I disappear one afternoon.
I’m five years old. My mother finds me in a neighbor’s closet where the neighbor’s five year-old son and I are showing each other our bodies and pressing our lips and fingers to one another’s in the dark. Tiny fingers that entered the world grasping for that magic. Tactile. Touch.
At five, shame has brushed me enough for me to understand that touch is to be explored in this way with the parts of us that ride beneath the surface of clothing within a private cloak of dark.
I’m no longer allowed showers with my father and my child brain is still wrapping itself around the reason why.
I follow that hum of curiosity into that closet with that boy and shut the door. Like a babe, I want to discover with my mouth. The ecstasy of contact.
The adults find us this way. I shudder with guilt.
My mother scolds me for disappearing.
The adults are laughing as we shuffle out the front door. Sunlight in my eyes. Shaky apologies on all sides. And me. Caught in a web of confusion.
I stay close from now on. I step on my mother’s heels as we walk through department stores. I hide in the clothing racks. Run my fingers over cashmere and polyester and the rough grind of jeans of varying lengths.
Peering through a wall of same-same sweaters, I watch my mother spin around to look for me. Little voice.
I’m here, mama.
Itchy fingers. I scan the walls for things to feel. Undiscovered textures.
I’m playing doctor at sleepovers.
What is touch.
What is this body.
I’m captivated by girls who own the same but different parts.
We take showers together and play mermaid. Soap one another’s hair.
My favorite game is when six of us are all fresh out of the bath and we roll on the carpet naked. We line up on the floor and the person on the outside rolls over the naked bodies of the others until each person in the line has gotten a roll. It makes us laugh until our bellies ache. High on the feeling of our bare skins touching.
If a press of a finger to a shoulder was a electric, we wanted to know what would happen if we could make the entire landscape of our bodies touch.
Sugar on the tongue. I can’t get enough.
My mother finds me at a birthday party in a corner where I’ve eaten all of my loot from the piñata. Taste. Touch. Taste. I’m exploding with nerve endings.
Hello body. Hello tongue. Hello skin. Hello touch.