Stretching himself along my side, his head lay on my shoulder. Affection always makes me flinch. Hands and feet are one thing but lingering full body contact asphyxiates. Inside I squirm, feeling compelled to escape. I’ll say I’m having a hot-flash, my shoulder hurts under the weight of his head
— either one will serve to rescue. But I stay. Grit my teeth and pray, because loving others begins with loving yourself, and I’ve always wanted to want to be held. The prayer I’d been reciting for weeks floats to memory like marshmallows in milk: May I be kindly affectionate.
I didn’t know it meant this.
The hot-flash arrives
— the shoulder burns, but I don’t want to let go. I’m not having to stay — I want to. His soft warm skin of affection melts the rigid shoulders of uncertainty. I’m smiling and sweating and it blesses to be held, to be needed, to be affectionate.