Sometimes, Oliver wakes up screaming. We wait — three minutes or five minutes or eight. We wait to see if it was a momentary disturbance in his sleep. When he starts to get louder, when the night can’t soothe him on its own, we head into the room. We look into the crib, and then place a palm on his back. We are free to move it about, but needn’t. The mere presence of our palm on his back is enough to end the terror. It’s enough to put his whole body back at rest. Enough to take him down, off his knees, to lull him back to sleep.
A couple of years ago, I wrote my old Italian boyfriend an email. I was short, and a little harsh. There was no kind opening; no ‘how have you been..?’ I opened and closed with four questions, all grouped together and bound within one run-on sentence. “Do you have a wife or child or home or job?”
That is literally all I wrote.
He wrote back, “I have no job, wife, no home and no children. You?”
Historically, I haven’t been a very touchy person. I’m definitely not a hugger. I’m good with shaking hands, but I’m better with eye contact. In an amusement park line once, I turned on Olivia, as she liked to hold hands, tickle, caress the face — to touch, in general. I had had enough. “We have touched enough for the rest of the day” was followed by “Seriously. Do not touch me again.” I’ve likened myself to Peter Pan. (In the original play, Peter states that no one must ever touch him, though he does not know why. And throughout the play, no one does.)
Just recently, I thought back to the email I had sent off to Italy those couple years ago. Why was I such a bitch? Why did I ask what I asked, and in such a way?
Well, I was a bitch because I wanted to be. Because in the past, he had hurt me. But I asked what I asked, and in such a way, because I was trying to get to the heart of a matter I didn’t know I knew.
What tethers you to the ground? What keeps you in this world?
What anchors you? What anchors you?
I can’t sleep too near Nic. I need my space. I sleep with my back to him. But every now and then, I can feel something like yearning coming from my spine and trying to cross the sheets between us. I’ll produce some sound, to alert him to some need. And then, I’ll wait for his hand to find what it can; to place its palm on my back. To hold me down. My anchorage.