It's been a long time. I keep a record. I can tell you it has been well over a year now. Ideally, I'd like a loving partner to hold me through the night. That's what I think about when I hug my pillow as I fall asleep. A friend. But that's ideally. I also know how unrealistic the ideal can be. How unrealistic it is. It's not like I've given up, but at this point, I'm a few stages away from that kind of fulfillment.
There hasn't been a hug. There has rarely been a close encounter in which my personal space is lightly brushed. I savor these moments as if they were deep embraces. There's no point in lying: I've never been lucky in the way of people wanting to touch me. It's the stink. My mother didn't want to touch me, though my sister was not above it from time to time.
The last time I had what I would call contact--real, undeniable, intentional contact--was last year. A Ford Escort rolled in smoking from under the hood. An older guy got out, and he looked really scared. He was kind of shaking a little bit, and his eyes were bigger than normal. I figured he must have been driving that thing a mile up the hill to the station here, with smoke pouring out of it, waiting for it to explode at any second. He got out and walked away from it as fast as his age and stature permitted, and then he just stood there, looking at it. Wearing a suit in the middle of summer, with all the excitement, he was sweating like crazy, just staring at the car, smoking away.
So I walked over, turned off the engine and popped the hood. The oil cap wasn't on and there was oil everywhere, burning up like crazy. With every crank of the pistons, the oil had been spurting all over the engine. I didn't have a cap for the guy and it was Sunday, so I filled the engine up, and duct taped over the hole, leaving a little space for pressure to escape.
The little man looked so relieved, I was sure he thought he was going to die. I don't think he could believe that I had fixed it. Before he got back into the Escort and drove away, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a green bill, puting it in my right hand. Then, keeping his hand pressed against mine, he covered the back of my hand as well, giving my hand a warm, grateful shake.
That was the last time. Sometimes, I relive that moment. I imagine the look of respect and gratefulness on his face, and I press one hand against the other.
It's maybe not the same, but I do what I can.