It has been one year since I’ve been properly hugged. I have never been a casual hugger, and yet it was this fact I kept coming back to as we approached the first anniversary of the pandemic. Or, rather, the fact kept coming back to me, swinging in like a wrecking ball, bringing with it the reality that I have had to survive 12 months of global death and uncertainty without the simple, basic, fundamental comfort of being held.
It is never lost on me that this sort of deprivation is, to some degree, a punishment inflicted on criminals, or at least the incarcerated. Or that extreme isolation is considered by many to be a type of torture. And while my life is by no means comparable to that of a person in solitary confinement, there have been many moments this year where the lack of human contact has certainly felt punishing. One year in, the fact I’m able to put an exact date on the state of my untouchableness has been surprisingly overwhelming. The number has added weight to this thing that has already felt unbearable.
Even under normal circumstances, it can be tricky talking about the difficulties of being alone without prefacing your experience with a slew of caveats. The pandemic has taken a baseball bat to the lives of almost everyone whose name is not Jeff Bezos, and especially to the livelihoods of women, particularly Black women and women of color. It feels easier to stay silent than to wade into the endless, futile conversation about who’s had it hardest during the past year, as if suffering were a limited resource with a finite amount of it to go around. We have all been suffering, in different ways.
Even with this awareness, I learned early on to limit my social media feeds and to trim out or mute photos of people embracing family members. Regardless of whether I was on the receiving end of multiple texts from some of these same people telling me how they were losing their minds while cooped up with their family, unable to step away from their children, reconsidering the decision to marry, to parent, or watching in horror as their careers slid away, I could not get past the simple fact they were being touched. Daily.