A couple weeks ago I received an email from an old friend with the subject line of “I am emailing you from the cafe in Vienna from Before Sunrise.” While among my favorite films of all time, I hadn’t watched it for years but getting pictures from the cafe (and getting jealous of my friend) I sat down to revisit the meeting of Jesse and Celine. What it left me with this time around is the same thing it has always left me with – that genuine human connection is the greatest and rarest of things. And so is good banter. The rest is faking it. And as the years have passed I’ve found those two things to be even rarer than I thought.
That human connection, that rare moment of contact where you meet someone and there is that intangible something that science has yet been unable to explain away. For me that moment is twofold and says A. This person has, for unknown reasons, completely captured my imagination, and B. This person is going to be very important in my life. It has happened only a handful of times during and it has never been wrong. And in thinking about that I realize that that moment, that connection, searching for it, trying to understand it, is my true passion – writing is merely the method I use to explore it.
My stories normally have little action, with the most interesting things, the basis for everything, taking place in the no man’s land that is the space between two people. I write to exist in that no man’s land for as long as possible, even if only as an outsider looking in. Always socially awkward, I’ve never understood basic human interaction and have literally run away from social situations out of fear. That space between two people, what goes on there, passes between there, how it changes over time, how it exists at all, that’s my true passion.
Is that all a wordy, pseudo-fancy way of justifying writing what mostly in the end are silly love stories? Probably to some degree. But more often than that I write about those outsiders looking in, trying to understand, figure out how other people do it. How they do anything at all.
As far as I can see there’s nothing more difficult to find, and nothing more worth finding, than that genuine human connection. That’s how it has been for me since I was little. It was why I invented invisible friends and why I put those friends into stories and invented connections. It is the universal quest for understanding and the desire to be understood, I suppose.
But when that question about passion comes up (usually because I’ve posed it to someone else), I’ll probably just smile my awkward smile, shift my eyes to avoid direct eye contact and answer, “writing.” Unless, that is, that person has captured my imagination and is posed to play an important albeit unknown role in my life. Then I’ll simply say, “what happens in the space between you and me.”