Whenever I think of the word intimacy, I envision a bed. Soft white sheets, or colorful pastels with dazzling patterns. A pillow or two, or maybe even three. Space enough for a single body, a couple or for a family of four.

Yes, sex also happens on beds. And yes, that’s also a way to be intimate. But, as most of us know, this staple for intimacy has lost much of its former glory. Sex can be profoundly intimate, but it can also be astoundingly impersonal.

So now when I think of intimacy, I think of beds, but not of sex. Instead, I think of lazy Sunday mornings. Rolling myself out of my elevated twin bed, without speaking a word, climbing onto the soft duvet that has semi-fallen off of my roommate’s bed, lying there silently, relishing in each other’s presence and staring at the fairy lights and polaroid photos on her wall.

Intimacy is the soft creaking of a thin mattress bed, in the attic of a beautiful house, as three young girls cuddled closer, ignoring the suffocating heat of the sweaty August night. Three best friends, about to be separated by miles of ocean and kilometers of divergent life paths. We held each other just a little tighter, hoping that the strength of our friendship would shield it from the forces that were at play trying to tear us apart.

I think of Sunday evenings in Greece. The predictable wave of anxiety washing over me, the peculiar funk of another week over, another gray Monday morning pending in the horizon. I remember crawling into my parents’ bed, forcing myself in the comfortable nook between my mother’s tiny figure and my father’s warm protective arms. I think of the brief moments of peace and tranquility and of their violent interruption as my brother entered the room, mischievous as always, and sprawled himself on all three of us, using our cuddling bodies as his own makeshift mattress.

Intimacy makes me think of an uncomfortable air mattress that I came to call my own, in an orange room decorated with a wall of books and a jar of candy that grew emptier and emptier with every one of my visits. Intimacy is the familiar cramps I would wake with every single morning, a familiar pain that marked another night of painful laughter, brutally honest words and well-guarded secrets that slyly traveled from my air mattress to the thick framed bed adjacent to it.

I think of the queen-sized bed that welcomed all six of us, legs tangled in arms, words slurred between the smoke of stale cigarettes and the crunching of oregano flavored chips. As we lay over the stains of our spilled wine, neighbors complaining that we were too loud, profoundly uncomfortable, we dozed off in the comfort of knowing we had built a family out of a group of awkward insecure teenage friendships.

When I think of intimacy my mind takes me to the island I came to call home, the top bunk of a clear white wooden bunk bed. I think of the sound of roosters, fitted to the island lifestyle, only calling out in the late afternoon, when the five tiny bodies that slept in that room had just started to shift and drag themselves out of their peaceful and simple dreams. I think of the amazing sturdiness of the frame which cradled three little girls, legs dangling off the edge, sleeping vertically because we refused to sleep apart. As we grew older, heavier with experiences, our sleeping arrangement would shift. The only constant, always, was that, whatever the arrangement, no matter how uncomfortable, the three of us would never part to drift off in the arms of Morpheus in separate beds.

When I think of intimacy, I picture two young, teenage kids, high out of their minds on love and affection, whispering under the borrowed sheets of a cheap island hotel room. I think of the warm tears streaming down my face as I realized our stolen paradise was slowly being torn apart by the cruel, unforgiving arm of reality. I remember his warm, brown eyes, smiling at me, music softly playing in the background. “When you miss me, just put your face under your sheets, and think back to this moment. And know, with the certainty of all your being, that I love you and that I always will.”

Sophia Catsambi | sophia.catsambi@yale.edu .