Small Ways

30 January 2008

Watching the right hand of the audience member in front of me shift to her companion's back as the performance continues. She makes vague stroking motions at the base of her partner's spine while he leans forwards. Her hand climbing slowly upwards. Patting. Circling. Her fingers go up towards his neck. I recognise it instantly as the kind of  apologetic, absent-minded massage that gets made to a lover you have invited to something which proves to be difficult, or boring, or unbearable. A present, a making-up, even as the event itself unfolds, a silent negotiation with someone who you know already, 'hates this kind of thing'.

Small ways to say sorry. A touch with the hand, or the fingers, or the leg, or the foot. A whispered word. A kiss on the neck or the ear. A sustained moment of contact – thigh pressed next to thigh or knee to knee. Repeated patting of the palm. Tracing letters (or hearts or kisses) on the palm or the back of the hand. Eye contact. A smile. A shrug. Pulling a face that says 'I am going crazy with this too…' or pulling a face that says 'I am sorry.. I know!'.