People cuddle people. Animals cuddle animals. People cuddle animals. I’ve watched enough cute puppy videos to see the comfort it brings both human and non-human to snuggle up to something else warm and breathing. It’s interesting to see that need for safety, security, and stability in another type of creature. When you think about it, you realize that need spans across all cultures, religions, and species.
I know I’m generalizing. Not everyone is affectionate or wants physical interaction and that’s okay. I still struggle with whether or not I’m that type of person. I’ve always liked the idea of touch but in actuality, it makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been starved of touch for all these years and this is my new norm. Maybe I have just romanticized how therapeutic touch can be and maybe I made it more transformational than it really is. Or maybe I’m just naturally distant. Or maybe I’m just selectively affectionate.
But with the emerging popularity of weighted blankets and the undeniable adorableness of otters holding hands, there’s something to be said for being close. In the animal kingdom, it’s mostly instinct. Survival has a lot to do with it. Safety in numbers. But is it just about the body surviving? That closeness must encourage the head and heart to survive as well. It’s not just a physical need but a psychological response. Maybe when these animals get close to another willing creature, it lets them know they are worth surviving.
That instinct must extend to humans as well. I wonder if that’s where my desperate need to cuddle comes from. When I was cuddled for the first time earlier this year, I felt special for the first time in my life. And for a man who always feels worthless, it made a difference. I felt I was worthy of touching. I was worthy of getting to know. I was worthy of surviving too.
But now that it’s gone, it’s also made a big difference. And I wonder if I was wrong about being worthy of survival after all.
It’s always been a layer of fat covered by a layer of fabric. People were kept at arm’s length to lengthen their stay. No one could ever get inside my brain or beneath my body. I was closed off from the world because I thought it would be easier for everyone. I shrank down so as not to get in the way. But I only ended up diminishing myself.
It’s like I’ve always been shaking hands while wearing gloves. Only feeling the vaguest sense of shape and grip. Basing all my life lessons on what I’ve learned through leather. I was satisfied enough, knowing that I could come and go with dulled senses, unencumbered, and see others off to continue their journey in the same condition.
And then someone came along and thought it best to slide the glove off my hand. To want to truly touch me. And when it came off, my hand was pale with paper thin skin and nerves still new to the elements. And when we shook hands for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the raw feelings. Like a lightning bolt blasting through me. Tactile information flooded my system, buzzed my brain, and jolted my heart into motion once more. It was the silk of skin, the hills and valleys of veins and wrinkles. The warmth, a soft pulse inside a palm, the quiet buzz of life. It was terrifying and electrifying and once I became accustomed to the feeling, it was addicting.
That’s when I began to understand how other people craved the touch of one another. There is so much more to people than a general shape and perfunctory pressure. There were hidden details, secret sensations, invisible chemicals that danced between skin, signaling something inside me to no longer shrink, but to expand.
It’s like quenching a hidden thirst, feeding a long-dormant hunger. How could I not want to continue when I never knew this kind of nourishment existed? I couldn’t see it as greedy or abnormal. The only oddity here was never knowing this was an option.
But as much as I wanted to continue to consume each sensation, the one who removed the glove decided it was best to slide it on again, unable to cope with the possibility that my skin might be as healing to them as theirs was to me. They only reached out once more, not to wrap their arms around me, but to shake my hand goodbye.
As much as I wanted to shrink again, as much as I wanted to concede to concealing myself, I knew it was no longer a viable option. The glove was suddenly suffocating. The skin-to-skin was too pure, to real to repeal from me.
Still, it hurts to think about what my hand might have to endure to feel skin again. To experience all of the wind and rain, the ache of winter, the burn of summer. The needles of rejection stabbing my fingertips, the jagged edges of a broken heart slicing my knuckles. My skin isn’t tough. My nails aren’t armor plated. But the seasons are changing and I think I should as well.
I don’t want to settle for salutations experienced through stitched fabric. I want to replicate that real feeling over and over again. I want to extend my hand in hopes I can feel human once more, that someone will come along with a firm handshake, see my glove on the ground, and grip me even tighter.
“I can never get out of here
I don’t wanna explode in fear
A dead astronaut in space…”
-Marilyn Manson, Disassociative
”The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart…“
-Florence and the Machine, Cosmic Love
I still picture your face in my mind. That perfect night when you gave me that perfect smile that conveyed more than words ever could. There was a whole galaxy in your grin. A whole universe of longing orbiting your eyes. The gravity of your heart pressing down on mine. For the first time, it was a weight I didn’t mind bearing,
I still think of you every day. My torso trembles in tandem with my phone. My parched eyes drink in your words. I still savor your touch. The rush is still just as real as it ever was. But for you, the wonder has waned. I’ve accepted it but I’m not ready to release my feelings. Not quite yet.
