Blog

The explosiveness of touch

  President George W. Bush and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia holding hands in 2005. The Arabic custom caused quite a stir among Americans.

President George W. Bush and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia holding hands in 2005. The Arabic custom caused quite a stir among Americans.

“What an altered world we live in,” Frank Bruni wrote in his Sunday New York Times’ column. 

“What an advanced one. The man I love and I can be married in New York or 35 other states if we ever get organized enough, if we decide that we want public vows and a gaudy cake — I’m thinking devil’s food, for a host of reasons — to seal our commitment.

“I’m grateful for that. I’m stunned, really.

“And yet. When we’re walking down the street after a long dinner or a sad movie and he slips his hand in mine, I tense."

Funny he should mention that. In my upcoming novel “The Penalty for Holding,” New York Templars’ quarterback Quinn Novak and his lover, San Francisco Miners’ quarterback Tam Tarquin, sometimes touch accidentally in public. It always sends an erotic jolt through Quinn, and yet, to Quinn’s relief and dismay, they always pull quickly away. I struggled with whether or not this would make sense in the 21st century even though 74 percent of gay Europeans surveyed said they would not hold hands in public for fear of harassment and assault. But whenever I think I’m not being realistic psychologically as a novelist, something comes along – a column like Bruni’s, for example – that suggests I’m on the right path.

And that’s sad, sad that anyone should feel ashamed to express himself or his affection for another – particularly as it’s something most of us do without even thinking.

It’s not just his sexuality that weighs on Quinn though. He’s also biracial, a product of a small-town America where he often drew stares with his white family. Is it any wonder that he’s uncomfortable in the skin that privately Tam so loves to touch?