One weekend about nine-and-a-half years ago, I flew from Minneapolis, where I live, to Atlanta for a publishing conference. A colleague and I were to make a presentation to the vice-president of one of our major customers.
For a couple of weeks I'd been plagued by a sore throat, but I'd written it off as allergies or a virus. When I tried to begin the presentation, though, all that came out was a squeak. The VP was very sympathetic, and fortunately my colleague was able to handle the meeting.
I flew home that afternoon. The next morning, I saw my primary-care physician, who referred me to a radiologist for a CT scan that very day.
"Do you need help getting undressed?" Jon asks from the doorway of our bedroom, one hand holding his BlackBerry, the other tucked into the front pocket of his baggy jeans. His head is slightly tilted, his eyebrows arched, highlighting his forehead wrinkles.
His phone vibrates, drawing his eyes from me to the incoming message. I wait.
Jon reads, ponders and then looks up, half-absorbed in what he's just read, and registers that I'm still on the bed. His face lights up.
I now have his full attention.
"I think I can manage," I say, "but I may need help with my shirt."
in memory of Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1986)
to be touched
by hands that mean it
by hands that want to touch
the longing for hands
to release the skin
from solitary confinement
and a sentence of death