Bricks and Mortar

I find Scheherazade’s metaphor of bricks and mortar beautiful.

Bricks and mortar — these are words to describe what and how you choose to share yourself with those surrounding you.

A brick is when you share about a big-ass project you’ve done all the way in New York.

It’s about the trip to India you’ve recently enjoyed and the kilos you’ve gained after munching all that delicious curry.

The four birthday parties you’ve attended in succession at Barcode, the long marathon evening of Room 18 and KTV afterwards, and how crazy you feel being young again?

The exam you’ve been studying hard for and that your family is back home in the Philippines.

These and many more examples I’m sure any of you can contribute as bricks.

These bricks — they are the bedrock of our conversations with friends, family and acquaintances.

They are answers to questions such as, “How was your weekend?” “What have you been up to?” or “Who was that?”

Bricks can be answered in 30 seconds or a few hours depending on how many details you’re willing to expound on.

They are information you share widely and freely, opening yourself to those around you so that they too can discover who you are.

But mortar?

Mortar is all about intimacy.

In Sherry’s words, “They’re about attentiveness and partnership and a shared experience, in a way that the coffee shop conversations about career or relationships isn’t, really.”

It’s about your deepest, darkest fears of failure, and how it motivates you to strive to become more than the ordinary.

It’s about how you truly feel about your family or your work, and the sheer
honesty of the words you usually don’t utter scares you.

Mortar is sometimes about nonchalance about certain things, and if you don’t feel bad about thinking certain thoughts, does that make you a bad person?

Mortar is also about the most mundane things we never truly share with others because you think they’d find it too boring. It’s about the routine you go about in the morning preparing for work, the fact that you only want a dash of cream and no sugar with your coffee, a statement from the history book you’re reading that you find interesting.

It’s about reminiscing about the past, of regrets, of demons, of joys, of memories.

Mortar is sharing that you’ve closed your eyes when you walked to work today because you loved the smell of wet grass on the ground.

Most of our friendships are made up of bricks, not mortar.

More often than not, we exchange cordialities without really diving into the heart of the matter. We smile and talk; yet we never really touch each other’s souls or discover what lay beyond that “I am confident” façade.

We do this because it’s simpler, and a lot less riskier.

Cutting to the core of things can be scary — when you open yourself up to the other, you become more vulnerable.

Not only are you risking that the other wouldn’t really like what you reveal, or that what you may show, others may not want to see, but the process of opening yourself up to others is also a process of self-reflection — you never know what you may discover about yourself. It’s about facing both your demons and angels.

Personally, I love talking bricks, but not as much as I love talking mortar.

Inasmuch that I’m found on some of the more happening parties and events with huge groups of people, my fondest memories of Taiwan are usually one-on-one conversations with just me and the other.

They can be found either in steps of the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, at brunch in Grandma Nittis, strolling around the slick streets of Taipei in the evening, enjoying a glass of wine at Cain, or sitting outside 7-Eleven with a Smirnoff Ice on hand and watching life pass you by.

I’ve had them outside the steps of the Far Eastern Shangri-La Hotel, getting bitten by mosquitoes at Daan Park or during one chilling dawn at Yangming Mountain while waiting for the sunrise.

Mortars oftentimes start off as bricks, and before you know it, you’re sharing intimate thoughts and memories. I would like to think that there are those special people you trust, knowingly or otherwise, that you somehow throw mortars at, or just want to get to know better. They are those who you look at and decide, “Yes, I’d like this person to be more than an acquaintance. I would really like to get to know this person, find out who he is and open myself up at the same time.”

It is this intimacy that I desire, something I can never really get enough of — the opening yourself up and letting someone in. It also includes the joy of discovering the other as well: their pride, their joys, their desires and their fears.

Yes, mortar is all about intimacy. It comes in losing a sense of that control, to throw caution to the wind and just let that person in.

And yes, I do miss it — call me crazy but I’d do anything just to be that vulnerable again. Mortar does come far in between, but when they arrive, they make the waiting all worthwhile.

So how do I know you — bricks or mortar? 🙂

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