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disruptions & care
footnotes on touch
“Care is a disruptive thing because it frees the analytic of the world from a state that is overdetermined. And so, those of us who still want love in the couple form dwell in the instabilities of caring for that which also has the power to undo us. But always, with care, we perform high-stakes processes of world-making—in the hope that, in our dying days, we might feel freer.”
Katie mails A History of My Brief Body to me and says she bought a copy for herself so we can read it together. Together: Two-ness, one-ness, coupling, decoupling, copying, mirroring, paralleling our simultaneities, refracting our separation through frissons of communion. What love makes of intimacy is constituted by these encounters of self/other, when the question of who witnesses who collapses into mutuality. Half of the time I go to retrieve our mail, there is a missive from her and I thrill at seeing her name because I remember she wrote it, that there is a person I love who folded the paper I will read along its creases.
When I text my friends, I tell them I can’t wait to hug them in two years. When I see Nathan at City Hall, we wrap our arms around our own bodies and pretend it is enough. A friend shares a poem about having quarantined for 100 days, alone, and speaks of how the movement is what poetry we enter into.
In absence of physicality, what becomes tactile between us is stolen touch — the brush of someone’s hand when you turn suddenly, reading a letter smudged from ink and spotting a berry stain, being close enough to another body to feel the hum. We talk about being touch-starved in a pandemic but what I want is to dissipate into another — I miss the perpetual blur of self when a friend you have not seen pulls you into their arms. It is not erosion I am after, but reconstitution, the way being redoubles presence when separation ceases, while still forming the frame for which to understand this gap bridged by two hands.
Two months into lockdown, one of our roommates moves out, leaving Jenna and I to patch together our solitude both shared and singular. In our house made of several rooms, the doors are open and the windows open and the sound of music from across the street makes clocks out of our days. After yoga at 3, the Church two streets down tolls bells for three minutes while the ice cream truck pauses outside our steps. I start taking audio recordings of what is happening throughout the day — bottles clanking, new leaves stretching, people cheering at 7, pots clanging, all these things enlivened by the sense that someone is behind their happening, even if only the wind.
When the improbability of leaving our homes mid-pandemic becomes the impossibility of staying inside, when we double our masks and pack hand sanitizer and get swabbed as often as possible at our city clinic to make sure we are still able to take to the streets, the mutuality of love and the demands of care multiply our movements into generative touch. At Stonewall, when the Queens clack their fans and we stream through tables of people drinking rosé, I swear our bodies are no longer limited by our limbs but instead become ribbons knit to air, unfurling and yet tying us together.
At City Hall, Nathan and I sleep with our heads on our backpack, next to the first seedlings of the garden. When we wake at 3 to the sprinklers, and then at 5 to the sun, our bodies have ceased to be separate things, but knees touching, arms resting, breath regulated by breath.
In a time when touch is un-touch, and desire dissuaded by evasion, the improbabilities of us reaching each other feel so vast, and yet, what we risk in presence is the limit to what care requires. The bikers, who park their bodies between us and the cops. The people who park their car at Chambers and unload pallets of water to pass over the fence. The Black women leading the marches, the chants, the occupations, the resistance, and feeding folks while they do. The fridges set humming on street corners and filled with food by folks every day, and the way love must say, take and eat. Must make homes and tend to health as joy, must dismantle corrupt legality and abolish policing, must build tarps against whatever encroaching weather threatens peace, must body the kind of resistance mandated by belonging.
We bump elbows and sometimes, make of our arms a net. My friends create networks for abolition information, protest safety, cyber security protection, aftercare. I feel their fingerprints on every decision I make though we are too far away to hold each other.
To be undone is to become yourself a rend, an interruption, a disruption, a rupture of the boundaries dailiness makes of our I’s. Porosity means probable dissemination of potentialities, both terrible and wonderful. The CDC recommends if you must have sex, to wear a mask, to not kiss. Our mouths burden the air with possibility we pray make beginnings, make better futures. We yell in the rain knowing that our masks are wet and less capable of filtering the other from us, yet we yell and let it come. When I shower off the day’s body from my own, I make prayers from the dirt, the suds, the places the sun limned my body against another’s.
“I am human, enough I am alone and I am desperate,
enough of the animal saving me, enough of the high
water, enough sorrow, enough of the air and its ease,
I am asking you to touch me.”
To be undone is to rest in perpetual unraveling and to believe in what web sustains you while resisting the urge of completion as stasis. To care is to enter into the unending nature of the work, to shift, adjust, amend, show up, practice persistence as responsibility (as it is). And then do it again. And again. It’s only in this action and mutuality, this accountability, that we disrupt the limits placed on our communities, that we engage in this world-making which is the responsibility/invitation of care. The way we touch.