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  • Writer's picturemayte lisbeth

I miss people. Part One.

I don't believe in small talk. When you live alone, you realize very quickly that no talk is small. Sometimes the hello at the bodega is the only other voice I'll hear besides my own for a week. Back towards the end of April, the pizza guy said my name and I realized I hadn't seen someone say "Mayte" in 6 weeks. I had forgotten how someone's face changes when they say my name. It was the best pizza I've eaten all year.

Think about how your favorite person says your name. Think about how their voice literally echoes through your body.

They make your name sound like a prayer that everyone will understand. Sound like gratitude. Sound safe in their mouth.

I miss having a favorite person.

You ever had someone's eyes softened when they look at you? Your entire body exhales in response? I miss that. There is no way to recreate that virtually. I'm in solitude more often than not. The tiny comfort is that I do not feel unprepared. I have been alone for years.

There are many people in this world who love me and have for a long time. People who care about me deeply and will believe in me more than I could ever fathom possible. I am able to form very impactful relationships no matter how brief, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. I ask honest questions, I listen for genuine answers, I give sincere responses. I am present. Because in this quick back and forth 5 minute exchange is me, craving intimacy and making lemonade where things might be sour. I think we all deserve lemonade.

I think I spent years starved for love. Have you ever been loved unwell? There's a million different ways to respond. One of my responses was defaulting to kindness towards everyone. I loved conversations that were not designed to harm me. What peace I found in that.

If all I will be allowed of human connection is the quick "hey, how are you doing?" passing by someone on the staircase, then I want you to understand one thing: I am not lying when I say I am happy to see you.

I have had approximately 4 hugs since February 28th. The first came in May. You know what would feel like a hug now? A pinky promise. While my dating life has been hashtag abysmal for years, at least I could hug my parents. At least I could hug my friends. I could shake hands with strangers.

Instead, I've taken to embracing honesty where I can. Most of that happens in conversation. Talking with you, writing on here, oversharing on instagram.

Now I know someone is thinking, "No small talk? That sounds exhausting." It's not. I don't think the opposite of small talk is some super profound deep emotional conversation. I think the opposite of small talk is a conversation you'll remember. And if you know me in real life, I'm probably in your top 2 funniest people you know in real life and I'm not number 2. What is small about laughter?

Why wouldn't I choose a better conversation where one is so easily available?

I'm home alone all of the time pretty much. You better believe I'm going to enjoy this 5 minute conversation we're having.


Let's do a little exercise. You will ask me how I'm doing. I will you the truth. Or rather, I will tell you one of multiple truths. Then take a moment and think about how you would respond - which parts of you would respond to which answers.

"Hey, Mayte. How are you doing?"

"What a loaded question. It's a pandemic." Then we laugh a little bit.

"I'm not even sure how to answer that. I don't have Covid-19 so I think that means I'm doing great? I mean, it's a pandemic." Then we laugh a little bit.

"You know, all things considered, pretty okay. It's a pandemic." Then both do that weird nod head thing where we agree with something that wasn't really a point to be agreed with.

"You know, all things considered, pretty terrible. It's a pandemic" Then we both laugh a little bit before agreeing "This all really sucks." Because even though we love words, that's the best we can do. Eloquence caught covid too, it seems.

There are always several truths to pick from. Dichotomies, paradoxes? I don't like lying. I can do it well. But it physically makes me sick and so I avoid it. So I'll pick the truth that feels the most right. One that deserves that chance to meet you right now. One that's the most reflective of who I am that day. I wonder what conversation we would have.

But actually, there was no point to the exercise other than I wanted to have a conversation and there's no one around. Thanks for indulging me.

Once upon a time, I used to host events. Look at all those people just sitting together. Ugh. What a time to be alive.

Drink some water. Wear a mask.


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Iliana Féliz Peña
Iliana Féliz Peña
05 sep. 2020

Wow. This.

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