632: Touch Cave

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.

Touch Cave
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.