Daily Practice ~ Touch
After all these months of social distancing, masks, and isolation I’ve found that even watching people on tv casually touch each other, hug, gather in groups and so on to be almost anxiety inducing. I started thinking about a first foray into a newly social world post-pandemic. Here’s where my brain went…. Also – I’m going to try to get back to my daily practice, so hopefully you’ll start seeing more posts, though this one took me three days to wrap up.
Crys sits in her car, hands still on the wheel, staring out into the softening light at the gathering. It isn’t as large as some she’s been hearing about, maybe twenty, and all people she knows in one way or another. Still she lingers, struggling with the echoes of the last eighteen months. Even for her, solitary in nature, the pandemic pushed her to the edge. And now she’s to go out and mingle, chat, and otherwise enjoy an evening, mask free, with friends.
“Just get out of the car,” she grumbles at herself. The door groans when she swings it open and she sits with her sandaled feet on the ground, dragging her mind away from fretting. She can smell the grills churning out delicious food underscored by the tiki torches burning citronella and the persistent scent of the ocean. The smells fill her with a strange mix of homesickness and comfort.
“Hey there.” The familiar voice pulls her out of herself and she looks up to find a woman smiling at her. “Crys?” The smile is as familiar as the voice and there’s a strange stretch of reality as her brain tries to piece together phone calls, video chats and masked outings into the woman waiting for her to answer. “Crystal?” Her voice is hesitant.
“Oh god, please, no, just Crys, Annabelle.” Crys stands and returns the other woman’s smile. Annabelle laughs and there’s a taut moment before she closes the distance between them.
“I get to hug you now, right?” The words barely register for Crys. Annabelle is close and getting closer and the litany of the pandemic Mask. Maintain social distance repeats over and over in her head. It takes an effort for her brain to shunt the now unnecessary warnings to the side. She steps into the embrace, wrapping the other woman up in a tight hug.
It’s dizzying. Crys’s heart races and when she inhales deeply to try to calm herself her brain is full of Annabelle’s scent, soap and perfume and ….something. “God you smell good.” The words are out before she can catch them and a low chuckle rumbles her friend’s chest and Crys’ breath catches when Annabelle nuzzles behind her ear.
“You smell good, too.”
They step apart and their hands drop and with the lack of contact between their physical bodies Crys feels like they’ve lost every bit of the intimacy they built over months and months. She wants to step back inside Annabelle’s personal space and stay there all night. She can’t figure out how. Annabelle’s smile is wistful and almost sad.
“Shall we join the party?”
Crys moves through the party and somehow manages not to flinch every time someone hugs her. Annabelle’s presence is gravitational and Crys finds herself moving through the various conversations in an orbit around the other woman’s movements.
How is it that she feels like a stranger, with so many hours spent together? It feels strange, in the flesh, to have all her expressional cues to read. Does that dimple really tuck into her cheek so easily? How did she not notice that on their video chats? Crys haunts Annabelle, watching, reading, deciphering.
Crys can’t help but compare it to fishing when their gazes snag. One moment she’s scanning the party and the next Annabelle is there, right there, and Crys can’t seem to move past her eyes, hooked on the lure of the other woman. The smile she receives warms her from scalp to soles and she misses the heat of it as soon as someone steps between them and breaks their connection.
Sunset rolls over the party, then dusk, then the deepening blues of twilight press against the torches and lamps and strings of lights. Crys is coming up against a new limit on her endurance – it’s been so long since she’s needed to be social this way. Her skin is hypersensitive; her ears are fatigued; her eyes ache from tracking so much movement and she’s retreated to the far side of the gathering where the shadow reach in and the music is less overwhelming. She perches on the top of a picnic table, her elbows on her knees, bourbon cupped in her hands, looking away from the party, watching instead the erratic dance of fireflies.
“Here you are.” Crys looks over her shoulder and finds Annabelle leaning against the end of the table, her own drink in hand, her gaze assessing and penetrative.
