i spent the entire year thinking about intimacy in its various forms: about what it feels like to be known, what it feels like to know another person, about what the magic between humans looks like, feels like.
this year i've written a lot for other people—long letters to a penpal i‘ve known since we were four years old, an instagram dm to a friend who sent me an apology letter almost two years ago which i had left unanswered until now, a farewell letter to a girl who moved away whom i wish i had spent more time getting to know when we lived in the same city, terrifying cold emails to other artists with my heart in my hands asking if they wanted to maybe possibly create something together?, a thousand-word twitter dm to a boy with whom the only pattern in which we exist to each other is that we intermittently appear in each others’ inboxes and yell “TELL ME EVERYTHING” then disappear again, a letter to a girl who lives on the other side of the country with whom i‘ve always felt that our souls were made out of the same whatever-material-souls-are-made-of, secret essays made up of the things i wish i'd said, a short story for a tiny art collective which came into my life at exactly the right time, essays for teammates with whom i have built a tiny world together, thoughts for a boy i've never met. the thing about all of these is that they're always written past midnight. the other common thing is that i find myself always trying to get the most specific that i can, like if i could find the right words then i could tell them exactly what i think about when i think of them, how much they mean to me, how much i want to know everything, how much i want to tell them everything.
some of my best relationships are text-based; letters or dms or constant stream-of-consciousness-messages or whatever other written medium, mostly due to the choices we've made and sometimes by the circumstances out of our control—borders or oceans or the span of an entire country—interspersed with the occasional video call or in-person visit but mostly existing to each other as words. i realized that the most intimate, the most vulnerable i ever am with other people is always in one of two ways: up late together past midnight in a place away from home, or through words—letters, snapshots of journal entries, essays i wrote for them in a post-midnight manic dream. now i think that these experiences are actually manifestations of the same thing.
a couple of weeks ago i told someone that what i want out of a team-building experience is sleepaway-camp intimacy—the kind of intimacy you only find in a new place far away from everything you've ever known, with a bunch of strangers in the exact same position, isolated from the Real World and all of its rules for interaction with strangers, spending afternoons together on water and midnights around bonfires, singing along with someone playing four-chord songs on an acoustic guitar where everyone knows all the words, the kind of place which inspires everyone to stay up late sharing stories and telling secrets, discussing the constellations of their souls, conspiring wild plans which will seem like a fever dream in the morning. sleepaway camp and its variants (summer foreign study tours, the Recurse Center, team retreats if your teammates are magical) are the way that instant friendships are formed.
staying up late writing a letter or typing out a really long dm feels the same way as staying up late together around the bonfire at sleepaway camp. if writing is conversation and conversation is intimacy, writing, then, is an act of intimacy. time spent writing to someone is time which demands us to be our most openhearted, honest selves because otherwise what's the point? i like being here with you, in this asynchronous, dimly-lit space in the middle of the night which feels safe enough for sharing secrets.
i think we're all just seeking sanctuary, whether we know it or not. we're all just looking for someone who makes us feel safe enough to spill all our secrets. we want someone to stay up late with, telling stories and finding out unknowable things about another person, someone with whom you can stand on the ledge with and look into the great unknown of the entirety of another person and decide that yes, this is what we want to be to each other. i'm curious and insatiable and i want to know it all—i want to keep your secrets and your wildest dreams, i want to know the things you love and the things that terrify you, what you wanted to be when everything was possible and before the world disappointed you for the first time, where you go when you're sad, the time you had your heart smashed into a million pieces and the story of how you put it back together, the moments you could have sworn that you were transcendent. that's what i really mean every time i say, tell me everything.