I remember the late nights at Moody heading North a mile to the 24-hour Starbucks. The train ride would usually take as long as walking because the Brown Line ran so infrequently late at night unless you caught it at just the right time. I remember Lila Carvell and I making the trek more times than I can count, though it was probably fewer than my brain conceives, because the mind has a way of painting infinite layers over a few small events, making the quality compensate for the quantity.
The mile went fast or slow, depending on the night. Perhaps the distance itself was fluid. Perhaps it depended on the company I walked with. Lila made any time fly by. I remember many days with her, wasting time in coffee shops, supposedly doing schoolwork but talking endlessly instead. I don’t know why a beautiful, creative, and curious mind like her put up with me, always talking about myself, where she was always, always interested in others.
It’s hard to find anyone to match her level of energy, creativity, and most of all, her curiosity. I think the thing I miss about her the most was her curiosity. Hanging out with curious people makes the world burst into fitful life, endlessly entertaining and always unraveling new mysteries.
To those who have the world figured out, the world is bland, redundant, and tiresome, as if you’re watching a film you’ve seen a dozen times and you’re just waiting for it to be over. But to the curious, it’s exciting. You’re turning a page and you have no clue what the next one contains, what you’ll learn from it or experience on its canvas.
Lila was curious about me. She wanted to read what I wrote—my stories and poems—and I was excited to share them with her. Just like tonight, as I write these things down in my favorite late-night coffee shop in Denver, I’m thirsty for someone to pick up this page and pore over these words with the same intense curiosity.
Tonight I just wanted to write something. Something that may or may not be read by anyone else, but the fact that I created it stands. So I’m pulling from the ever-present alphabet and arranging these guys for you, whoever you are.
I don’t want to charge for it, I just wanted to say something.
Perhaps all creativity is a quest to not be forgotten when we’re gone. To say, Look, I made something that will be read when I’m gone. Look, I’m not really gone.
Perhaps all creativity is a battle for immortality.
The thing I realized about my blog posts as of late is that they have become far too formulaic. I get an idea and lay it out in the same pattern and the same level of intensity; that of a baby canary.
But tonight, I’m creating a new formula. It’s a free-form formula, like that category of math that uses letters instead of numbers. It’s a formula that doesn’t look like math because really it’s not, and this post is more of me sitting here and slicing my stomach so my innards can pour out before you onto this page. Or screen.
There is another point I remember in Chicago.
There were times in my life when I would look at actresses like Emma Watson and wonder if it were possible for me to find someone as beautiful as her. But then one night, when I watched the movie Noah seated beside Lila, I saw Emma Watson on the screen and thought meh. Because I looked next to me and suddenly saw someone so much more interesting, so much more curious, so much more beautiful than any distant A-lister on a screen.
What can a 2-dimensional character offer me that’s better than a 4-dimensional relationship with another human being? How much more tangible is the girl sitting next to me in seat H6? Look at the way I can ruin her night with one word, or make her feel like a billion bucks with a different one! Look at how I could reach out and touch her nose if I wanted.
I feel like in some ways, I have retreated back to that place of longing for distant two-dimensional actresses and models because there is a hunger and thirst for artificial beauty (book title). Because I haven’t been touched in a while.
Look at the way a man can touch a tree, a brick, or a computer and feel nothing. Look at how a woman touches her light switch, her carpet, and her tabletop, and feels no attachment.
But watch the two of them touch.
Watch her calf touch his under the table of a crowded restaurant and the entire night shifts. If it’s the first touch of a relationship, it’s a rush, like cracking open the lid of a chest discovered underground. If it’s a familiar touch, there is comfort in it, like the smell of your house when you return for Christmas.
There is value in skin touching skin. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that a man who lies alone will grow cold, but two who lie together remain warm. Skin is unlike any other surface. It’s dynamic and raw. It flinches and it slides over bones. It bends and it’s warm. It smells both good and bad and in many ways, the feeling of it is what all of us are after. Touch from fathers who didn’t hold us when we were younger or mothers who misused their skin against ours. I don’t know what this is like, but I know something of the deprivation of touch. Of wandering the world like a passing thunderstorm; it’s looked at and talked about, but never really touched.
Skin is a nice thing.
I’m sitting in this coffee shop watching a girl run her boot along her lover’s leg. Even through shoes and jeans, it seems like human touch is enough to melt men made of even the strongest of materials.
I don’t know why I sat down and wrote this today, nor did I know where it was going when I began. It feels like the night I sat on top of a skyscraper drinking wine and writing poetry with Lila. She inspired things in me I haven’t felt in a while but hope to again. Sometimes I wonder if maturity is some kind of letting go of these passionate feelings and settling down into routine and mundanity.
I hope not.
I hope God was more creative than that when he crafted men and women in His own image. I imagine that the Creator is exactly that: Creative. And therefore I must conclude that, if we are made in His image, we are meant to have nights like these. Nights wondering about the world and where the next turning of the page will take us. Of what we will learn and who we will be when the page turns again.
There’s no way to know; the only possibility is to fill up the page I’m on with the best possible combinations of words. So here it is: A post I’ve created for no other reason but to leave something here, like a footprint which lasts longer than I will, but ultimately, as language and syntax march on and are forgotten, will blow away with the eroding of the world.
It was fun while it lasted and I enjoyed this particular string of metaphors.
Hope you did too.
Hey Ethan, I think curiosity about someone else’s life is a beautiful thing and no matter how much you know about a person, there’s always another layer to peel back. Maybe that’s why I enjoy biographies of unknown people. Perhaps you’ll be interested in reading about a complete strangers life: https://sopstories.wordpress.com/
Hope you enjoy it. ^.^
Hi. Is it pore over the words or pour over the words?
Sent from my iPad
It’s pore. 😉
Hey Ethan, enjoyed the post. Creativity may be a push for immortality, but I think it’s more like giving an idea life and that thing inside you having presence in the world. I’m an architect, and designing is just good for the soul.
First time at your blog, I found here from a link left on a post you wrote at Faithit about Jesus and porn. I couldn’t leave a comment there so tracked you here. I don’t know where you’re at with Jesus and porn now, maybe you’re at a different place today. Did you get past the porn and work it out with Jesus? My cards on the table are that porn’s a battle that I’m screwing up at, and screwing up with Jesus. Did you make it?
Have a great 2017 Ethan.
Ethan, I love that you have offered a variety of blog posts for your readers, including this one. It has inspired me, like Lila has inspired you, to think more curiously and to write in response to that curiosity. I am someone who admits to being a “know-it-all” and knows that it inhibits my curiosity. Thanks for sharing your curiosity about the creativity of God, touch and experimenting in writing styles.s
I read this post at a perfect time as I think about a long-distance friendship/potential relationship with a young man who I have not been able to physically see since last year. It’s rough because I have faith that God can bring us together to meet in person again, and I thought that would have been this year–to laugh and to talk about all the mysteries of the world together. There’s still a whole year left, but I don’t know if the distance and wait will be too long for the two of us. TBD. Thought I would share a personal story since you have shared one of your own 🙂
Mm, that was good for my soul. Skin really is a nice thing. And I very much relate to your idea of creativity as a search for immortality. I journal every once in a while. It’s nothing really well-written, and it’s not meant to be that–just a release of what is on my mind. It’s something that I imagine being read when I’m gone, or maybe before I’m gone by someone I really trust, like a husband or something. It really does feel like the most tangible part of oneself to leave behind.
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