinking about the cadence of someone’s voice. I am thinking about how a lot of things don’t repeat themselves and will never, and how sometimes you lose people for a long time, and they don’t come back. What a funny thing, how little time it can take, and how sometimes, it can take so long it sneaks up on you before you notice it. I am thinking about how when I was a child, I wanted to curl up in a tree and get married there. I am thinking about the diary entry I wrote over the summer–– 

Lately I have learned to let the ache settle inside of me.

When you are quiet I listen for it. It is loud to me.

Intimacy exists in so many colors. We treasure the little pockets in which it clouds our vision, blinds us, makes us forget what it is to exist outside of these bounds, tricks us into thinking we’ve felt this warmth inside of us all along. The warmth fades so fast that we long for it, flicking on the stove in the winter and holding our hands over it. We strain our eyes for color palettes that, perhaps, are self-conjured. 

What a lonely and endless journey it is.

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