Author | Kaya Lindsay 

In the time of covid, we are all longing for something.

We long for a night out at the bars, for a classroom full of friends and an in-person teacher, we long to see our families during the holidays, we long to sit comfortably at a restaurant with a loved one.

And we long to be held.

It’s the thing I miss most. The drought of physical contact is painful in a way I didn’t know I could hurt. I hear they call it ‘touch starved’.

It’s a term I’ve seen used online, once or twice in a clinical setting.

A woman in a white lab coat speaks excitedly to the camera. “The baby monkey in our tests will always choose the soft fake mother to cuddle with, even over the fake mother with food. These animals cannot handle being touch starved.”

How interesting, I had thought. How silly, not to choose food, the source of life, over a few scraps of cloth.

Today, as I sit alone in the cab of my car, I have plenty of food.

What does longing feel like?

I close my eyes and lean against the headrest. I don’t feel hollow inside. You would think this absence would leave me empty. Instead, I feel full to the brim. Like a mug of hot water just about to spill over the edges. The translucent crystal water tension is always close to bursting, but never quite able to pop.

Outside my car there are people who need me. There is traffic, and barking dogs, and postal workers on their way from house to house. But inside my car, with the doors closed, it is quiet. The sounds of the world are muted, and I am alone.

So I close my eyes and I remember the last time I was held.

I can smell the smoke of the campfire, and the color of the embers as they slowly burnt out in the night. I remember the feeling of the stubble on your cheek. I couldn’t see your face in the dark but I could feel you against me. Your hands were strong, and my body felt soft in them. It was so dark, the only light we had was the tiny blue illuminance of the charging headlamp by my bedside. In the dark you held my hands, you held my breasts, you held my legs, you held my waist, and then for a long time you simply held the weight of my body against yours. I fit snugly under your chin, my head resting contented on your chest, my fingers absently tracing patterns on your skin.

That whole night I barely saw your face. When we finally turned the light on I laughed to realize how handsome you are. You held my face and kissed me goodnight.

To me the night smelled like campfire, looked like embers, and felt like blue.

Blue like tranquility. Blue like calm waters in a sea of uncertainty. Blue like the color of the charging headlamp.

I open my eyes and I’m sitting in my car again. It smells like old pine, looks like a grocery store, and feels like grey. Your memory fades out through the cracks in the window and I am alone again. Starving.

I turn the key in the ignition and begin to drive home with a load of groceries sitting in the passenger's seat. A rumpled brown paper co-pilot who can only feed me.

I am the baby monkey in the lab. I am the fake cloth mother she holds. I am the plate of untouched food.

In the time of covid, we are all longing for something. The feeling of someone’s hand caressing your cheek, the taste of new lips against your tongue, and the weight of being held just as you are. As I drive home, I grip the steering wheel, and I long to be held.

But at least I have plenty of food.

Published December 2020

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