The kids are playing Doctor in the sandbox. Our first concern is what they use for instruments but we let them have their space. We see them in profile from the house earnest and still. Their lips are moving.
—Where does it hurt?
—Everywhere. I suffer from a general malaise.
—It’s called Western civilization.
She takes our son’s head in both her hands and massages his temples with the tips of her thumbs. Their naturalness is worrisome, but we know if we prohibit it, they’ll never get enough.
—Does this feel better?
—It does, but complicatedly so.
—Because of the touching?
—Massage is therapy, but the touching is political, isn’t it?
—When I do it to you?
—Or when I do it to you, and frankly sensual.
—But without being sexual.
—But without being sexual, and yet.
She paused and pressed her thumbs in harder, scrunching her eyebrows with the effort. We leaned toward the window straining to hear, watching their lips for clues.
—And yet?
—Affectionate between pairs who might,
—If we were ready for it,
—If we were ready for it, be sexual partners, but creepy otherwise.
I rattled the blinds with my forehead. For a moment, they were still.
—For instance?
—For instance, I shudder to think of my brother doing it, or my coach.
—Or your Mom.
—Or my Mom, unless I was dying, or really sick. But your Mom could you. I guess she could me. But my Dad could neither.
—It’s only my thumbs on your temples.
They flipped the timer and traded roles. The muffled chirping of their voices fell silent. He kneaded her temples.
—So why are your parents watching from the window through the blinds?
They swiveled in tandem and looked straight at us. We stepped back into the darkness.

Copyright © November 28, 2007 David Hodges

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