Ties That Bind

Charlotte - Bowie, Maryland
Entered on May 30, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I used to imagine a chain. But it was too singular; it didn’t express the proper complexity. Or I would picture a spider’s web, weighed down with gleaming dew. A knit scarf, snowshoes— each new metaphor grew increasingly awkward. So for now, I have resigned myself in my quest for eloquence. I have realized that no straightforward comparison could describe the wonderful intricacy of the world’s human relationships.

What I was struggling to express is an imagined physical web of human interaction, constantly forming and changing as people wander through each day. I watch as a middle-aged black lady steps onto the Metro bus, bellowing gospel verses while her bosoms sway. She exchanges a grin with a silent construction worker, and I stare as a slight thread inches out of her body and twists over to his. I am stilled by awe, watching a permanent human connection form.

Before she even knew my name, CoCo had hugged me three times. Her rosy thread swooped out and cradled me lovingly while I stood awkwardly on her brown lawn. I had just spent the hot day laying tile as part of the post-Katrina relief effort. It hadn’t been her house where I had spread cement and buzzed a wet saw, but she loved me for my efforts. I used her bathroom, drank her sweet tea, and left a few minutes later. But I still treasure that connection, reminding me of infectious hospitality I found in D’Iberville Mississippi.

I imagine that my mother and I forged our bond as soon as I was conceived. Or perhaps as soon as she had the first excited thought of pregnancy. The thread that formed then was different from the rest: it was strong and it was nourishing. And though eventually the tangible cord was cut, the love between us still sustains me. Everyday I am thankful for the family tie that will never break, come divorces and arguments, bouts of depression or college departures.

My best friend’s name is Brandon. I imagine the tie binding us as a thick rope, stronger than most in the web. Thousands of our threads have wrapped around each other by now, but a new thread twists its way around each time he calls me about a girl or I hug him for no reason. Sometimes, when he is upset, I can even feel a tug on our chord. I feel it pulling hard and fast from where the threads always start— right in the middle of my heart.

Now, these threads live solely in my mind; they are whimsical devices of explanation. But even without my contrivances, it is still here, that fantastic web of human relation. Every day, we allow ourselves to be profoundly affected by those around us. We seek out meaningful relationships and we cry when they fade or are broken. We chat, we scream. We kiss, we curse. We idly wish kindness on a passing stranger, or we lash out at the television, yelling at a politician we’ve never met. We are all bound together in this world. We cannot do one small thing without affecting all of humanity.

So, I grasp them tightly, my treasured positive human connections. My favorite teacher and favorite mentor, my best friend from nursery school, my belligerent ex-boyfriend— I hold these threads close, counting and admiring them excitedly. Because, of everything I have, their love is the most precious. Of everything I have to give, my love is the most valuable. And I can think of no higher purpose than to love and be loved, for the rest of my life.