There is a Calvino story that I love from his Complete Cosmicomics: The Form of Space. In it, the narrator falls freely through space alongside the object of his desire, Ursula H'x. Male gaze notwithstanding, Calvino is in top form, his tone both humorous and inventive, his gaze always more self-deprecating than it is gaze-y.
Calvino's Cosmicomics are metaphorically potent by design. They stand as scientific allegories. They are, moreover, extremely specific and clever. In this particular story, the characters fall in two parallel lines so that, although they observe each other, they will never touch. They also know that they will never touch, yet that does not prevent the various entanglements that play out. Re-reading it, I've tended to see it as a metaphor for how we seek agency in situations where we have no control, and how we exhaustively, irrepressibly construct narratives for ourselves in situations that make no sense.
I've been thinking a lot about control lately. Something I read recently struck me as apt. To paraphrase, "some people spend all their energy trying to swim upstream without realizing that the best we can do is to float downriver while trying to punt against the nearest rock." In Calvino's story, the characters are floating downriver without a rock. For myself, I've been thinking more about what vessel you're floating in. Are you seated on a raft? Are you clinging to a log? Or are you lucky enough to be in something with oars and a sail? To me the raft seems like the worst possible situation because it's bulky and unmaneuverable. Unless you're in white water.
But I'm struck by this idea of swimming vs. hanging on. When you swim, you can aim for a shore or a goal in the distance and alter your course so that it takes you there, despite being generally stuck in the flow. But if you're hanging on, it becomes very difficult to maneuver without a paddle, even if it feels good in the moment to be attached to something.