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Rant #85
(published Early, 2002)
Toward a Unified Theory of Touch
by Manish Raiji

"The way you touch me . . ."

It was too serious!

"This is too serious. Seriously."

Anything that begins with "The way you touch me . . ." is automatically under suspicion. It is a sign of intensification, deepening, begging for more. Too rich for my blood; take the ante, I'm out.

But the touch? We were lying, half-nude (semi-nude, I like semi-nude better; it sounds poetic). We were lying, semi-nude, lacking only cigarettes to finish off this perfect movie-scene, post-coital appearance. And she starts with this "The way you touch me . . ." shit. What shit!

But have we touched, do I touch her, did she touch me?

I have become obsessed lately, having been inundated with quantum physics and particle motion. Did you know that light is considered both a particle and a wave? It is a particle, yes; it has mass, can be measured - but it is also a wave. Photons, in essence, are more confused than my very Protestant roommate who cannot simply admit how he feels - yes, in fact, I was checking out that guy's ass - because they are torn between being physical and being ethereal. Light, in my humble estimation, needs to consult a therapist.

But atoms, too, the brick-and-mortar of everything we see and touch (do we touch?) are also difficult to wrap one's brain around. Because atoms do not touch, unless they are blowing up Japanese people or making my lights hum. If atoms touch, things explode.

My arm is under her head, her brown hair (very straight and smelling faintly of Suave, a fact I know only because I have seen the bottle in her shower, a brown Balsam and Protein bottle, not because I am a connoisseur of cheap shampoos. It is the same brand of cheap shampoo that my mother used; this girl really ought to use something more haute couture, more sophisticated, if she wants to get talking about "The way you touch me . . .", or at the very least, if she must use cheap shampoo, don't use the kind that my mother, of all people, used) on my shoulder and teasing my chin (very irritating if I breath through my mouth, because I get a chunk of it between my lips and find myself having to spit it out - quietly so she will not notice and get embarrassed or, worse still, think I'm some kind of sexual delinquent who eats girls' hair).

But is her head touching me? Is her hair really teasing me?

Again with the quantum physics. Atoms, I have learned, are almost entirely made up of - pay attention now, because this is the kicker - nothing. "Nothingness," as the educated tend to say. It is not air, because air is made up of molecules, which are made of atoms. Air - its molecules and its atoms - cannot fit in the spaces between protons and neutrons, can't even fit between the much larger space between electrons and the nucleus. Ninety-nine percent "nothingness" (I think Sviel Guncher, a very German mythical man I just made up, coined the term "nothingness" to qualitatively define all that space). And, equally as striking, there is all this uncertainty regarding where an electron is at any given moment; if we know how fast it is moving, we have no idea where it is. If we know where it is, we have no idea how fast it is moving.

What the fuck? I failed all the exams in that class, ended up dropping it after I realized that it wasn't Introduction to 18th Century Latvian Literature. Yes, it took me an entire semester, and three failed exams, to figure that out.

Through all this Poindextering around with pre-medical Poindexters, I discovered that atoms do not touch each other unless they are being made to do so in order to kill foreigners. Or light up cities.

Some (most) atoms bind together to form molecules (another official term I learned during my stint as a quantum physicist); these atoms may be construed as touching, but in fact they are not. They are just sharing a little bit of empty space; none of the electrons ever shake hands and sip Jack and Cokes while discussing that mess over in Afghanistan. If they did, violent things would happen and more Japanese people would have to die.

"What do you mean this is too fucking serious?"

Snapped. Caught.

"I never touched you. There was no feeling there; you only thought you felt, you only perceived it, don't you understand? Didn't you ever take Introduction to 18th Century Latvian Literature?"

She would know these things, if only she had taken the fucking course. I never touched her. Never touched anyone or anything.

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