“touch is all”
there are days when i walk around happy to be untouched by anything other than air and the heat of the sun and rain, because it gives me the illusion of not only being untouched, but untouchable – invulnerable as the mountain in the distance. the wind ruffles the hair on the back of my head, the little sensitive hollow beneath the cranial bump on the back of my skull.
and then there are other days when i walk around touching everything as i pass. i knock softly against light poles or street signs to hear how or if they sing. i cup the trunks of trees as i walk past them, very briefly, bark against my skin for a moment and then i let go. or leaves, or pine needles, or the concrete of buildings and railings. sometimes i do this out of joy, exulting in the fact that i and the world are incarnate. other times it is because i want to see if it is still possible for me to touch anything, or anything to touch me; when the fact that i am untouched is more than the fact of absence; when it is an active moment-by-moment loss that i am trying to undo.
and at the same time i feel like my face carries the clumsy handprints of anyone who has ever touched me, visible to the world, indelible in the same way my own fingerprints were on clay in art class – the more i tried to smooth them away, the more proof i left of my inability to disguise my interference. my nose is squished slightly wide by the touch of an ancestor whose name i do not even know, merely the anecdote of her nationality. i have freckles and a chicken pox scar and the faint marks of acne long ago. but i feel like there are so many more marks left on me, exposed like underwear, the evidence that i have been touched and then that the touch has been removed.
i carry a stone in my pocket that i acquired recently from deception pass.
(“She selects one roughly the size and shape of a pig’s skull.”)
it is smooth from a thousand years of touch, and now i am making it smoother by holding it in my palm as i walk.
there was a passage from ‘a sport and a pastime’ that i wanted to copy here, i read it just today and now going over the pages again and again i cannot find it. i feel like i am always losing things, taking for granted that they are just where i left them, confident that i will remember. the upsetting of that certainty is more disquieting sometimes than losing the thing itself.
“Solitude. One knows instinctively it has benefits that must be more deeply satisfying than those of other conditions, but still it is difficult. And besides, how is one to distinguish between conditions which are valuable, which despite their hatefulness give us strength or impel us to great things and other we would be far better free of? Which are precious and which are not? Why is it so hard to be happy alone? Why is it impossible? …
I have not gone deep enough, that’s the thing. In solitude one must penetrate, one must endure. The icy beginning is where it is worst. One must pass all that. One must go forward all the way, through bitterness, through righteous feelings, advancing upon it like a holy city, sensing the true joy. I try to summon it to me, to make it appear. I am certain it is there, but it does not come easily. Of course not. One must waver. One must struggle. Beliefs are meant to cleave us to the bone.”