affection

Etymology: c.1230, “an emotion of the mind, passion, lust as opposed to reason,” from O.Fr. affection, from L. affectionem (nom affectio) “inclination, influence, permanent state of feeling,” from affec-, stem of afficere “to do something to, act on” (see affect (n.)). Sense developed from “disposition” to “good disposition toward” (1382). Affectionate in the sense of “loving” is from 1586.

“They’re out-cute-ing us,” I whined petulantly. Most men would recognize this as the girlfriend’s plea to demonstrate affection, to soothe her jangly nerves and reassure her that she was. Cusak laughed, and turned to one of the guys and offered to snuggle with him. I, unwilling to be outdone began snuggling with the girls indiscriminately, as if offended by the PDA I had seen, and trying to place it back in its social box.

But secretly, I have to tell you, I’m a sucker for it. I am an affectionate person. I snuggle randomly, capriciously, on a whim. I touch, I kiss, I hold hands with. I hug hello and goodbye, leaving all whom I have as much as a comfortable acquaintance with (much less true friendship) in a cloud of clove smoke and (most days) vanilla with my passing. It defines me, this public affection, this easily shown allegiance given through even casual gestures.

And I expect it from my lover.

Cusak admits to me that holding hands is big for him. That any public touch at all, however slight, is mountainous from where he was. That he fears losing me because this is a hurdle for him. And I smile, and nod, and promise I won’t leave him over this (I won’t, now. I never promise him the future, we’re both too cagey, too wary, too often betrayed by such promises to risk it.) I watch him sleep, I listen to his breathing, and even in the medicated silence of the late night I wonder to myself what I have to change about me. To make myself accept. To become perfect. To create a comfortable space for him to express affection, or a space in which I no longer care.

I poke at the exposed bit of this mentality, picking at the scab. Peeling it back to see if there’s fresh, pink skin underneath yet. But there isn’t. Inside, the five year old who is my id still feels unclaimed, unloved, unheld. Because no one sees her when she is. Because she is just accepted as a part, as naturally falling into place as his girlfriend as his t-shirt falls into place as a post-ironic expression of his sarcasm (“Smile, Jesus loves you,” the yellow smiley face proclaims).

It is the same part of me that recoils to know a friend of his, however far from my hearing dislikes me and refers to me even in passing as icky, the part of me that refuses to put her hands on her hips and do something about it, but instead sulks in the recesses of my mind while I tell her not to. While I rationally dissect the situation to prove to myself that she is just my id, and I owe her nothing. That the freudian complications of my emotional state are built up to give me something to be actively neurotic about, like breathing — an autonomic function.

There’s nothing resolved, we both just went to sleep.

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