Maybe it’s because of the national events that have transpired over the past few weeks, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to relate to other people. In a culture where there’s now so much external noise, where we almost reflexively build as many barriers as bridges between one another using screens and devices, I’ve been pondering what it means to see someone. To hear someone. To make time. How do I stop and create space for another human being? How do I remain present, both physically and in relation to those far away? What does it mean to be in relationship with a person, to bear witness to another’s life, to testify to the emotional gravity of the situations we share? Especially in moments of duress: how do I provide a way for someone to lean into me? How do I not only hold that weight, but cradle it, preserve it, give it meaning and compassion?
In this issue, you’ll find characters imagined and real who wrestle with the fundamentals of humanity, and with what it means to be responsible for another person in this grand world we inhabit. Children observe the decomposition of their debilitated parents. A mother chooses to raise her daughter under the roof of a man who has all but made them invisible. Familial relations fracture upon the disappearance of the matriarch. A writer shortens the distance between herself and her protagonist. A young woman attempts to parse the various figures in her life, including bookstore customers and the poet next door. A couple weathers cannibalism.
The roads these characters follow are not always easy, but who wants the gentle path? Some of my favorite books are those where no one is let off the hook. Everyone fights for their right to make it through. Everyone endures. And this, too, is part of how we, as humans, relate. Because we have to. Because we must be reminded that we’re not alone in all this potency. No matter how difficult or bad or complicated. We’re all still in this together.