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Me Meet Me: A Short Essay

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

By Leah Montebello

2020 was the most intimate year yet.

We laughed, we cried and we spent more time with our families, flatmates and lovers than we ever thought possible. Our worlds were limited to the four walls we lived in and the nuances of our inner circle either cemented affection or tore it to pieces.

The habits you used to find endearing suddenly became unbearable: the way your girlfriend pronounces “exactly,” with an emphasis on the ‘t,’ the way your brother always clears his throat whenever he speaks, the way you thought your boyfriend was charming but is actually a bit arrogant. The quirks that normally went unnoticed in the beat of everyday life were suddenly the only noise we had left - painfully and terrifyingly unavoidable.

Sadly, we also realised the intimacy we felt with others, beyond our bubble, soon vanished when the immediacy of human connection was lost. The ‘talk soon’ and ‘let’s catch up’ dwindled as the months of pub dates and serendipitous meetings were quashed into the past. But as time pettered on, and quarantine perilously dragged, talking to people outside your household became a chore, and the fragments of familiarity with friends evaporated. There seemed to be a tacit agreement around month three of lockdown that we wouldn’t question why someone was too busy to join the Zoom call or didn’t want to go for a distanced walk. It’s as if we realised that one could be deemed busy by just existing day to day, and being independently ‘intimate’ was a task in itself.

In truth, you realise that great intimacy with others demands great intimacy with yourself – and frankly, this is an overwhelming quest. Though isolation brought us closer to those around us, it certainly made us question what lies within.

What am I doing with my life? Why am I not doing X? Why am I not with Y?

An expanse of time provided a breeding ground for dread and uncertainty, and it is hard to be intimate with others when you lack amity with yourself. Everybody is soul searching, everybody is telling you to soul search, and you are simply lost in newfound time. It’s torture to admit you don’t know yourself and to suddenly have to become acquainted.

Somehow, this epiphany did not last…

Heavens - the summer of sun and fleeting freedom made human touch and self-avoidance more accessible again. Rules relaxed into rituals of beers on the grass and endless hours of hazy chatter. Days were spent desperately kissing and forgetting all those lessons you tried to learn about yourself.

Intimacy tasted like cigarette smoke and cold pasta on top of lukewarm wine. The heat wave burnt away the anxiety of togetherness and one could just be. We existed again.

But again, time moves on. The chill bites, alliances are lost – some for good, others for bad. The distractions you found on the shoulders of man crumble, and inside you go into hibernation for the winter.

Sometimes I wonder how different life would be if this past year hadn’t happened. We weren’t forced to stop. We weren’t forced to slow. We wouldn’t have realised we needed to meet ourselves again, accepting how little we continue to know.

Written by Leah Montebello. "An alumna, and former member of Clare, writing about what intimacy has meant to me."

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