I keep your face behind my eyelids to remind me of the time you adored me, this pale stranger with a dark sense of humor. That’s when you were still curious about my character and the contents of my head. We stood by my car, us learning, me planning, you drawing closer. The excitement of a fresh heartbeat. The thrill of newfound opportunities.
Together, we looked up to the atmosphere like we were discovering some uncharted something. It was creating fluffy creatures from the clouds and soldiers out of the stars. Connecting new dots and forming figures of faith and fortune in the sky. It was about making sense of the world around us, leading each other to conclusions of closeness and contentment. Your sweet words were like satellites spinning around my soul and I felt like I was floating.
Cloaked in midnight, your smile was a tunnel directed toward me alone. And I was too caught up in the constellation of feelings, too starstruck to see the plight at the end of that tunnel. You were in a world of pain that I could not penetrate or perish. I took your hand in hopes of helping you heal. But you loosened your grip and left me to hurt instead.
Did you ever ponder the gravitational pull of my own pain? How I needed you as much as I thought you wanted me? Did you notice the satellites stray off course? Or did you only have enough strength to stare down your own demons?
I had hoped to feel the swell of your heart but only found a division there, a widening gap that I could not seal. I felt bound to you but you blasted off like a rocket. Now I’m left with a black hole in my chest, pulling in reminders of you and burying them deep down inside, a mix of good memories and melancholia.
I wish I had that smile back. I wish I could see that face again, just once more to burn into my memory. There was such purity there, an innocence. A face that opened up my whole world.
It was cosmic once. Now it just feels like comets crashing into me.
”Something’s missing in me
I felt it deep within me
As lovers left me to bleed alone
Down here, love wasn’t meant to be
It wasn’t meant to be for me”
”When you close your eyes even then your eyelids are beautiful
for so long there have been traces of you in blood vessels inside my skull”
-Showbread, I Want to get Married
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a wedding with an old friend. I didn’t know the married couple and all the attendants were new to me but the friend needed a plus one and borrowed me for the occasion. You see where this is going. I just needed to find something blue.
Despite my anxiety around crowds, especially crowds of strangers, I figured it would be a change of pace. A chance to do something different, to ask off work, and dress up a bit. I just hoped I’d be able to squeeze my binge-eating butt into my old slacks. I did…but barely.
The ceremony itself was fine. It was simple, inside a simple church with simple decoration. No blue sashes or neckties. No blue in the flowers. Just a red-faced toddler sitting in front of me and a bellowing baby sitting behind me and they both screamed in unison just as the ceremony began and continued their commentary throughout because my life.
Despite my current situation, I didn’t feel too bitter or sad about seeing two flesh become one. I was pretty unaffected witnessing the standard union of two people, in love and full of life. It happens every day. Life goes on. Good for them. The only discomfort came from those slacks. But one moment did stick out to me. The pastor read a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that goes:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Having never been in a relationship, I wondered why I’d never been able to find my own plus one. How had I made it 32 years while God made sure I remained lonely? If He had allowed such a declaration to be included in the good book, why have I always been denied the privilege?
While the ceremony was about 30 minutes, the reception went on for three and a half hours. And it was mostly held outside. No blueberries in the fruit plate while the newlyweds went off to be photographed with family. No blue ribbons adorning the arches. Why do people in the south insist on having outside weddings in the middle of summer? I was drenched in sweat and wanted to leave but the girl I went with wanted to stay for the cake cutting and to try to catch the bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, the cake was one thing this big boy was looking forward to but in this case, I’d rather have air conditioning than confections. I was a good sport, however, and smiled and blotted my face and tried to inconspicuously unstick my bat-winged balls.
And when it was cake time, I eagerly got in line. No blue fondant. The lady serving the cake cut off the smallest piece possible for me. Oh, sorry ma’am, I thought I was gonna be able to get more than a few crumbs that fell off your knife. I looked at her, thinking she would realize the error of her ways and cut off a little more for me but she just stood there so I quickly dipped out and ate the slice in three bites.
It was a little dry.
Turns out, the bride wanted to wait until it got dark outside so she and her husband could walk out under sparklers. Which meant more waiting, more forehead blotting and being the iPhone photographer for everyone else who knew each other and wanted to blow up Instagram with high school friends in rolled hair and pretty dresses.
Even the girl I attended with drifted away for a while to take pictures with former work friends she hadn’t seen in a while. I looked around me and saw everyone with someone else. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Wives and husbands. Best friends. The caterers and photographers doing their jobs. Everyone with a purpose. I stood by the wall, unsure of what to do with myself. And I felt like there should have been someone next to me. Someone to help me up, to keep me warm, to defend me against my own self-destructive thoughts. Someone to make me feel like I also had a purpose. But the only thing that ever stands next to me is an empty void and that void only reminds me that I don’t have a purpose.
