Love, Loneliness & Lamenting the Loss of Touch

Isolation during the coronavirus prompted me to explore why touch is so important

Julia Knox
The Bigger Picture
4 min readSep 17, 2020


(Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash)

Living in New York City, I have always liked the subway. Packed together like sardines, I feel the intimacy of our shared frustration aboard the train.

I smile as we share the discomfort of our closeness, of commuting, of yet another signal delay.

Though perhaps half my head is adrift in an audiobook, I am wondering where you got your shoes, if you dream, how often you wash your sheets, if you have a cat. I experience the same smiling intimacy when attending a crowded yoga class.

I take secret pleasure in seeing my neighbor’s hand slip onto my mat while we flip our dogs. I allow myself to sink into our shared warmth.

Throughout my adult life, I have found myself seeking out little touches. I am prepared for the obligatory looks-askance when articulating such sentiments as if to seek touch is inherently lewd or perverse. To insinuate such is to insinuate that loneliness is perverse. “I am lonely,” I lament, longingly to a friend. “What? Why? Aren’t you with Jason? Is everything okay?” the friend replies, concerned eyes widening over the Facetime call.

I feel my shoulders resign, my legs tighten their muscles in anticipation of what feels like gathering ingredients in an empty kitchen.

(Photo by Dyu — Ha on Unsplash)

“Don’t you have anyone to talk to?” she asks.

I look down, to see that I am absent-mindedly holding my cat’s paw.

(Photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash)

I once attended a yoga class where we were suddenly partnered with a stranger for various poses. I was matched with a blonde woman, about my age, who wore an enormous diamond engagement ring and whose body had the fragile strength present in those who combine silicone with strength training.

(Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash)

I was terrified of “breaking” her.

Or that she would explode at me, accuse me of defiling her in some way that even I could not perceive, but that must be true. And yet, when she climbed onto my back for one of the poses, I sensed in her the same hesitant fear that I myself possessed. We aligned our hands while she kicked into a headstand, gigantic diamond and all.

In the times of quarantine, I recognize what a significant role touch has played in my life.

As someone who communicates best in writing, touch provided me with an in-person intimacy that feels impossible to replicate.

(Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash)

Perhaps I am so highly attuned to touch because I am so intimately acquainted with the empty space that surrounds us. Just as I feel the warmth of a touch, I feel the space now, the many spaces, where it is no longer there.

(Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash)

We live in a society where it is possible to watch another person’s death, and also not possible to safely touch the hand of your neighbor.

We should not be watching one another die.

Such a mismatch in intimacy feels almost immoral.

We should be finding ways, though perhaps now not physical, to touch one another, however we can.



Julia Knox
The Bigger Picture

Poet-Hearted Social Scientist. I write, therefore I think. |