new emotions

That Feeling When You Share Your Deepest Secrets With a Stranger You’ll Never See Again

We updated Roger Hargreaves’s Little Miss and Mr. Men universe as a suggestion to include some of our new emotions.  Illustration: Zohar Lazar

This week, the Cut is exploring a scientific theory that suggests we have infinite emotions, so long as we can name them — and so we did, asking writers to identify new ways to feel.

Itinerant Love: The feeling of unfettered closeness and guiltless exposure that comes from spending an intimate night with someone while knowing that you won’t see that person again, despite it just being really lovely, thereby giving you both license to share more of yourselves than you ever would otherwise.

Let’s say you meet some guy somewhere out in the world. Let’s say you meet at some nightclub or a curry house. A sauna. I don’t know. Some quick nothing thing. Both of you know why you’re there. Let’s say that you both do the thing you originally went looking to do, but then you get comfortable (a second beer, afterglow, whatever) and you get to talking about your families.

All of a sudden, you’re talking about things you didn’t know you had it in you to talk about. Your best friend when you were 7, and how you fell out of touch. A trip you took when you were a little younger. The first time you really felt alone. The day you came out to yourselves. A first love that you didn’t know was your first love until you opened your mouth to talk about it.

This guy tells you how he’s trying to get closer to his father, but he’s getting older and the rift is wide. You tell him that you’re trying to do the same. You both agree that it’s a difficult thing. This guy tells you that he’s been taking classes — something about goal-setting, which you vaguely understand — but not really, so you at least nod like you do. This guy tells you, twice, that it isn’t a cult, and you make a joke about that.

Then you get to talking about something else, and it reminds of a meal your mother used to make for you⁠ — some easy, cheap thing that you’ll never be able to re-create. This guy tells you that you probably could, if you really wanted to, and you allow yourself to allow this stranger to convince you. You and this guy are as comfortable as you’ve ever been with another person, and you think about how nice that is and how you’ll probably miss it. And you make a point to cook that thing, someday, eventually, and you know that you’ll think of this person when you do it.

You know that you probably won’t ever see this guy again, and you know that he isn’t exactly looking to adopt a puppy with you. And you know that he knows that you know this. But the two of you proceed from there, turning up all of this trodden ground together⁠ — except it isn’t particularly well worn at all. It’s new. You know that this moment, nice as it may be, is it for the two of you. You pack a lifetime’s worth of intimacy into a few hours or an evening. It eludes you for the rest of your life.

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That Feeling When You Share Your Secrets With a Stranger