I Believe in the Reality of Touch

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Many people say “I’ll believe it when I see it,”
But I believe touching things is what makes them real:
Feeling the water soak into my shoes after I step into a puddle
Makes the rain real.
Brushing my fingers over the imprints of the words
pressed into a friend’s letter
Makes their meanings real.
Compressing all the tiny air pockets
In my bed’s memory foam pad with the weight of my body
Makes my end-of-the-day exhaustion very real.

Yes, I believe that touching physical objects
Can make even the intangible feel concrete.
I am reminded of this every time
My dreams of reuniting with an old friend
Come true
We approach each other,
Crossing our arms over and under,
Pulling each toward the other:
My arms over their shoulders,
Their arms ‘round my rib cage,
Pressing the sides of our faces together
As if everything we want to say to each other might escape right out of our
And be exchanged between our ears like blameless prisoners,
As we hold our bodies close,
Forming a bond so tight
That our hearts might fuse and beat as one;

Embracing makes friendship real.

Hugging someone is one of the greatest expressions of love there is.
Think about your spouse, a sibling, a friend, or a parent—
The label of the relationship doesn’t matter.
I’m thinking about my best friend
Who hugged me for what seemed like hours
On the last day we spent together
Before he moved away
The summer before my senior year of high school.
I’m thinking about my aunt—my dad’s sister—
Who won’t let you leave without a hug—
And who won’t let you get away with a wimpy one.
The idea of caring enough about someone
To want to bring them as close as they can possibly be to you,
Without actually being a part of you—
For me, it means I’m making sure they actually exist.
Making sure they’re not just an image in my head.
Because “image” is only two letters away from “imagine.”

Sometimes it’s enough for me
Just to be able to think about a person:
To remember their voice, to imagine their face.
But when my face is next to that face,
Absorbing the warmth of their body
Is like the soft ring you hear
As your finger skates around the edge of a crystal wine glass,
Which tells you:
This is real.

For many people,
It may take a warm smile or a kind word
To believe in a friendship.
But for me,
I’ll believe it
When I feel it.

-Jake Russo


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