I sit on the sofa’s edge, rigid, hands on knees, feeling lost to myself. He sits beside me, carefully reaching out his left hand and resting it gently on my shoulder. I flinched, the touch breaking my resolve to feel nothing. Though I do feel myself still braced, defending, holding back. Not allowing myself to believe, to relinquish guard or defense.
His fingers lightly massage the tight muscles of my upper back, kneading tension. Now switching to the other side and continuing the pressured touch.
I am still rigid yet on the brink, tipping over a ridge, wary of the canyon below. He offers what I want to receive, longed for. But I have held myself in the stasis of protection for so long I am not certain what life might be without this protective shell. In the face of extraordinary pain, I have shut myself off, wrapping around me didn’t inability to feel touch.
Here, now, is an offer from someone who knows my pain because he too had wrapped himself away from the world. Exactly how we have come to this crossroads, I don’t know for certain. A passing remark from me, a response from him, then a question. A half shrug from me and a lonely tear down my cheek. Now his fingers on my shoulder.
It’s been several years since anyone has intentionally touched me. The occasional bump in a crowd, a massage, a friend’s quick hug. I’ve closed down and not sought what I was afraid I wouldn’t find or would never be offered. Pushing the lonely ache deeper, beyond every day reach.
Now his finger is at the base of my neck lightly pushing at tight muscles yet leaving the choice to me. That lonely ache beginning to fully emerge, asking for relief, asking for my belief that I will be better for the release and the surrender.
I shift, allowing my arms to soften, to push back against the fingers, slightly, asking silently for more. He continues his motion up the back of my neck. I can feel the warm pads of fingertips and arm strength behind. I lift my head and stretch as warmth radiates in my skin. I stifle a small sob and fall into a heap on my knees, no longer able to resist the kindness of his touch.
Gentle hands settle on both sides of my shoulders and gently pull, inviting a newness. I allow him to pull me up and guide me into the circle of his arm, my body gingerly touching the side of his.
Tears fall as the push to not feel releases and a cascade of physical response drips and then gushes. I turn in to his arm, laying my head on his shoulder, limp, sagging, sensing unused neurons finally firing and feeling the warmth of body next to body.
My feet come off the floor and I snuggle deeper into his offered touch. A sense of deep, needed connection surging forward. Arms gathering me in, body offering the sanctuary of touch. Skin close to skin. A hunger arising to be fed by the simplicity of gentle holding and acknowledgement.
Relief washes over me. Comfort quietly asserts as he pulls me closer into his embrace. His chin lightly grazes the top of my head and fingers gently brush my hair. Tears have finished to be replaced by a growing contentment. He moves his legs, stretching along the sofa seat until he is under me. Now our touch is full length and his arms pull me into his chest. Instead of retreating, I follow, sinking into the long-ago sense of safety, now somewhat restored.
To be held, to be touched—a longing so strong and pushed away, holding myself aloof. Without touch, I hurt, I ache.
Now his warmth brings me back and for this moment I can feel and I’m satisfied. Fully touched, heart opening, hope restored.