Trading stories and getting woven into each other’s lives
In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, [he] described an imaginary town called Eufemia, where the merchants of all nations gather at every solstice and every equinox to exchange goods. But these merchants do not come together merely to trade spices or jewels or livestock or textiles. Rather, they come to this town to exchange stories with each other- to literally trade in personal intimacies. The way it works, Calvino wrote, is that the men gather around the desert bonfires at night, and each man offers up a word, like “sister” or “wolf”, or “buried treasure”. Then all the other men take turns telling their own personal stories of sisters, of wolves, of buried treasures. And in the months to come, long after the merchants leave Eufemia, when they ride their camels alone across the desert or sail the long route to China, each man combats his boredom by dredging through his old memories. And that’s when the men discover that their memories really have been traded-that, as Calvino wrote, “their sister has been exchanged for another’s sister, their wolf for another’s wolf.”
This is what intimacy does to us over time. That’s what a long marriage can do: It causes us to inherit and trade each other’s stories. This, in part, is how we become annexes of each other, trellises on which each other’s biography can grow.
(taken from Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert)