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Aren't We All Just Reflections?

A quick note from Hailo:


Last but not least is Nwakaego. I met her digitally through book club. She participated in a few and every week she'd say something that was beautiful and nuanced and original. One week while discussing A Spy in the House of Love, she said something about feminine spirituality and the way we contemporarily define sex and relationship that made my jaw drop. She is extremely kind and very digital but also very aware of her own digital existence in a refreshing way. She wonderful to be around -- bright in a way that literally seeps through the screen. Here she is:



(reflections, screens, eyes, antenna TV, static, technicolor, kin, mirrors, love, clicking/connecting/signing in, breaking and remaking; kintsugi)


Meeting new people is always a hurdle for me. I build it up in my mind and fret over it, and usually it ends alright, sometimes painfully awkward, but every now and then it ends with a sense of bubbling joy from kindling kinship. I’ve always considered myself more of a lurker than a participant in both the real world and its digital counterpart. I’ve had, barely regulated, internet access and my own computer since elementary school, and even then I preferred to observe and filter things from a distance. Ones that seemed fun I would try on and discard as I saw fit, but more often than not I was pleased to simply play around in my own adjacent world and stockpile second hand experiences. 


So, when it was time to meet the other remote (hot) literatis of 2024 I was understandably nervous. Would I be interesting enough, would my smile look too forced, would I be too much older (rationally and despite the harpings of some younger people, twenty-six is not old; I’m still a Gen-Z and my frontal lobe is only just consolidating, but that’s truly besides the point), would I be too odd? Things everyone worries about, moreso those of us with social anxiety, but meeting anyone is a task. Even meeting or coming to terms with oneself is not for the weak of heart. 


When did I meet myself for the first time? When did I stop and get the feeling, ‘Huh, so this is life? I’m real?’ Truthfully, I don’t know when that was for certain, and I definitely don’t always know if I’m real. My recollection is nonlinear but I do know my oldest memory. If I had to choose, I think that’s when I met myself because it feels definitive; like a boundary. 


When I look back on that particular moment in my mind's eye, it reminds me of the way old TVs would turn on. The tension of the static popping and clinging to the outer surface and brief burst of technicolor within before the picture bleeds onto the screen in a flash. That’s what the memory resembles.


As colors bleed onto the screen of my mind’s eye, the first things I see are a sheet of paper with my name written on it – starting with a sure and mature hand followed by shaky young duplicates – my twin-cousin next to me, his witch-mother (literally and figuratively) behind us instructing us on how to write our names. Behind us, around the kitchen table, and in the next room over, around the TV, sat the rest of our family. I knew who every single person was but no solid memory of how or why. Just miniscule flashes hiding between the static and technicolor. 


Can that be considered the beginning of sentience? Of conscious action and reaction? 


I first “met” Hailey through a fragment of her amplified on Tiktok, two screens, four eyes, and the entire internet separating us. I don’t even recall what the video was about (possibly her Hoyden girl summer video or another because I remember it was right before the book club session for The Bell Jar started), but I immediately felt that sense of kinship. Something static building and propelling me to sign up for her Patreon to join the book club and the rest is history. It’s actually funny because the video of hers that blew up just after that time was of her discussing “Reflecting Men: At Twice Their Natural Size” by Sally Cline, of which the subject focus is male-female relationships and how women often find themselves in one sided relationships. They either find themselves acting as distorted mirrors for the men in their lives to amplify themselves through, or they seek men with traits they have hidden within themselves, possibly hoping to be reflected back and amplified the way they do for others. They rarely ever do; one distorted mirror leaves no room for two.


I am three going on four, I am surrounded by love, my reality contained in this one place – an incandescent globe filled with my loved ones, and aunty-witch is recounting the meaning of each of our names as she guides us in writing them. Mine means “A child is more precious than money.” Actually if you are to translate it 1:1 it means child (is) greater/more than money, but I’ve always loved how my family enfolds “precious” into it. 


It feels significant that my earliest recollection is of me learning to write my name. Synchronicitous. Names have power and meaning. Not just socially, but spiritually. I’ve always been protective of my name, its preciousness mirroring its meaning, which is why I only let people who continuously say it right call me by nicknames. The double consonant at the beginning throws people off and makes them wary to try or they overcompensate and twist the whole thing, but it's pretty simple. Wa-kay-go. The ‘N’ isn’t really silent, but the letter is actually ‘Nw’ and it's sort of pronounced the way a baby cries. That guttural ‘uwaghh!’ except it's more ‘unwaghh.’ For the average American tongue, of which mine is one, wa-kay-go is the closest approximation.


Synchronicitous is also how I would describe my first meeting with Ananya and Mar, the other two remote literatis. I could feel that static hum again. It can’t be considered an instant friendship, but there was a connection. Seeing familiarity within strange faces. It didn’t bother me to meet them through a screen rather than in person. Afterall, even the things we see with our eyes are flipped, chopped, and screwed before being reoriented by our brains.


In Igbo, “I love you” is “A huru m gi n’anya,” but when you translate that 1:1 it becomes “I see you in my eye(s).” This always makes me think of the saying “apple of one's eye,” and more recently, the Mi'kmaq term for family that I learned during an “Anne With an E” binge with my dad a couple of years ago. In the scene, Ka'kwet gestures to her younger brother who is sticking out his tongue in deep concentration – something she herself does as well – and explains to Anne that the phrase “Wula na nikamaq” translates to “who I am connected to because we are so alike.” Don't all these expressions convey the same meaning? The connection between love and the eye – love and that which is familiar?


I am twenty-six, with twenty-seven closing in, and I exist on the edges of love, so far out that I feel like an outsider looking in. My loved ones spread out across the globe, meandering in and out of my life. Reality is glittering fragments and I search for ties to bind me to it. The edges no longer hold with second hand experiences, so I’m piecing them back together with new memories and new loves. Creating a map of personal experiences and connecting them with others (for there is no me without the other) to make a kaleidoscopic trail that will lead me to my life and my love. 


The four of us, three remote literatis + Hailey, met across space and even time(zones) in our individual homes with the hopes of seeing something familiar within the rest and I believe we did. It was reminiscent of the sensation of my first memory. That feeling of signing into existence surrounded by family. It’s not quite that, but there’s that sense of looking out the corner of your eye and catching a glimpse of a familiar face. These glimpses let me know that I am where I need to be when I need to as I piece together my path. We, including the rest of this year’s cohort, have all come together through an appreciation (and something deeper) for writing, for Hot Literati, and the space Hailey has nurtured. We also have a healthy handful of other things in common, one being a curiosity for the esoteric. So, for all intents and purposes, we are kin for at least the remainder of the year.


Meeting them was a joy, and it solidified my desire to keep meeting people, reflecting them instead of just observing them, and finding faces and souls that I see myself in. Equal reflections that cradle infinity between them.



base image:

Charis Tsevis

Kintsugi 2020

2020

Digital


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