I will be honest with you here reader. Connection? Haven’t always been the biggest fan of it, myself. The face-to-face, meet-space, whether it’s real life face to face or even on the internet – a bit much for me. I have friends (I do, I promise), and I love them dearly, but as someone who really does enjoy time spent on my own, staring emptily into the paint-starred celestial spackle of my ceiling, I didn’t understand connection. I especially did not understand those who could make it so easily, who could look across a room and draw everyone, by a thread, to them. Like their eyes were those corner pieces in a jigsaw, the grounded pieces that everyone, in some form or another, can fit into, even if those edge-to-edge joins were not in the right place. I have friends like that, reader, and I am sure you do too. Maybe you are one of those people. The people who just click. With everyone and anyone. The thing is, though, about those people, another facet of them that I really just did not understand, was their need for that connection. Their gift often seemed like a curse. For every person who did that wide-eyed, stretched-smile, slow-nod face when inevitably in our first conversation I either brought up a) Wales, b) Bruce Springsteen, or c) the mafia, for every person who insincerely said ‘hope to chat with you again soon!’, for every person who just didn’t get my whole thing (and for every person I did that slow-nod to, or backed away from, or made up the I’m so sorry, my mum is calling excuse for in turn), for every person I did not connect with – for all of those people, my life didn’t take much of a hit. I didn’t need connection like breathing. Yes, I would and I do get a bit fussy, especially when the person who didn’t particularly gel with me was an authority figure (why, why, why was I not their immediate pet and favourite?), but, at the end of the day? I didn’t feel like I needed the connection itself. I didn’t need to understand them, or for them to understand me.
But those people, the ones who are good at fostering connections with every Martha, Jane, and Daisy they met, (this is my matriarchal version of Tom, Dick, and Harry – is it working, do you think?) they needed it. They needed the understanding, the get-along. Have you ever seen a person like that fail to hit it off with someone? It’s like watching a puppy get kicked. I hate that phrase, it always makes me so sad, but it really does conjure up the image that I’m looking for here. They don’t understand, and it withers them, it hurts them not to bridge that gap, to feel that interknitting of the pinkish wires of their respective brain matter. And before this year (I’m referring to 2020 and 2021 here, in that fashion of the long 19th century, where 19th century applies to anything post-1750 and pre-1914. These two years have felt little different and of the same grey consistency so, if no one minds, I will just lump them together) I thought that was pretty damn sad. Pretty damn hilarious too. Losers.
But after everything – I get it. I do. Sorry, those people.
One day, reader, you will have a letter from me that does not mention the great plague we have been suffering under for the past year. This is not that day, and this is not that letter. The truth is, just as it has shown us the importance of place, this lonely virus has shown us the importance of connection. Not just our connection to the faces and places we are missing, the faces and places that we can’t see, but also to the ones we have been looking at consistently, oppressively, since last March – including our own. We have been able to ponder them, what constitutes them, how they look and feel and smell. Turn them over in our hands. We have been able to look at the threads that connect us to people both present and elsewhere in our lives and wonder why we connected with them. How we connected with them. What those connections were doing for us, good or bad. We have been able to stare ourselves in the mirror and think – who am I? What links this amorphous thought-palace inside my brain to the sinews and bones and early-morning eye gunk of my body? Those are connections too – our connections to ourselves, our connections to the places around us, to the news that implodes our ear drums. We have had nothing but time, this year, time to think of these things. Time to miss these things. Time to not miss them, as the case may be – I’m sure that there is at least one person, reader, that you have not been able to see due to the world becoming a heaving mucus membrane of pestilence, and have been all the happier for it. The pressure of death and distance allows us to appreciate them, these connections, and what they do for us – what those connections serve, how they improve our life and our health, and if they don’t, we have had the space to wonder why.
This is what this issue is about, reader, if you have not guessed so far. Connection. Me and you! What we’re doing here! Talking! (Rather a one-sided conversation – you are awfully quiet.) Connecting!
This issue explores the themes of connection, its nuances, its benefits, its flaws, its substance and the way it moves, in ways that I am sure it would not have done so a year previous. Our authors, our artists, have moulded the experiences and the thoughts of a year full of relative isolation into a glowing, raw, warm hunk of connection. They discuss and meander over and paint a mural of what connection has meant to them – how it has allowed them to know themselves through the strings that connect body and soul, how it has allowed them to know each other through the bridging of worlds, the brilliance of its benefits, the soul-aching rips of its detriments, how its absence has afflicted them, how its presence has buoyed them, and vice versa. And in doing so, they are forging connections with you. They are showing you inside their minds, the colours of their thoughts, the sounds inside their brain – their pinkish wires are reaching slowly, softly, towards your own. And all without meeting your eye, shaking your hand, breathing in your life-juices. All through their computer screens to yours.
A very current way of connecting, no?
Cover by Jade Fagersten with photographs by Luiza Vale