Night fell but the heat did not wane. It penetrated through the dark and doled out more sweat for me. All the single ladies gathered around the bride. As she flung the bouquet into the arms of an overzealous 20-something in a billowy yellow dress, I realized I had found my something blue. It was me.
God knows my heart, knows I have a lot of love to give, and yet I always stand alone. Sometimes I think I’m getting close and despite my hesitations to let anyone near, I do because there’s always the faintest hope that maybe my person has finally come, that this could be the one to turn it all around. But they only turn me in the direction I’ve already traced too many times. And I wonder why God would tease and punish me in this way. Denying me is one thing. This just feels deceitful.
I’m not saying I’m more deserving of love than anyone else but I do think I need it more than most. I can’t do life by myself. I can’t conquer my demons all alone like this.
The ache never really goes away. Sometimes it gets easier to deal with but it’s never defeated. Do you know what it’s like to see the world through glass, to feel others through gloves? To live life for bitter and worse, to endure sickness and hell, to forever be separating until death does me apart?
To be one strand already broken?
Sometimes I think I’d rather lick a trash can than interact with people.
I work with the public. This month marks six years with my current retail job. And each day is hell. It’s not even the work that sucks. It’s the fact that when someone comes into my department, I have no idea what’s going to come at me. Will they be nice or rude? Will it be one or two people or a large group? Will they be clueless or prepared? Are they going to ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, which will make me look stupid?
I feel like people are constantly judging me. That’s because I constantly judge other people. I just assume they are doing the same. Since I’m so insecure, I just know they are thinking how dumb or ugly I am and how I am in no way suitable to offer advice in regard to style or fit because I have no style and my clothes don’t fit.
I’m just not good at speaking with people. But since that is one of the duties of our job, I have to greet every customer I see. It’s not always easy because I can’t just be that person that easily walks up to anyone and confidently offer my services. And as much as being a former artist has helped me develop an eye for good style, I still don’t think I’m excellent at putting an outfit together. I’ve tried to learn about fashion but you go to one resource and it contradicts another one. It seems like there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fashion. But you try telling that to some people who refuse to put blue and black together or who still swears by pleated jeans.
I wanted to get out of the house to do some quality writing. Sometimes, there’s too many distractions at home. It’s too easy to space out and go two hours deep into Buzzfeed or Cracked. And it’s just so comfortable at home. It’s easy to be lazy when my bed is unmade and my cat is lying there, purring. It feels like the most right thing to do just to slip in the sheets and take a lengthy nap.
I felt the call of a coffee shop. I know it’s kind of douchey to go to a coffee shop and write but I can’t help it. They give good vibes. The atmosphere is chill and the music is mellow and it’s not as rowdy as a regular restaurant.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any available places to write in my town. There are no coffee shops or even sit-down restaurants. I have to travel at least 45 minutes away to find a place to go. I don’t like using that much gas if not necessary and plus it takes a lot of effort to go far away. To justify the lengthy ride, I usually try to stay gone all day and being gone for long periods of time tires me. But with recently decreased gas prices and an inflated level of pain pulsing through my head, it felt worth it to make that trek.
I drove to a cafe-bakery but waited until lunch time in hopes it wouldn’t be busy inside. As much as I like to get out of the house sometimes, my anxiety makes it difficult for me to be in public.
So, I stepped inside and it wasn’t too crowded. I picked up some soup and after I found a seemingly secluded place to sit, I set up my iPad for writing. Not five minutes later, a college-age girl clad in a thick hoodie and sweat pants plunked down at the table across from me.
The anxiety spiked a bit but it wasn’t too bad. “I can handle this,” I told myself. I focused on my soup and tried to relax. A few minutes later, another girl sat with the sweatpants girl. Anxiety spiked again. I turned back to my soup and tried to forget about the thoughts that sprouted from my brain.
“They are going to judge me. They are going to make fun of me. What if they Snapchat a picture of me and include some snarky comment like, ‘Look at this fat loser sitting by himself slurping soup. Lame! LULZ.'”
“Your mind is racing like a pro now
Oh my god, it doesn’t mean a lot to you
One time you were a glowing young ruffian
Oh my god, it was a million years ago…”
–The National, Racing Like a Pro
It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here in the dining room with a cup of coffee and The National playing on my iPhone.
I feel so wholly, embarrassingly, desperately lonely.
My go-to move when I feel that way is to turn to food. I want nothing more than to eat. Emotions are filling my insides and I want to drown them out with soda and cereal. Sugary cereal that feels so good chewing but awful as soon as I swallow.
I want to talk to someone but I can’t think of anyone to phone. Because I really don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m too tired for a conversation.
