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Henry Wolf: The Torn Hat (Date unknown)

"We're here to touch and to be Touched in return."

By the time I've nearly completed repainting another stripe of wall, I've Touched every square centimeter of it several times. Looking at The Villa from down the street, it seems unlikely from that distance that anyone ever touched even once every square centimeter of that looming hulk, let alone touched it several times. The property deed and mortgage papers never mention the unsettling fact that the actual price of owning this place would be the willingness, the patience, to do precisely that, or to hire another to do it for me. I entered into the agreement willingly and ignorantly. I suspect that nobody ever understands such implications in the moment when making such commitments. Those consequences come later, well after the initial thrall disperses. Then, anyone might find reason to accept that they must have been crazy to sign such a contract, then set about making it good, whatever the price.

While I busy myself touching several times every square centimeter of this place, this place is touching back, because Touched seems a two-way arrangement.
What ever one touches, touches back, even the inanimate. I seem to muster up fresh requirements as I close in on finishing a stripe. I become more exacting as the ending nears, as if I was not quite ready to move on to the next stripe of wall, as if I was trying to avoid losing the uneasy communion I'd been engaging in there. This had been the most difficult stripe yet. It was busy with conduit and cabling, plenty of annoying little nooks and crannies. I kept finding spots where, in spite of what I'd considered my very best painting technique, undercoat or caulking still peaked through after applying the requisite two top coats. I was called back several times for more touch-up work, the sort that's more inconvenience than closure. These stripes end as annoyances, or threaten to.

I would rather warmly remember this work, as if it held real purpose, and as if it represented pride and joy rather than obligation expended. Of course it was both sensations, touching me as I touched it, finishing me as I attempted to finish it. It might be that it is not quite finished with me yet, either. An odd awkward cable, gnarled and over-painted, seems to need replacing. I won't touch it since it's our Internet signal's conduit and coax, a curious and unworkable cable requiring special tools and a firm belief in unlikely magic. I'll have the cable company deny my request or satisfy me. I'll be pleased to hire their somebody to touch those six feet of cabling for me.

This piece of work went even slower than the previous ones. Before, Spring rains slowed my progress. Now, July sun sends me cowering inside, into the shadows and out of the glare. I will not work up there when the planks are too hot for me to sit upon, when the glare disorients me as I stumble around on top without a railing. I want this inconvenience to continue, though. It's become a part of my life to the point that I'll have to invent some similar challenge to procrastinate from should I ever call this one done. This work only seemed overwhelming, like the original understanding that I would eventually be responsible for touching several times every square centimeter of this place. That expectation turns out to be eminently reasonable and easily achievable, requiring only the barest patience and the slimmest dedication. It almost happens as a matter of course, just in passing. Someone like me might even come to depend upon that expectation to give his tenancy some purpose, for letting anything be could not possibly be anybody's true occupation. We're here to touch and to be Touched in return.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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