I am grateful to the editors of such a fine online media outlet such as Thrive Global for publishing another article of mine, entitled The Power of Touch. Working where I work and doing what I do–I’ve made it a point to continue to write about my experiences during this pandemic. Having Thrive Global as another source to host my work is beefing up my “writer’s resume'” and I am incredibly excited about this fact.
Of all the things Coronavirus, COVID-19 has stripped away from us, touch is what I miss most. Being an affectionate person has its downsides, especially during a global pandemic. If you’re a single person and live alone as I do, the comfort of your home and all that’s within it is what you have—it’s all you have. I am grateful to have a small dog who allows me to pour my love into her and returns every ounce of affection I need. All I have to do is beckon her to me and my requests for kisses, loving paw-taps, and lap naps are eagerly given without protest.
While I appreciate my precious little four-legged fur-baby and her ability to connect with me on this level, she cannot replace the power of a human’s touch. As living—breathing sentient beings, we need touch. It is important for our overall health and well-being, and being forced to not take part in something that can sustain us is a hard blow to the heart and mind.
According to Maria Cohut, Ph.D., “Touching, and being touched, activate particular areas of our brain, thus influencing our thought processes, reactions, and even physiological responses.”
As a healthcare worker, a few things that allowed me to connect with our patients was to shake a hand, offer a hug, or lightly pat someone on the back if they were afraid, grieving, in pain, or simply needed someone to recognize that void and seal it up with a small dose of affection. Now, within my six feet of social distance, while wearing a face mask, gloves, goggles, and sometimes other forms of PPE, I cannot offer the one thing I grew accustomed to providing—human touch.
I have not seen my mother since March of this year. I have endured none of her long hugs, cheek kisses, or hand-holding in moments of being uplifted. I do, however, call her every day after my shift. I do this to give her the gift of my voice—to let her know I am okay, that I made it through another day. I appreciate having this mode of connection with her—that she can hear me, but it does not come close to what we established between mother and daughter: a bond that grew because of touch, because of affection. There is something about being able to lean into the comfort of one’s mother and gain a sense of relief from having done so.
To read the article in its entirety, please click here.
They’d tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen. I was drawn to her, like bees to honey — connected without thread and I knew once we kissed, that’d be the end of me. I remember the day we met. Her wild hair was blowing in the wind, her lips quivered and I wanted to place a single finger on them to steady their tremble.
It was a cold, blustery day, the sun decided to sleep in longer than usual. We met on the A-train. She entered from the platform and scanned the guts of the mighty beast headed East towards Grove Street. Her eyes landed on me. I moved my backpack from the only free seat remaining and she plopped her mother’s gift of an ass down next to me — thighs thick and welcoming. I tried not to stare. We were too close not to talk. I broke the ice.
“I’m Cash. What’s your name?”
“I’m Stormy. Weather. Stormy Weather.”
My eyes widened. I thought she misspoke or maybe I didn’t hear her correctly.
“You heard right the first time.”
“No shit!? So, there’s a story behind this, right? There’s gotta be a story.”
“If you wanna call two teenagers high off Quaaludes and weed, bumming it out in my dad’s bungalow, who named their firstborn while listening to Jefferson Airplane a story, then yeah. There’s nothing moving about it. They were young, high, horny, and there was a storm. Factor in my dad’s last name — Weather, and you’ve got ‘Stormy Weather.’”
I watched her mouth as she spoke. She had a chipped tooth. Her tongue also looked pierced. I didn’t wanna stare but I did.
“Stare harder and I’ll have to charge you.”
She smirked in a sexy, inviting way. I wanted to know more about this woman sitting next to me on the A-train. Where was she from? What did she like to do? Why did she smell like the first day of summer back in ’88?
So fresh and new . . .
“Anyway, enough about my name. Who gets branded with a name like ‘Cash’ and doesn’t talk about it?”
“We can talk about it. ‘Cash’ is short for ‘Cashion’. My last name is ‘Day’. If you want me to take it a step further, I’ll share my middle name too. ‘Free.’ So, ‘Cashion Free Day’ at your service.”
She was now the one staring and I gotta tell you, something in me stirred up quicker than I could tame it. She smiled and I noticed two deep dimples crown her cheeks. I waited for her to speak.
“Okay, so there’s a story, right?”
“Touché. My parents are hardcore activists and human rights officials. They spearheaded a non-profit organization, the whole nine . . . When I was born, they cashed in on their loan approval and sought freedom from the average 9-5 everyone else seemed to work. Thus, the names ‘Cashion’ and ‘Free’ were given to me. I have my mom’s last name. They never married, but they’re still together.”
“Well, what’s your dad’s last name?”
We laughed. A few people on the train looked up from their devices to catch us locked into each other. They quickly went back to ignoring us.
“Well, Stormy. The next stop is mine. When’s yours?”
“It’s mine as well. You wanna grab a bite to eat? My treat. I know this little soul food spot — a hole in the wall, but the collard greens and mac-n-cheese are heaven-sent.”