I want to be social and it’s not that I don’t like the ones I talk to but it’s exhausting pretending to be interesting, to have to come up with witty things to say, to make someone laugh, to laugh at all.
I want to fall into a void, to be sucked away into a black hole as an excuse to get out of talking and texting and engaging. I want to talk but I don’t want to speak.
I hoped drinking enough coffee would fill me up, would help me get over this craving. But I know better. It’s not hunger I’m trying to satiate.
My head is a coalescence of rage and confusion. It spins faster than I can process. It begs, “Write! Scream! Sing! Get these thoughts out! Why are you just sitting there?” But I can’t answer. Again, I’m too tired. I’m invalid in creativity, apathetic in motivation. I want to sit down and get it out but that would mean I would have to deal with it. And we know I’m not good at that.
So I sit and stare at the wall for hours, take naps and read a few chapters of a book before my eyes go heavy. All distractions. All putting off my problems. It’s a trend I’ve been noticing lately and it sickens me the time I’ve wasted covering up my chronic shortcomings in favor of keeping pain at a distance. But in the effort to avoid it, I hit it head on.
It all piles up, these thoughts, these fears of mine. And when I sit down to express them, they come out in terse bursts, boiled down to base emotions, the extraneous fringe feelings already frittered away along with more brain cells.
What’s on my mind? What’s been festering?
Several days ago, I bought a lip balm that made my lips explode.
I hoard lip balms and any time I see a new one, I have to buy it, even if I think it’s going to suck. When I came upon this particular one, the description said it would make my lips “buzz”. I checked the ingredients and noticed it had cinnamon oil in it. I assumed it would work like menthol or peppermint oil and give the lips a nice tingle.
I slathered the balm on my lips and after about a minute, true to the description, they buzzed. There’s no other way to describe it. But this was no Burt’s Bees tingle. I felt like I had just Frenched an electric fence. I had never felt anything like it before. And it wasn’t pleasant.
I eventually wiped off the product but my lips were left feeling numb and beat up. The description said the buzzing is safe and addicting but I couldn’t imagine every using that product again.
One of the draws to the lip balm is how you can transfer the buzz to your partner when you kiss them. It’s a novelty but one that could be interesting. You’d definitely make an impressive if you kissed someone while wearing this lip balm.
But as I put away the cinnamon death stick, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make anyone else’s lips buzz. I had no one to kiss. And as I surveyed my lip balm collection, I wondered if my multiple failed attempts to keep my mouth kiss-ready was in vain. I had no one to pucker up to. All I had were the tiny tube reminders of lonely lips.
I’m stuck at 17 years of age and it’s depressing.
I feel like I’m getting too old for social media. I’ve really gotten into Tumblr recently and I don’t know if it’s just the type of followers I’ve accrued or if they are representative of the majority of Tumblr users but most of them seem to be young, high school/college-age kids. And I’m a post-college pudge ball who can still relate to their emo musings and pubescent longings. It makes me question my emotional maturity.
I think there might be something to Freud’s idea that we get stuck in certain stages of life while we grow up. I’m not sure about all the creepy sex stuff but I think there are certain rites of passage most young people go through on their way to adulthood. It’s the ups and downs, the lockers and lip-locking, the friendships and failures. Really, it’s about the experience. Each event is a potential lesson that serves to mold you into a well-rounded character.
But I haven’t experienced much, all through my own doing. But even lack of experience can shape you, although sometimes, as in my case, it hasn’t shaped me so much as it has flattened me out.
I never felt like I got to be a regularly teenager. I spent the majority of my time eating and watching television in my room. I was fat from the beginning so I had that complex hanging over my head and that crushed my confidence from the start. Being a weird artist didn’t help matters. I couldn’t relate to the jocks and cheerleaders. Football was a religion and I was an atheist among the athletes.
I went to very few social gatherings. I wanted to talk to people. I witnessed my peers mesh with ease and I wished that could be me but my belly formed too big of a barrier.
I mustered up enough will to attend the homecoming dance and prom but I didn’t have anyone special to go with so I went with friends and at the end of the night, instead of going to the backseat, I went back to my room and to my bag of chips.
I didn’t make out. I didn’t hug or hold or give anyone my class ring. I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely a lot. I was also full of acne, which increased my desire to dig a hole in my bed and wallow in it for all of eternity.
And without being taught by my parents, I learned about art and God on my own. Homophobia and racism and misogyny never made any sense to me. And frankly, neither did church. But I still put effort into God because I felt it was the right path to take and I felt the difficult into finding God must have had something to do with what all the preachers said about how terrible we all are as humans. But I didn’t need a preacher to inform me of my shortcomings. I knew that all by myself.
it is hard to live
when one is bereft of breath
while walking on lungs