My husband returned from Milan having caught the plague from a friend. Based on the friend’s experience, he knew it was gonna be a doozy. And so it was. He stumbled off the airplane, into the car, hacking “I’m done” and soon crawled into bed. Ten days later, he emerged. Because I’m about to go on a trip of my own, I was more cautious that usual about inheriting the plague. I washed my hands at every turn. I slept in a different bed. The only part of his body I touched were his feet.
Conclusion: it’s very hard to be around someone you love without hugs. We are big on hugs, head rubs, tickling, wrestling, acting like toddlers together. I realize that, without being able to touch him, I feel I barely know him. Call it a basic animal sense. For a woman who would give her first child to the gods of verbal communication, this is no small wave.
In my workshops, I often lead a free-write with this prompt: Touch the contours of your own face for a few minutes and then write. The process unnerves teenage girls. They “hate” it and think it is “stupid.” (Understandably. Every media outlet is telling them that whatever face they have is not good enough) The adults find it curious and often revealing of what intimacy they do or don’t have with themselves. But, one student took the exercise to her elderly hospice patient. She asked the patient whether she would like to have lotion rubbed on her face. Yes. So my student did this… slowly… and the woman crooned, delighted by a delicate loving touch she probably hadn’t felt in ages.
In honor of May day, I’ve made a list.
Things we should touch less: iphones, ipads, computers, plastic.
Things we should touch more: each other, faces, animals, plants, soil, buildings, rocks.