Looking at Our World Through Poetry: Fear of Intimacy

I’m afraid to get too close. 

I’m terrified 

That I’ll be hurt - 

Hurt, yet again. 

I’m Afraid of Intimacy.

Music plays softy

In the background;
Light from soft glowing candles
Creates the interplay of
Light and shadow;
Of possible Romance.
Anything seems possible
In this half-light
In this other worldly place.

My wife cuddles closer.
She moves her fingers lightly
Across my face,

We’re alone
And I know
That tonight,
We can reach heights hitherto unexplored.

But, I’m afraid;
Oh, so very, very afraid.
Why should this night
Be different from any other night
In my life?

Night after night,
As a little boy,
I lay in my bed,
Longing for an older human hand
To touch my very, very human little hand.

Longing -
Sometimes, I knew not what it was
That I craved
With every pore
Of my young body and soul.
Inexplicable longing -
A longing so desperate,
That at times
It felt like my heart would burst.

Is there anyone else
In my family like me?
Does anyone else have
These strange desires
Those stirrings of the throat
Of the heart
Of the stomach?

My head hurts
My whole body longs
To run from my bed;
To run as fast as I can
To Mommy’s and Daddy’s room;
To climb into bed with them.
Perhaps, they’d let me stay tonight
Perhaps, they’d hold me tight.
Perhaps, they’d say,
“Son, I love you”
“Son, we love you”
“You can come to us with anything

But you know,
I know,
It wouldn’t work.
I tried it two or three times before,
Back when I was much littler
Than I am now.
They yelled at me -
Yes, both of them, |
“You’re disturbing our sleep.
Don’t you know this is
Our Private Sanctum?”
Sanctum - I wonder what that is.
I tried to look it up in the dictionary at school
But I couldn’t find it.

Perhaps, I didn’t look in the right place.
I almost asked my teacher
How to spell Sanctum;
But, I was afraid
She would say
It was some terrible adult word -
A word that children aren’t supposed to know.
I was afraid
She’d laugh at me
Or yell at me.
I was only four, then.
I guess I must have been
I was already in school.
I was already in Reading Class.
The teacher had me perform
For visiting dignitaries:
I felt like a trained dolphin
Or a dog who
Did tricks on command.

My parents seemed proud of me
But, nobody ever touched me,
Not once, not ever. —
Nobody, ever, even hugged me,
Not unless it was
When I was a baby, -
Too young to know
What was happening.
But, somehow, even then,
I don’t feel
Like I was really, really, touched.
I don’t feel loved
I don’t feel lovable
I don’t feel special
I never have.

In the depths of my Soul,
I know, without the shadow
Of a doubt,
That no one,
No, not even one of my parents
Ever looked deep into my eyes
Touched my little nose
Caressed my tiny face
Surrounded my body with love.

I feel so empty
On the inside;
I’ve always felt that way.

And now, |
I’m supposed to know
How to react |
To the touch of Love; |
To the touch of a woman
Who says she loves me;
Who says she loves me,
Just because I’m me,
With all the glorious
Potential and Actuality,
She sees in my person.

How do I deal with this?
Talk about foreign worlds
Multi-cultural marriages
Socioeconomic differences
Different intellectual horizons.
Well, here comes another alien mixture:
Intimacy touches fear
Longing touches terror
Touch transforms aversion
Love fills emptiness
Peace touches chaos.

Where do I go from here?
What she offers sounds wonderful;
Feels great.
But, it’s Foreign Territory;
I’m not programmed for Intimate Touch.

Oh, I’ve learned the appropriate
Business handshake.
That’s touch, right,
But superficial
Business -
Not personal
Not intimate.
I’m terrified!

She moves closer still.
I excuse myself
For a moment.
I get up |
I readjust the logs in the fireplace.
I add a log
I adjust the fire screen.
While I’m up,
I’ll refresh our drinks.
Anything -
Any movement
That will allow me
To get my riotous emotions
Under control.

I don’t want
To blow this relationship, too.
We’ve shared so much together
But, ve never allowed us
To be truly intimate
Because I don’t know how,
And I’m scared,
Oh, so scared.

I’m sick with fear:
Fear fills the pit of my stomach;
My hands are wet with
The stress of non-surrender;
My heart pounds in my chest,
From passion, yes,
But, mostly from fear.

I’m terrified.

I’m just as afraid; |
Just as paralyzed with indecision
With longing
As that little boy was,
Oh, so many years ago;
I’m still that little boy.
I know that.
But does she, my wife, know? -

I wish I could be truly brave
I wish I could be fully honest
I wish I could tell her everything
That I feel, in my heart,
In this fear-sodden moment.

Would she understand?
Could anyone be that empathetic?

Perhaps, she has fears, too;
Perhaps, she has vulnerabilities.
Perhaps, we could achieve
A new level of Intimacy,
If I talked
If she talked
If we were truly honest;
If we allowed ourselves
To be truly strong;
To be truly Human.

Betty R. Stockley
Copyright 2000