“Here I am,” she answers and turns to perch on the other side of the tabletop. Annabelle steps up onto the picnic table and slowly lowers her body to the surface behind her, legs to either side of her hips, just shy of touching.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve wanted to be able to touch you?” Annabelle whispers and a hand strokes the length of Crys’s spine so very slowly. Months and months with so little contact and now her nerves sing at the slightest touch.
“Since just after New Years,” Crys answers, almost confident. Annabelle chuckles and her other hand joins the first and spread across Crys’s shoulders.
“You might be right,” she answers and Annabelle’s legs flex in Crys’s peripheral vision, pulling her closer, erasing the space between them. Crys sighs at the contact, warm and close and soft. She leans back into Annabelle and observes the orbits of the partygoers instead. “Is this ok,” Annabelle asks against the curve of her ear. Crys nods and she slides her arms around Crys’s waist and rests her chin on her shoulder. “This too?”
“It’s perfect.” Crys answers with the blunt honesty that had developed between them on their phone calls and blushes hotly. “Umm..” she starts to retract and is squeezed in a hug.
“Don’t backtrack,” Annabelle’s whisper is little more than a brush of lips against Crys’s neck and she shivers. “Please. Stay.” Crys slowly relaxes back into Annabelle’s embrace and her head ducks in a nod alongside hers. “Look. Sally and Devon are dancing around one another, did you notice?” The lips moving so close to her neck are beyond distracting and Crys squirms inside the circle of Annabelle’s arms. Every bare bit of flesh is alive with the nearness of another person, of Annabelle, and even the subtle flutter of her heartbeat is a caress. “So are Amy and Beth. We should have all placed bets on post-pandemic pairings.” They laugh together and Crys is caught between the relaxed and familiar banter and the frisson of attraction.
Crys is trying to track the different emerging couples but Annabelle is drawing soft circles on the outside of her forearm. A torch gutters, flares, gutters and goes out and they’re suddenly in a deeper pocket of shadow. “I think a lot of people are filling their dance cards after the last months,” Crys turns slightly and murmurs and her breath seizes in her chest when Annabelle brushes her lips against her cheek oh so close to the crease of her mouth.
“Hoping we’re doing so,” Annabelle murmurs and Crys surrenders to the soft glide of her cheek against hers. The shadows make her brave and she turns sideways in the other woman’s grasp. Annabelle’s eyes are so dilated there’s little more than a gray ring around the pupil and her gaze is fixed on Crys’s lips when Crys lifts her hand to cup her jaw. She drags her thumb along the curve of Annabelle’s lower lip.
“Might be a bit beyond dancing,” Crys answers and her voice is all raw and husky in her own ears.
“Goddess, I sure hope so,” Annabelle whispers and their mouths collide like storm systems. The zing of contact is a lightning bolt to Crys’s nerves and the intensity makes her lightheaded and dizzy. It’s all pent up frustrations and late night wishing and early morning missing and so much time with six feet and two masks between them. Crys’s teeth catch Annabelle’s lip and she gasps into her mouth. But it’s when the urgency eases and the crush of their lips shifts from bruising to tender that she’s undone. Annabelle’s kisses are soft, lush, and so very yielding. Her fingers are already twisted into Crys’s hair and when they shift from a frantic grip to a stroke along a sensitized scalp she moans into the kiss.
Crys opens her eyes an eternity later and they’re surrounded by nothing but fireflies. The last of the torches has stuttered out, the bonfire is little more than a somnolent pile of coals. A handful of people remain in tight clusters of varying intimacies on the far side of the picnic area. They both look out into the night, caught for a breathless moment in the mating ritual of the bioluminescent insects.
“Take me home.” Their voices twine together and they laugh, low and intimate, as they climb from the picnic table, scattering fireflies in a wake around them. Annabelle curls her arm around Crys and they wade into the night, trailing eddies of glowing courtship.