Boundaries are weird. Cosmically weird. I’ve always had a problem with boundaries.
See, I walk around with my ribcage cracked open and my lungs on display for anyone who cares to watch me breathe; you’d think I would unlearn surprise at their love of this softness but my lungs are not my heart and I recoil from anyone who tries to reach out and touch. What if they take hold and squeeeze and get lung tissue under their nails? They can’t be trusted.
My sternum, unattached, sits a floating, ineffective guard against whatever may come my way while I navigate this strange grapple between crippling fear of intimacy and desperate starvation for the softness of the skin webbing between fingers and the soft spot beneath the ear and countless other places where it would be so nice to touch and be touched.
Your sweater is a beguiling shade of sage that makes light refract in your eyes just a little bit longer, seeming just that much greener, and you will never know how much this fact upsets me. The key you dropped into my climate-controlled-office-warm palm was cold, a reminder of the storm coming down off the mountain in the middle of May and I can’t help but wonder if your hands need to be held or if you simply need a better sweater. I don’t know if I could forgive myself for changing that shade of green. Perhaps it’s just that you need to keep your hands busy– idly rubbing, gripping the seams of your jeans, flicking the topmost left wheel of a skateboard while you wonder where your income will come from this June– they never quite gather warmth despite all that nervous energy. I couldn’t forgive myself for making them still.
I would know you in the most archaic and complete sense. How is it you can sit with your back to the door? What is it that you keep writing? Where is it that you go when your eyes turn inward? I’m curious about what goes on behind those eyes, electrical storms caught in amber animating anatomy in ways science has just begun to comprehend.
Today keeps getting better and better and I am telling you this without an ounce of cynicism or suave sarcasm. I woke up with the sunrise and my cat’s purring vibrating the pillow beside my head. I spent fifteen minutes taking pictures of bees among spears of lamb’s ear in the hopes of making a brilliant girl smile. The sun has been the barest kiss across my skin; she’s shy this spring but I do my best to encourage her. I spent another fifteen minutes smiling my own smile like a loon because of the smell of iron and sagebrush and salt beneath clean laundry and his arm around my shoulders. I could spend all day in the sun and I would never feel quite as warm and soft as I did in that moment. If I could I’d spend the rest of the day braiding my hair with honeysuckle and the scent of Earth I caught from him but instead I’ll smile and write and keep count of the gifts people don’t seem to realize they’re giving me.
Keep talking about the false binaries between research in the candlelit recesses of the library and
the vibrancy of lived experience in academia and
the ways we might rehabilitate the way our students narrate their own lives toward endings that disrupt the systems into which they were born.
I could die happy listening to you speak.
Is this what normal people mean by “lust”?
Stop crossing your arms with your perfect posture making me want to stroke your cheek.
Stop touching my touch-starved shoulder every time we meet. It makes my heart race. There’s skin under that cardigan, don’t you know that?
Is that a birthmark at the top of your spine? Can I taste it?
I have to stop mirroring your body language but if I stop thinking about your hands I’ll stop controlling mine and I might just claw my face off.
Maybe if I make myself small you’ll overlook me or, worse,