You can’t, you whisper silently to yourself as the good news echoes over the phone. You can tell by the pace in his voice that he jumped up and down a few times before calling you. That he asked the clock on the wall to stick out its hands so that he could overwhelm the next few hours with celebration.
You cannot just slither through the telephone wires, like the black hole water slides of childhood, to splash and land on the other side of the phone. To wrap your arms so tightly around his torso and squeeze him in a way that would cause anthropologists from far off places to tilt their heads and scribble furiously into their notepads: This must be how natives to this land show pride to one another. With the wrapping of their arms around each another. And holding on tight. As if they won’t ever let go.
There’s nothing you can do, you think. You think it quietly. Even in your own head. The words form quietly and then lie down to play Jan Brady to his Marsha news.
Hush, you tell your arms as they sulk on both sides of you. Go easy on them; there’s been less and less holding these days and they simply don’t understand. And it’s quite difficult to explain to your own two arms that another pair of arms, with less freckles cascading their front sides, are surely there with him now. To celebrate. And jump up and down. And squeeze him tight.
“It’s just not you today,” you’ll need to tell them. “It’s just not you two.”
But we want it to be us, the lanky entities will cry. Raising up like branches into the sky.
And then you’ll be forced to tell your own Two Arms the story that all Sets of Arms need to hear as they grow older & longer: The Story of How We Held Each Other Less
You can tell them it all began with your mother, or maybe a teacher. Someone, somewhere in the pot holder stitching of your story line infused two deep pearly trinkets of wisdom into your soul: One) To stop at nothing when make your dreams come true. Two) To make friends along the way.
We little dreamers get in good, good trouble over those two trinkets.
We dream Fantastic Dreams and venture off to the crooks of this World that will Bring Them True. We resolve to stay far away from the spaces and places that will swallow our dreams up, leaving them Unfinished or Unraveled or Uninvited. And we take solace under the trees of the places where dreams come, Not Easily. Not Free. But True.
And we meet Awe-Inspiring Individuals. Who hold us for pockets of time. And then vow to hold us longer in cubby holes of the heart. For all the little dreamers know that to stay in one place for a long while is a deep rarity. And to always stay together, Arms Linked, is bound to happen less and less in a world that begs for us to make adventures from its soil.
Or maybe you’ll tell those gangly arms of yours of the days where women cooked a steady broth upon a stove top of rocks and thickets and the men set out to hunt before the sun came up from behind the yawning hills. Those were the days when people stayed together. They never wandered off too far. And if they were nomads, they ventured in a group still. Rarely the individual. Rarely the one.
They were one another’s greatest gifts, sitting beside the fire at night telling stories. Their hands swaying in the darkness, shadowy characters prancing upon surfaces lit up by the flames. They shared almost everything, from stories and heartache to food and chores.
Your arms will drool for the archaic days when they were the most valued props in the telling of a story. Not a text. Not a picture from a camera phone. Not a semi colon slammed next to parenthesis to symbolize a wink.
We’ve come a long way. You can tell your arms that.
A long, long way.
For now, our iPads light the night. And our iPods flush the day with sound. And our iPhones keep us in record touch with one another and so, with every loved one at our fingertips, we venture out into the world, the little “i”s that we are, looking to make something out of our place in this world.
All because someone pushed us to go forth and light our dreams on fire, as big and thick as the sky-climbing bonfires that our ancestors lit to huddle close beside for warmth.
But you tell those arms of yours that this story is not a tragedy, nor is it horror, for it is a great, great blessing to pick up and go walking in the world with the support of others by your side.
Virtual, maybe, but we said from the days when we first learned to walk that we would travel and learn and discover and seek. That we would make a life from postcards and foods we’ve tried, roles we’ve played and hands we’ve shook.
You tell those arms of yours how very brave they are, for travelling with you on a journey where there wouldn’t always be a body to clutch. Where sometimes they would be alone and wanting. Lost and fearing. Itching, itching, itching for a familiar pair of arms to entangle with them. You thank those arms of yours for being so willing to reach out a stranger and make them a friend or reach out to a body, just a plain old body, enough times to make them a Somebody. Who cheers for you. And prays for you. Even miles, and phone calls, and tweets apart.
And it meant leaving sometime all along, and learning to miss while being apart. And it would also mean that sometimes we’d just have to hope that another set of arms would be there, on the other side of the phone where your best friend jigs under the southern sun, to hold his torso and squeeze him tight. And relay your pride from half a world away.