I had a bad habit of running my hands against walls as I walked. My fingertips buzzed as they skimmed along bricks, over their rough faces and into their plastered grooves. It spread to anything, really. My heart raced when I sliced my palm open on something not made to be touched.
I did the same thing when I sculpted. There were a few splinters that I caught too late permanently lodged in my fingers from my wooden sculptures. I had no restraint with them before they were sanded. My clay pieces all boasted the faintest dips and warps. If anyone ever saw them they probably wouldn’t notice, but I did. I could mark where my fingertips grazed the curves and edges before the clay dried.
I was the worst about my found object pieces. I was surprised that they were all still holding together. A few of the pieces were less stable than they once were, but none had fallen apart yet. Sometimes when the world felt too tight I would pick one of them up and hold it for however long I needed. I had never timed myself to see exactly how much time that usually was.
Things felt too small like that all the time. Walking in the hallways through the crowds of kids who liked to shove me and call me names. The car when I took my neighbor who hated me to school. My empty house at night.
Small spaces were the only thing I was scared of ever since my friends in fourth grade locked me in a linen crate. And when they tied me up and left me under a bed. And when they pinned me to the ground with the legs of a chair and a blanket.
I didn’t have good experiences with small spaces. Or friends.
Maybe that’s why I liked touching walls so much. I liked knowing my boundaries. However confining they may have been.
I touched walls less and less when I started my senior year of high school. For the most part I just clung to myself. I slowly transitioned to walking with my hands in my pockets or clutching my backpack straps. Sometimes it felt like I was holding myself together with just my own two hands, and that without them my atoms would lose their grip on each other and fly into entropy. My family had moved at the end of the summer before, so without connections, all I had was myself to keep my composure.
I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. My family was poor, so my dad getting a higher-paying job in a new state sounded nice. I think I knew in the back of my mind that nothing would change. I would still have to pay the bills. My father would just have even more money to spend on things that, to me, didn’t need buying. But he had his monsters to feed, and they had no quota.
I was right; everything was the same. Same house that looked expensive enough to please my mother, but was just badly-built enough to be in our price range. Same lunches alone and rude classmates. Even ruder now: being the new kid makes one an easy target. Same nights spent alone bent over schoolwork and sculpting with the time I had left. Same pizza job where I came home smelling like grease with crumbs in my hair. The only things that changed were my sculptures. They always changed, and I got to control it. I cupped curves that I carved, clay that I pressed, trash that turned to treasure in my hands. Maybe that’s why I liked touching things so much. It gave me control. Or at least the illusion of it.