To Be Witnessed
Intimacy: from the Latin root intimare; to impress upon, make known.
Perhaps I’m not right in saying that creative people are simply those who are more easily impressed upon. Our permeability cannot be equated with malleability. Human skin is full of pores, yet it is incredible resilient, and it keeps our insides dry against the rain. I think that both strength and the ability to be creative come from an integrity of form, a consistency in internal logic. They come from a fidelity to that innate rhythm that forms us and in turn shapes the ways in which we create. We know who we are, and that makes us very hard to crush. But what happens when that rhythm is silenced, that form distorted?
I am holding the body of my best friend. I can feel his anguish welling up beneath his fragile ribs. It’s as if I could pass my hands over his body and see the all places where he was damaged. I can see them because I know. Not just about what has happened to him, but what has happened to me. I know about walking though life as though you’ve got a wrought iron fence pushing straight through your chest. I know about broken records rotating in your head and ceaselessly incanting your demise. I especially know about feeling like your internal geography has been submerged, leaving you estranged from everything except despair. And I know that when you become intimate with these feelings at a young enough age, they damage you in ways that make it difficult to grow.
I know my friend needs me at these times to remind him of all he really is. To flip the record, stop the tape. To become his auxiliary anatomy. There is a city stretched between us that only exists when we’re together, and sometimes, without it, neither of us have anyplace else to go. So I feed him with metaphors, which are bridges between things, facilitators of movement. I remind him that he is a part of nature and nature regenerates. Starfish grow their arms back. Flowers bend towards the light. Listening is much more than just sitting there. Listening is building. It’s reconstruction, finely honed to utilize even the scantest remnants. I know because I’ve rebuilt myself. I keep my stories in other people for safekeeping when the flood season comes.
I meet so many people whose inner worlds don’t seem to be very well-built at all. They might rent penthouses, but their real residences resemble structures of cheap plastic siding thrown over rotting beams. There’s no blueprint, no foundation. They board up their windows and say they’re self-reliant. They tear people down to replicate their own rubble.
But we strive for something different. Spurning the prefabricated, we build our homes in ways that please us. Our architecture is music manifested. Our materials are salvaged, but finely fitted. They sparkle with the stories they reflect. We can seal our homes up tight against the elements, but prefer to find uses for the rain. After storms, we work together to repair our houses. And on sunny days and fine nights, they expand into boundless terrains, bleeding into other spaces, and holding inside them the places that those we know call home.