The Palm of Proprioception
The sense of touch arrives early, long before the others,coiling itself inside our small selves when we are still swaddled in the comfort of pre-memory and fishtailed time. And so too does hang on until the bitter end, clinging to our skin long after eyesight and hearing fades, long after the taste of food dulls, long after the scent of a loved one’s clothes wheedles away into the particled air. Rest assured, it will haunt us even in our final hours when the cool night air floats into our empty rooms to shroud our failing lives. Touch, you see, is not just about love, consolation, sex, or need. Touch is the heat of others pulling at the spine-needled compass within, telling us who we are, where we are, and when. Direction is the meat of this unassailable craving, sewn into every thousandth millimeter of us from the instant we enter the cold air of the world, held up in a doctor’s hand, placed near another’s body, our naked skin lit—if we are lucky—by the light-like pulse of another. You know the stories: the infants whose lungs shut down from lack of another’s touch, who die lying in their sun-lit incubators, barred from the grief of those who press their fingers against walls of glass. People die every day for lack of what is found there. How many of us hunger for what others take for granted? A brush of a hand in ours as we cross a street? A palm pressed against a back as we move through a door? A pair of legs intertwined with ours in the night? A body on ours in an open-wide dawn? When touch doesn’t arrive, radars fail. Vessels drift into Bermuda triangles, where there is no way to know which way is under and back and down. But even then— when magnetic fields scramble sense—the dream of direction continues: reveries of bodies floating to calm island waters, where every inch of flesh is warmed, every organ gloved, where our whole selves are cradled in the boats of furnaced hands, rocking, rocking, rocking.
Andrea Witzke Slot Winner of Fiction International and Able Muse’s 2015 Prizes in Fiction, Slot is author of the poetry collection To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012) and a recently-finished novel titled The Cartography of Flesh: in the Silence of Ella Mendelssohn. Recent work can be found in such places as The American Literary Review, Meridian, Crab Orchard Review, Fiction Southeast, Bellevue Literary Review Nimrod, and Mid-American Review, while her academic essays on poetry and social change can be found in anthologies published by SUNY Press and Palgrave Macmillan. She lives in London and Chicago. Her website is located here.