you cling to me like a koala on my back,
warm and close,
arms encircling my paper bark trunk.
our limbs play, like intertwining branches,
delivering each other stars.
we doze, full of eucalyptus love,
concave like gum leaves,
i will store this memory
in deserted knots for the winter.
I wrote that poem many years ago, towards the end of a relationship. It was falling apart, but still, we clung together, him like a koala on my back – warm, close and sleepy. I knew we were coming to an end, and told myself those memories would be there when he wasn’t. In the cold winter.
Storing the memory of touch for the winter. Like jars of bottled summer fruits, full of sunshine and bursts of flavour, mouthfuls transporting you back to the warm months. Only, now, I think I’ve run out. My bear suit is thinning. My jars of peaches are low in stock. And the tree’s knots are almost deserted, ready to be nests for avian couplings.
The touch I encounter regularly is solo – a necessary oil-slick, and sometimes gloved and clinical, punctuated by medical terms such as erythrodermic and cellulitis.
I’ve shaken a lot of hands lately. Networking. But that’s not satiating my skin hunger. I’m yearning for proper touch. And the irony of it all is I am surrounded by more people than ever, feeling loved and wanted, yet skin hunger is quite a lonely existence. It’s empty and prickly and I wrap myself up in my blanket tighter each night.
A toddler on the tram clung to her bear, and I wondered when it stopped being ok for adults to carry around a toy, just to cling to something, to hold something close.
Touch is nurturing, regenerative. It’s like the human equivalent of photosynthesis, allowing us to flourish. Sometimes standing out can black out the light, rendering a sense of the untouchable, consequently creating sensory deprivation. Without touch it’s hard to flourish.
I try so hard to remember. It’s two weeks or so since I’ve hugged someone hard. He gives the best bear hugs, and is generous with them too. It’s getting harder when the space between touch grows longer. I imagine this how the princess felt, trying to feel the pea below the stack of mattresses. You can’t bring out touch to evoke nostalgia. It’s not like a smell or a meal to bring back a memory. Even your song isn’t the same as the hug you gave me when you left. Nothing ever compensates.
With everyone I meet, I am bursting with the expectation of tactile possibilities. I hope and I hope, hanging awkwardly, unsure if I should initiate the first touch. This skin, it’s hungry.