“Touch helps.” ~ TiGi Nii
Habit. Over the course of the prior month, she and I had cultivated a habit of physical mapping; exploring the landscape of the body through touch. Birthmarks. Moles. Tufts of hair. Dents. Dimples. Blemishes. Hidden imperfections composing the perfect human whole. The matter of habit was crucial. What is casually ignored upon first knead conditions itself into keen awareness over time. Certain muscles become taut and stiff more frequently than others. You discover where stress settles in the body and begin to manipulate it loose with greater ease. We learn each other. I came to know that if nothing else was done, if sleep threatened to overtake me before I could chart the entirety of her form with my hands, I must apply the utmost care to her feet. Habit. Touch. Discovery.
Most encounters were punctuated by a meal. The careful handling of the body seeming somehow related to both preparing food and sitting down to eat in the company of silence. Compassion must guide you in either task amplifying the clarity of communication suffusing through it. Preparation of the pan for sauteing; coating the surface with a layer of olive oil over low heat. Warming friction of hands rubbing briskly against one another excavating the healing scent of tea tree and ginger essence in an almond oil base which penetrates skin and muscle while calming the senses. The methodical chopping of an assortment of greens like unto discerning the precise stroke for knuckling into her back, shoulders and thighs. Details. Routine. Touch.
The relationship ended though not before I was reminded of the renewing intensity of touch which had for a brief time escaped me. Long before words arrived easily, it was an elemental and concise form of expression. As a tiny infant being touched, cradled and rocked in the arms of my mother, learning to appreciate the art of affection and look into eyes of love. How could I know my brain was being developed as it sought to understand the loving acts this woman showered upon one whom had nothing to give her in return. If nothing else, I could clutch hold upon that extended digit she offered me; laugh when she made sounds I failed to interpret. It lives in the nostalgia of street crossings alongside Jah’kaya where a gentle squeezing of the palm reminded her that the cross walk was a place of danger where she should hold strong to my hand as we made our way to the other side. “Grip tight Jah’kaya.” A short, stern lecture on outdoor safety reduced to a simple act of attentive compression of five coupled fingers. Touch. Parenting. Protection.
Black Love In Public. A restoration of the intimate art of a physical embrace performed in an avenue where it would be most accessible for sensory consumption by all members of the community. Out of this convergence of living beings was conceived the mantra, “Free Black Hugs!”, a statement of our collective intent to valiantly fracture the dam holding back the flood of Black spatial intimacy by simply appearing before others unafraid to express a loving physical moment. Not so frozen by our unawareness and invisibility amongst one another in public spaces that we are frightened by such a thing as touch. Returning safety again to the sharing of personal space with each other through embrace, rich conversation or the silent connection of two pairs of eyes reflecting a smile of acknowledgement. Familiarity. Touch. Community.
Touch renews. Touch builds. Touch sustains. Social media has created a conversation on the distance that exists between people who grapple with the expanse of those far away even when sharing the present company of friends. This tool is only a justification offered for the emotional distance which already existed between us. Remember to hold hands. Touch the fingers. Appreciate the tips of them. Do they bite their nails? Do they pluck their cuticles? Touch is an informal method of acknowledging the human being who stands before you as worthy of recognition and necessary. You notice them. You know them. You SEE this person. Sight. Touch. They are connected. Listen. Feel. The senses should necessarily blend together in the mind if we are to build stronger relationships as whole beings. Binding. Building. Touch.
Kiss the lips. When was the last time you remembered a kiss? Do you remember each one? Do you know how well each of your lovers has kissed? Neat form or sloppy? The kiss is one of many forms of touch which has been overpowered as an expression of loving intimacy. The shape and contours of the lips. How the mouth puckers and two lovers search those contours seeking a configuration which locks them together in a passionate embrace. Do you use your hands when you kiss? Where do you place them? I lay them gently on either side of the face or if drawing back from a hug, they may both be beneath the arms, clutching the upper back; left hand below, right hand above. What do all of the things that we are touching or not touching say about our level of intimacy with our partners or friends? Touch. Kiss. Caress.
Hug the body. Massage that human form in 120 seconds or better. Once you teach yourself to be long distance lover of touch, you may find that hugs grow longer and more profound. Both arms under, hands in center of back. Diagonal; one arm under, the other over the shoulder. Hands cupping under to touch the shoulder blades. The big squeeze which is accompanied by a lift. Do you practice your hugs? Do you notice how well you hug; acknowledge when you have held back your best hug? Do you go back in for a second round? I need 3 or 4 hugs from someone I haven’t seen in a while and 5 or 6 from those I see often. I’m backwards though and quite aware of this issue. Embrace. Touch. Breathe.
Touch develops. Touch is an amplifier. It can make good communication so much better or bad communication that much worse. Let us rediscover touch once again and to our comfort, find ways to allow it to radiate throughout our lives again with friends and lovers alike. Have you touched someone today?
“So since we know touch can be used to heal and aid in communication, it becomes a useful tool in sustaining relationships. If when we’re having difficulty, we choose to come closer instead of pulling away, we can usually find the strength to work it out. Touch helps. Try it! ” ~ TiGi Nii
“What I long for, for myself, and for all who need it is touch that is not facilitated by capitalism. Touch that, in its demand for our vulnerability, our giving of our whole selves, does not exact from us psychic violence. Touch that is healing, and intimate, and loving, without the necessity of being sexual. And yet, access to safe, healthy sexual touch, when we want it.” ~ Crunktastic from Taking It All Off: Black Women, Nudity, and the Politics of Touch