On a regular basis, I fib to Tom. You see, I really like to sleep with Nutmeg curled up by my feet -and on occasion, I like a new pair of heels even if they don't get much action- and T most definitely does not. When we first adopted Nutmeg, and forgot to close our door, he would sneak in and join us in bed. This was sweet until just before 6am when, without fail, he would begin biting Tom's toes through the comforter. I do not recall him ever biting my toes; he once nipped my nose which, while surprising, was kinda cute. I'm not saying he loves me best, but then again, maybe I am.
Anyway, T was very patient but finally and emphatically declared our room a Nutmeg-free zone come bedtime. I decided to give him some time before attempting to embezzle my cat back in.
T has a very finicky internal thermostat, and when he's on his way to the wonderland we call Sleep, he does not like to be touched or even "encroached upon." Yes, those have been his very words. When we married, he pleaded for a king-sized bed and has since basked in its expansive size. He knows I'm there but feels like an island too, and he likes that.
I myself like a bit of snuggling, so Cat seems like a clear fix. And he is. And so I lie. I know that if I say I'm just gonna nuzzle Nut a bit more before tossing him into the hall, T will fall asleep confidently. He does, I don't put Nutmeg out, and there you have it. This works for all of us really, except when Nut is seized with hunger, and then he claws and bites our comforter. I'll be honest, that is annoying. We have a dozen holes to prove it.
The other night, the house quiet but for the snore of T and the muted purr of Nut, I lay in bed contentedly. My right hand rested lightly on Nutmeg's torso, rising and falling with his cadenced breaths. Our blinds were tightly shut, but a full moon, shining like the most magnificent bulb, beamed in with such earnestness and determination that our room was brightly illumined.
I thought, while surrounded by people and pets I love and accompanied by the steadfast moon, of the power of touch and proximity, both literal and figurative. Of the incredible rarity and value in things that are unfailingly there. The friend who knows intuitively that you need her and who shows up without asking, stays without complaint, and simply holds your hand. The partner who envelops you in a hug and doesn't try to solve but only be present and offer a shoulder, an ear and some fighting words if need be. The pet who wants nothing more than your nearness, your hand brushing his fur affectionately ever so often. Of Nanny, whose hands radiated peace and love and everything-will-be-ok'ness. And the memory of her which still does all that.
I considered just how intimate silence can be, how much can be said within its spaces. We laud extroverts and networkers and connectors for the ways in which they bring people together; I am one of them in many ways and proud of it, but I'm repeatedly grounded and rejuvenated by more silent connections.
Nutmeg stirred briefly, but my hand remained, a bit of flotsam riding the waves of his undulating ribs.
I thought of Yen, the woman from whom I get pedicures, who always starts by placing her hands on my feet, looking me in the eyes and asking, "How are you, Emily?" She asks like she means it, and I answer because I mean it too. We are so unable to speak to one another because I have zero skill with Vietnamese and she is only slightly better with English, but through regular interactions and smiles and clasped hands (and feet) and mangled attempts at verbal communication, we have grown quite fond of each other, and I find our goodbye hugs some of the warmest and loveliest ever. I know that her 90+ year old mother is frail but getting by. I know of her daughter and that they're close. I know that she knows how much I care for her and perhaps she even senses that she reminds me of Nanny. I know this because we are there with each other.
I considered how Nutmeg now takes walks with Percy and me. He is off-leash (hell, he's even lost his collar) and sometimes ventures from our path. But he always finds us, following to and fro, keeping us in his sights. I used to be so scared of him running away or leaving, but I realize now that he won't. He'll always return to the loving hands that await him, those hands that comfort him now. We all would.
There is so much to be said about experiencing others in the most basic and real of ways. Not through the film of shoulds or the veneer of social media, but in the flesh, really and truly. To simply see others and be with them honestly, as the moon or a faithful pet or happily entrenched memories are.