632: Touch Cave
632: Touch Cave
I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
In 2004, I worked for a national wedding magazine in New York City. It was a good job for a lot of reasons, like, my boss was cool, I was left alone a lot, and the pay was decent. Still, when we were in the middle of big events, there was a lot of stress. We’d host enormous three-day events in various big cities for thousands of brides-to-be. The events would be scattered throughout the city at department stores, local boutiques, and huge hotel auditoriums.
We’d spend all day running from one event to another, making sure everyone was happy, fielding complaints, checking on venues, smiling, smiling, smiling. At the end of one long weekend in Chicago, I was so tired of being nice to strangers, of being helpful, of hearing, “Excuse me, do you work here?”
We were wrapping up one of the last events at a department store on the Miracle Mile and I was suddenly and without warning drawn to the dressing room. I walked into the dressing room stall and just sat there staring at myself in the mirror. I was not even thirty yet, but I was tired. I was tired of everything. I remember staring into my face in the mirror and then just bursting into tears. I was hugging myself and rocking a little and crying quietly.
And what can I say, it was…wonderful. I hadn’t realized that what I really needed after being so available twenty-four seven to my boss and to the attendees, was to be alone for only a second. To see myself clearly in the lights and to hold myself, to acknowledge my own exhaustion, to stop freaking smiling for a second. I still remember watching my face fall into, not a frown, but melt to neutral, and how good it felt. This sounds funny, but I’ll always be grateful to that dressing room stall and for the memory of what it was to find myself again.
In today’s tender poem, we see the speaker explore that necessity for aloneness, for self touch, and how sometimes you’re the only one who can offer yourself safety.
by Erika Meitner
I am no bird but I would like someone to cradle me the way a nest nestles its eggs & this airport bathroom stall almost comes through. In the new terminal everyone on my flight waited for a shuttle to Gate D because our good fortune at arriving somewhere like Gate 48, spit-shined & well- designed, couldn’t last. I didn’t see you on this island or in a hotel bed or on a train so I walked the wet streets. I went to a bar where they served drinks with names like Wakeup Call & Bark at the Moon. I touched myself the way a person presses a button on a soda machine that isn’t working— not the way you sweep the return with one finger for someone else’s left- behind change— I’m talking after you put your dollar in. You have a lot going on. We are all beholden to something. Every- one is so tired. Everyone is buffeted by the wind. No matter where I sit on this jet, I am over the wing.
"Touch Cave" by Erika Meitner. Used by permission of the poet.