During the ceremony of Mahākāla, Lama spreads his fingers slowly and makes a circular motion with his hands, finishing the movement by resting the pads of his thumbs against his forefingers. I’m reminded the film I watched last year, alone in my college dorm room, about Japanese funeral rituals; I remember Daigo, the young protagonist, how he’d traced a dead man’s face, so slowly, with his palms, in a still room, before covering him with a sheet. Watching Daigo on the screen, his hands, I’d been filled with a strange, gentle sweetness in the pit of my chest. Now I feel that same sweetness in my heart, light, but physical, insistent but impersonal, and I recognize it as purest love, so small, quick, instantaneous, so close to unbearable, catching me off guard and then lingering for years after as rarefied memory in the depths of every bone. Lama’s hands, Daigo’s hands; the red, blue, green and yellow divine, the white body, under the sheet. Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead.
Billy puts his arm around me. It’s so dark I can’t see two feet in front of me. His car, the surrounding mountains, the sound of crickets, the stars: these things define the space around me now. I’m shaking, not so much that it’s immediately perceptible, but enough to know that I’m not prepared for this. I am neither the many-armed god nor the body with closed eyes, not angelic or animalistic, and Billy’s hand is at the base of my spine, moving up my back to the strap of my bra.
I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I don’t want to be touched, but I do. I want to be touched with reverence, with emotion. I want to be touched like I’m wound into your heart, like I’m a wound of your heart. I think about it all the time. Solid, and warm, chemical, touch like talc, touch like titanium. Hands, hands; moving, circling. A typical person goes through three-hundred-and-fifty thoughts a minute, and I’m thinking sudden rain, fingers, magic, name the closest stars, name the five kingdoms, name the boy I loved wholly once upon a time, crop rotation, touch, fluids in the brain, touch, blood, touch, touch, romantic by nature, skeptic by choice, touch. I want to be touched like none of it ever matters.
Hands, hands; moving, circling, with that infinite and unconditional tenderness that men reserve only for their gods and their dead. I am neither, and Billy’s swallowing hard, and his hand is squeezing my shoulder.
When I was a child, I went to an exhibition at a local museum that I’ve never really been able to forget. Picture this: A thick, black curtain, a dark corridor, a door that, when opened, leads to a wide, high room, so large that I cannot remember where it ended or began. The room has white walls, and it is filled with prisms, of every shape and size, hanging from the ceiling, reflecting light, producing color. I stretch out my small hands; I do not touch. I walk through it, slowly, but fast enough that the whole thing is over than less than fifteen minutes. I’m telling you this because I’m trying to distract from the truth of the matter, which is: I want to be touched, but I never wanted Billy to touch me.