Absent Absences And Tool-Breaking: On Language Inclusivity

by Jochen Szangolies

Figure 1: Sometimes, tools must be broken to unveil what is absent. Image credit: Peregrin.st, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s getting late, and your friends are leaving; however, you decide to linger for a bit at the bar, enjoying a last drink, perhaps quietly observing the people around you. As your gaze sweeps the room, it suddenly locks onto another’s, and your idle attention snaps into focus. You feel a strange fluttering sensation in your stomach intensifying as they hold your gaze, and your tentative smile is returned. Emboldened by the smile and the effect of the drinks before this ‘last’ one that will not remain the last, you move over and strike up a conversation. You end up leaving the bar together.

The following months are love and bliss. The harmony is effortless and immediate. Getting to know each other becomes intimacy, becomes familiarity. You move in together, pick out wallpaper and dishware, begin the work of crafting a life together.

But in the end, it doesn’t last. Small irritations become fault lines, become trenches. The mood sours; perhaps you suspect there may be someone else involved. Otherwise, how to explain this sudden coldness? The turning away with downcast eyes?

Yet when they leave you, it hurts more than you thought it would. It hurts for a long time, too, and although the wound eventually scabs over, then scars, it leaves a tender spot that will be with you for the rest of your life, occasional flare-ups indicating a change in cosmic weather you don’t quite understand. You lie awake at night sometimes, wondering how things might be if you still were together—or even, if you’d never met them. Would you be happier? Or would there be something intangible, yet profound, missing in your life? Read more »