Back in college, we were asked to write a paper about a favorite word. The class was Semantics. Semantics is concerned with meaning. Word meanings or meaning-making.
My word was touch.
My thesis, forgettable. But the experience of explicating this simple word… touched a few strings somewhere. For one thing, there was “the dark side” of the word to be discussed. As in when used in the context of hipo, a direct translation in Filipino. What does the word mean? In what contexts is the word used? How does it affect the word touch? I would have gone for salat, but that would have been too archaic(?). Hipo was simpler; hipo was more provoking. Hipo led me to a too-abrupt conclusion because of page limit.
But if I were given the chance to go multi-media, I would have dropped every word and settled the point with:
A nose, care of a good good friend (and I asked permission from her!)
This smiling dragonfly.
A sunflower. As excited as the graduates who donned their Sablay that day in 2011.
This goat-skin drum head. I use it to, as my brother and Mama would say, “call the ancestors” once in a while.
Our mama dog, Paola Bear (yes, that’s her surname). Glistening nose and all.
There are certain things I would relish to touch (a wet nose, for instance). Others, I could only dream of touching. When we say hipo or touch there is always a limitation, no matter the context. Touching a hand is okay with a friend or a lover. Touching oneself, that’s up to you. Where, when and why we touch are other things to consider. I would have loved to touch that dragonfly, but I would have disturbed its universe (“Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”*). I touch the drum head anytime I want to, because its mine. A touch is a loaded language. Touch where you are not invited and it becomes harassment. Deferring a touch could mean the death of relationships.
And when a physical touch means death, when it means regret, there are other ways of caressing. Words and photographs are two of these. Tell me if you find other ways.