It has been 21 days since I have touched someone.
For most people, touch has taken on a whole new meaning. Seven days ago, an Amazon box arrived at my doorstep, and this pretty much sums up the incident:
Picking up the Amazon box, putting down the Amazon box, walking into the house to get my Clorox spray, disinfecting the Amazon box, washing my hands for 20 seconds for having touched the Amazon box at my doorstep, opening the Amazon box and touching the plastic wrap inside, washing my hands for another 20 seconds for having touched the plastic wrap, touching the bottle of olive oil and dish soap inside the Amazon box, washing my hands for another 20 seconds, disinfecting the olive oil and bottle of dish soap, discarding the Amazon box and plastic wrap and disinfecting the counter that touched the Amazon box and plastic wrap, as well as the front door knob, and finally, washing my hands for another 20 seconds.
When the next Amazon box arrived days later, I had the procedure down like a GM assembly line: I unwrapped everything outside, disinfected my products outside, used a wipe to open the door to enter my sterile apartment, and washed my hands ONCE for 20 seconds. I have mastered opening Amazon boxes without spreading this deadly virus. Rest assured your grandma is safe with me. Mundane routines like this is what I’m most proud of nowadays, which keeps my mind off of touch and hugs. But it’s nearly impossible to not think about touch and hugs because the body craves more what it has been denied.
A Double Helix Embrace
In tango, we dance with strangers from all over the world at local milongas, marathons, and festivals. Most often, we forget the names of our favorite dancers, even forget personality traits or physical traits; however, we never forget the way our favorite dancers embrace us; it is their finger print, a single DNA strand imprinted on our chest, that fleshy layer of skin, muscle, and bone that encapsulates our heart. Dancers will travel hundreds or thousands of miles to reconnect with a beloved dancer to complete that double helix of pure joy.
After three weeks, my heart aches for a double helix. I can’t help but recall my last practice session with one of my practice partners. I lead as well as follow. For this practice session, I was working on my leading. After about two hours of tango fundamentals, basic walking, and rehearsing a simple sequence from my Buenos Aires library of tango videos, I asked my partner if I could show her something. I asked, “Do you want to know what it feels like to embrace dancers in Buenos Aires?” Of course, she said yes, enthusiastic to learn some bottled imported secret from Argentina. I embraced her as I normally due, heart to heart, my right arm wrapped all the way around her back. But this time, without any tension or strain, I left no room between our embrace for any doubts or hesitations. I asked her to take a deep breath with me and let go of her embrace; let go of what it’s supposed to look like; let go of what it’s supposed to feel like; let go of letting go. Just be with me.
From my Apple Watch, I started “El Adiòs” by Angel Vargas and started to walk. With each breath, each phrase, each pivot, I could feel our embrace coil, soften, and expand while Angel Vargas wailed in his suffering about a lost lover. Phrase after phrase, while staying on axis, I could feel her body settle more and more into my chest like a sleeping toddler. For the first time, I could feel her entire spine coil; I felt the gravity of her right thigh in a back ocho, the pencil point of her foot as she connected to the ground. Our embrace was like a motherboard and I could feel absolutely everything in her body. There were no secrets between us. Nothing to hide.
After our 3 minutes expired, when the song finally ended, we stood there–silent–coiled and breathing. I could not let go. She did not let go. Before I could make sense of what happened in those 3 minutes, I began to sob, but this time, she held me like a mother soothing a fallen toddler in her arms. The next Vargas song began to play on my playlist. She modified the embrace, and this time, I followed while she led. Phrase after phrase, as the tears dried, I slept in her arms–coiled and breathless.