Image shown: Making friends with a cat. Photo credit: Eszter Nemethi.

Image shown: Making friends with a cat. Photo credit: Eszter Nemethi.

Hungarian theatre maker Eszter Némethi, isolating alone in Brussels, reflects on personal and collective pains in the time of corona and the awakening of other senses in the absence of human touch. 

living inside

“Feeling loss is part of love. Ignoring loss is ignoring love.” – Barbara Raes, U-Loss

Today the world is intensely beautiful. Calm and peaceful in a way I rarely see it. Chatter, birdsong, wafting melodies. The neighbours of my ‘inner courtyard-world’ clapping. Enjoying the sun, the time, the pleasure of the wind. The world is intensely beautiful, almost unbearably, as if to make up for the impossible that is happening. There is a beautiful sadness that feels under the skin. A vibrant intensity of life in the face of the mortal body. The body finding itself inextricably as part of a whole. Crying out, that screech we emit when in pain, is the most basic vocalisation, the one that can be understood most universally, even across species.

And this is the week of becoming hurt: sore throat comes with an anxiety that leaves you breathless, loneliness has a sweet sadness that is mellow with sharp sudden stings, not seeing humans does something to your shoulders, heartbreak makes your skin go on fire first, injustice explodes in the gut, deep concern lives in the knees and there are dull pains that are outside the body, sort of historic, collective pains for lost humanities and lost democracies and unborn futures. And then there is grief that is atmospheric like headaches and achy joints.

The world has become both distant and visceral. As if because of the distance and lack of touch other senses – strange, unknown, rarely acknowledged sensations – have intensified. I feel the world because I don’t see it. I am becoming my voice and grainy pixels on a flat screen. I’m alone so I’m becoming vividly aware of things appearing as if from the inside. In the silence of touches, the little feelings on my skin are becoming sweet, painful and overwhelming.

A porous body despite all the hard borders.

Doing my best to be away and outside, I am finding myself radically on the inside acutely aware of my blurry edges. I am finding myself respons-able as you can only be when you are inside something becoming and I need my voice to become a body and traverse distances. I need it to reach, touch, caress, hold, squeeze, slap, kiss and embrace you.

I need to be a body to sit with you quietly hurt and loudly enamoured with the present.

Being on the inside gives our hurt voice-bodies an agency to act. A primal need to begin, and it starts with a cry, a most basic vocalisation.

Sitting next to you across the distance trying to find a common ground somewhere deep within.

I wanted to stay silent and private in this moment. How could I talk while I’m still inside? But how could I talk from anywhere else?

I am forcing my mouth open even if it’s just to force a most rudimentary cry into words because I know that it is the words spoken now that will construct the world to come. And starting with a ‘vocalisation that is universal across species’ is as good a place as any to begin.

And our cries and sensations build to words, uttered strangely into an unconstructed reality, ill-fitting, awkward, but then phrases emerge, combinations simultaneously occurring to each of us. Little worlds constructed in echoes of reading, then writing, then reading again. The struggle to articulate. Then there comes a narrative. Or narratives. Many, confusing and premature. But the narratives start to restructure the world, like a plaster cast or dental braces forcing bodies into new orders.

And the world becomes a roar. 

This is also a week “sustained by periodic bouts of being enamoured with existence, and that it is too hard to love a disenchanted world” (2001, Jane Bennett) and many other beautiful words given to me to hold. A week of making friends with a cat, of kind conversations, chocolate cake recipes, love expressed in question marks and gently held silences and a tender rhythm of writing hinging on the positions of the sun.


Eszter Némethi (1987, Budapest) is a theatre maker and researcher living in Brussels. She has been working with children in a health context since 2012 narrating together stories of isolation, powerful beasts, silences, and new worlds. She recently finished ‘The World of Scribes’, a world published in a book form by Helium Arts invoked together through an online platform with five girls living with Cystic Fibrosis. She holds an MA in Social Practice and the Creative Environment (LSAD) and recently finished post-masters research focusing on border narratives at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies).


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