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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: These Untouchable Days

The other night, when we sat down to supper, the three of us in our little house held hands to say grace. And as we bowed our heads, it struck me just how few people over these past nine months I’ve actually touched.

The number is so small I can remember each one. I elbow-bumped a couple of friends who came over to cook for us one night. I brushed hands with the cashier at the bakery when she handed me my bag of bread. I shook hands with a neighbor, by reflex, and then we both yanked our hands back like we had static electricity.

Our normal lives are full of those little moments where skin meets skin. I miss them. I miss bro-hugging my buddies and high-fiving a stranger at the ball game. I miss putting my arm around a niece or a cousin when our family gets together. I miss that deep embrace with an old friend you haven’t seen in far too long.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live alone in these virus days, to not have a parent or a child to curl up with on the couch, to not have a lover’s touch in the night.

We have a cat that spends most of the day being stuck-up and ornery. He grumbles every time we pick him up. But at night, when we gather in the living room to read or watch TV, he stretches out on my wife’s lap and falls into a contented sleep. Even he needs a warm body next to his.

This is why I sympathize with all those people who defy common sense and keep gathering at bars and restaurants and parties, even as COVID-19 is now killing the equivalent of the deaths on 9-11 every day. Many of those maskless folks are knuckleheads. But some, I’m sure, feel like they’re about to die if they don’t have real human contact.

It’s such a comforting and thrilling thing to feel the warmth of someone else, their pulse under your fingertips, their knees resting against yours. We can live without it. But we can’t thrive. This touchless life is a slow starvation of our souls.

It looks like we have some vaccines that will tamp down COVID-19 enough to eventually give us back our normal lives again. I don’t know when that’ll be, but I know what I want to do when the time comes. I want to track down the people I care about, face to face, and say three words: Bring it in.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section at wfae.org. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.