Desperate Bodies

This piece contains spoilers for Journey.

It would be so much easier if we could talk. If we could reach out and hold each other, if we could just bathe for a while in the warmth of being close to another person. I can feel you next to me right now, but I can't quite feel myself. We're hurtling downfield, chasing something we will almost certainly miss, made one by the chaos we share. Together we will leap into the air to spiral out of control, and when we land we will look and see if our gallant attempt was a success. Whether it was is irrelevant, because what matters is not the breathing out, it is the breathing in, that shared moment in the air right before we fall. And afterwards I should look up and smile, and see you doing the same, content in the knowledge that the moment was ours.

But you're not there.

Would it be better if you were? You could be someone sitting right next to me, or someone on the phone, and we could smile and breathe out together like we do every other day. And while that would still be worth doing, I can't help but sit here and wonder if it wouldn't be quite the same. Do I want to know you? Or do I want to try?

We trap ourselves in such desperate bodies, strip ourselves of our nuance and our language, then buzz on the thrill of yearning for more. I think back so fondly on the people I never knew: I remember the person who I could signal with a jump, and they would throw the bomb over the line of defence, leaving the path open for me to score. I remember the way people would start to jump recklessly back and forth when they realised how much worse I was than them. I remember taking the corner at just the right angle, hitting the jump at just the right speed, to collide with someone who had done the same, and we both fell down in the dirt of an empty airfield.

In my most cynical moments, I wonder if what I really desire is intimacy without difficulty, if something is lost when a person becomes more than just a vessel for my own projections, if everything shatters when it is made real. I recall my parents' insistence on reading any emotional context not directly tied to physical space as false and hollow. "You do know those aren't your real friends," they'd say to me, "they're not going to make you any happier." Those are the words that eat at me when we hit the ground. I think of all the billion people that you could be, and how it feels like in that moment we understand each other, then I think of those hurtful words my parents would throw at me growing up. And I wonder if they were right.

But I don't believe that they are. Because in my most optimistic moments, I marvel at the fact that no matter how abstracted or dehumanised these interactions may be, this core of human empathy will always triumph. I could have a gun in my hand, I could fend off zombies in a fake Las Vegas, I could be a remote control car, but that feeling is always the same. These bodies we control are only desperate because we are such beautifully desperate people, and perhaps our greatest fantasy, our greatest dream, our basest need, is to believe that connection can bridge any gap.

Earlier, I waited for twenty minutes as they sat, unmoving on the floor. We'd come so far from the desert in which we met, the sun had long since set and we rested at the bottom of a cave. I could have left at any time, because Journey is never hard, but I wanted my friend to stay. We'd seen so much together, and fallen into a routine. They'd chime, and we'd jump as one, staying close, our presence giving power to the other. Together, we could fly.

When they returned, they jumped, and I jumped in response. We continued on together as the day grew colder, and we had to huddle close to keep from being overwhelmed by the cold, for if we stayed apart we would be unable to stand. I gained strength from them, just as they gained strength from me, just as we both gained strength from the traces of our culture left among this unfamiliar world. But just as we shared our strength between the two of us, so too did we share it with that culture. Without us, it was meaningless and empty, the words only given life when someone was there to read them.

Journey is the purest expression of the symbiotic nature of humanity, so consistently aware of how desperately we need each other, and how beautiful a need that is. Although Journey certainly is magical, I am convinced its true success comes from the fact that it is not in any way special. Because I stand there on top of the mountain, reunited with the friend I thought I lost in my soaring catharsis, thinking that one thought. The same thought I have as we crash together into the grass, as we split up to cover more ground with ink, as we build a shelter in the day to take refuge in the night.

I need to talk to you.