“How do you know I don’t already have plans?”
“I just know.”
“Oh? Is that right?”
“That’s right, cuz whatever plans you have, they’ve now been changed.”
She winked at me, that same smirk covering her face. I was gonna fall for her and there’d be no stopping it. The train came to a halt in the station. The squeaky doors opened and we exited. I turned to look at her in full view and that’s when it happened. She kissed me. Not just a peck on the lips, but an open-up-your-damn-mouth-and-let-me-in kiss. I fell in sync with her. My hands strayed away from my sides, finding her mid-back, then resting there. Her tongue was definitely pierced. I was in trouble.
“Here, lemme put my number in your phone.”
“When we’re done with dinner, you can call me to set up our next date.”
“You don’t waste any time, do you?”
“I don’t, especially when I want something or someone.”
She wanted me and I wanted her and all we had in common so far were crazy names given to us by our parents. Still . . . I was caught up and there was no turning back now, not even if I tried.
“Be careful. I might bite. Aren’t you even a little scared?”
“I bite harder. And no, I’m not scared.”
I am sitting in this god-awful butcher shop, waiting for the cuts of meat my mom ordered and a woman who looks just like Stormy walks by. I got a glimpse of her profile — no deep dimples. She stops to look into the windows — pork’s the special for the afternoon. Larry, the butcher, always puts a huge sign out with a list of specials and a bonus $3 off, if you can guess what the next day’s special is. This woman, although not Stormy, struck up so many memories of her within me.
I thought back to that first day on the A-train. How she moved fluidly — one with the world, without even thinking about it. And I smelled her. I could taste her. I remembered everything about each moment we shared.
Three years later, she left me for a woman she met on the #2-train named ‘Dawn Knight’ and I’ve had this damn dark cloud over my head ever since.
*Ping* “#15! Order up! A pound of steak, a pound of pork chops, and two pounds of thick-cut beef bacon.”
I recently had an article published in Thrive Globaland to say that I am excited about this is a serious understatement. I am grateful to the editors of such a fine online media outlet and will continue to submit work to them in hopes of those essays also being accepted and published. I will share a snippet of the article, This Is My Life Now with you here, then link you directly to it in its published form.
“As a healthcare worker, I know what lies before me prior to entering our doors for work. I know that my day could be a roller coaster ride, a pleasant happening, or an overall chaotic batch of insanity. The problem is, I never know which one will greet me and when. Since the brunt of the global pandemic of 2020 in March of this year, North Carolina has seen its share of turmoil and devastation. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), our total number of active cases is 95,477 as of July 17, 2020, and these numbers are rising steadily.
My official title is Patient Access Specialist and prior to the pandemic, I registered patients for their imaging and invasive procedures at a prominent imaging center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My role has shifted in the last few months and I am now the primary screener for our facility. What does this mean? I am the person who surveys patients by asking them pertinent questions linked to COVID-19 symptoms and checking their temperatures before they enter our waiting areas.
What I’ve found out in the last few months: No one tells you how to grieve when you’re a healthcare worker. They do not prepare you for the many emotions you may experience while doing your job. Since the middle of April, I’ve felt the following emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, fear, and disgust. I encounter a wide range of patients throughout my day. Some are oblivious to the severity of this virus, some are flat out stubborn and cannot believe it exists, and others are terrified of even the slightest communication from someone trying to ensure their safety. I have my work cut out for me for at least eight to ten hours each day.
There is no tiny bubble to where I can retreat and my feelings matter not when communicating with and screening a patient. What most of them see is someone before them intervening and disturbing their day when all they want to do is come in, have their services rendered, pay for them, and leave. Things have changed. Our lives will never be the same. Coronavirus, COVID-19 has stuck its toes in the everlasting waters of life and is here with a powerful force and for how long, we do not know.”
You can read the article in its entirety here. Thank you.
I have drowned myself in work — work that I love, work that makes me happy. And it is in the evening when night slithers its way in that I feel the pain of having loved so many years ago and lost. I know the heart is stronger than the credit we give it, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t take forever to free itself from pain.
And I am tired of waking up to thoughts of you, tired of feeling your lips pressed against mine, tired of wondering what you’re doing, how you’re doing, and if I still mean anything to you. I do and don’t want to be a factor. Why is it so hard? There shouldn’t be a plethora of questions on this subject. I should have a degree in broken hearts and delayed healing —
Love’s Recovery, 101.
You have moved on. You did so effortlessly and I am still steering a wretched ship that has no sense of direction without its captain. Throw out the life rafts. Man the exit points. I was bound to hit a few rocks along the way, but I am still out to sea.
Battered and unmanned.
I stare at my phone. I want to take a chance on sending you a text message but every alarm within me is set and red flags pop up whenever my fingers go searching through my contacts. Leave well enough alone.
And I do. I settle into the nightlife, ease myself into an escape route of books and words that are not my own, and remember that spells can be broken.