Intimacy is what distinguishes those who are dear to us from those who are simply near. This issue of Kinfolk explores the balance between our contradictory cravings for both secure and stable relationships and the freedom to follow our hearts, our sexual desires, and our need to be whole without the help of another. We take psychotherapist Esther Perel as our lodestar. It’s a role she’s played for the clients at her New York practice and for millions of others through her books and the podcast Where Should We Begin, which offers the chance to listen in on anonymous couples during therapy sessions. Perel’s approach has always been to challenge the fundamental contradictions in how we think about romantic intimacy: Is it really feasible to expect one person to fulfill our every need—for the rest of our life?
In Issue Thirty-Four, we experience the thrill of people and places spilling their secrets. Amaryllis Fox—an ex-CIA spy who spent her 20s negotiating in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones—cracks open the mysteries of the Clandestine Service, and what they’ve taught her about peace. We also present the result of our own months-long international operation: To gain access to an art deco royal palace in Gujurat, India. As the nights close in, our contributors look beyond this world and into other more mysterious ones: They mull over the popularity of horoscopes and what to eat at funerals. Elsewhere, a photo essay by Gustav Almestål explores the solitary indulgence of comfort foods, so tied to our most intimate of spaces—our homes—and so appealing during break ups.