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Touching Distance
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During COVID lockdown nobody touched me. I mean, my husband touched me, a few intrepid friends would bump elbows (not the same), even my son who lives around here would not let me hug him. In those days, social distancing was a big deal, stores drew footprints on the ground so that we didn’t have to measure it ourselves which was both extremely condescending and very welcome, especially for us visual learners. I began to find it worrisome, even creepy, if someone strayed off their line more than a few inches and I had to really look at that quality in myself but at the time I believed that there was a real magic to that six foot spread. Surely no virus, no matter how fiendishly clever and determined would dare to overstep the six foot distance rule. Life cannot be so cruel!
I see the Dentist more or less once a year, twice for cleanings out of sheer habit and a terror of root canals. During lockdown I postponed my June appointment for three months. When I went in September my Dentist was in the midst of retiring and training a new replacement dentist, a nice looking, friendly, capable young man who examined me under my old Dentist’s supervision. He walked with me to the front desk as I made my next appointment (IF there was no new surge) he turned to me and instead of shaking my hand, he patted me affectionately on the shoulder several times.
It was an awkward move, somewhere between a hug (inappropriate) and a handshake (formal and also COVID), it was both homey and weird but I understood it completely. We had had a nice meeting, a friendly experience and we were searching, like some kind of panda/chimpanzee hybrids to find some gestural language in which to be both together and apart with someone who we think we like and even if we don’t, who is still breathing and who is within touching distance.

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