Monday, September 08, 2008

What We Lose, What We Hope to Find Again

She told me what she misses most right now is the hugging. "No one hugs me here," she said. "I'm so lonely, and no one hugs me." She listed her new friends: "My roommate doesn't hug me. My friend doesn't hug me. My neighbor doesn't hug me. My classmates don't hug me. And I don't have visiting teachers, so they don't hug me."

"Do you hug them?" I asked, knowing, of course, that it was an unfair question. Unfair because I didn't really ask it to know the answer--if she was hugging in her new life, she would already have said so--and because I had wanted to imply that the solution was within her grasp. (Her grasp. That's funny.) My know-it-all/colonizing tendencies. I'm working on them.

"Well," she said, "I already instigate enough touching that I'm trying to be sensitive about it. Sometimes I give side hugs, and sometimes I put my arm around this boy I know. I don't want--I don't want him to get the wrong idea."

She and I were talking on the phone. It was late where we were, in the same time zone, in the same state, but not within six driving hours of each other. I wished my arms were longer.

I was okay with her living apart from me, I thought. We'd been roommates before we both moved. "I'm okay with you living apart from me," I said. "But only when I think that the people around you are treating you well."

"Oh, they are, they are!" she said quickly, then stopped. We were both quiet.

"Maybe I should start hugging them," she said. "Or scratching their backs in church, like I want to. Or playing with their hair when I come into a room and they are sitting down." She laughed. "What would I say to them, when they asked what I was doing?" She laughed again. I said, "You'd say--the human body needs to be touched seven times a day to be healthy." Touched positively, I thought. I didn't say it out loud. I figure she'd understand the distinction. "Launch your loving on them," I said. "I'm for."

Seven times a day. Here, where I am, in this few-week period when I'm between lives--between California and DC, just living in NY with my family--the touching for me is fine. My sisters and I are close, and we voluntarily squeeze onto couches, onto the benches around the kitchen table, onto the chairs at church. I get hugged well at church, too, by Jane B. and Marissa and a variety of other Relief Society sisters when I see them. They hug me often and tightly. In my home branch, I feel like a rock star.

But I'll soon be on my own, too. Making a new life in DC. I'll need to find new grocery stores, new Blockbusters, new places to buy sweet potato fries. I'll spend the first weeks, months, picking up new habits, routines, defaults. I'll refit my old things into new spaces: my mugs in new cabinets, my clothes in new closets, my oh-so-familiar face looking back at me from mirrors that shine and crack in ways that are new to me. And I'll have to find people to hug. To hug and be hugged by.

I've lived in DC twice before, and I already love my roommates there. So I will, I'm sure, have a leg up. An arm, I guess, if you will. But this moving and loving and need for touch.

What else am I going to find I've lost in the transition?

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