Final Touches: lisa luxx

This is an essay commissioned by Book Works in response to Diana Georgiou’s novel, Other Reflexes. We asked five writers and artists to each respond to one of the book’s chapters, each themed around a particular sense, with a text-based work of some kind. Here, lisa luxx responds to the prompt of touch:

We were on the bed out in Somerset when it happened. During our stay at that little cottage with the roaming dogs and spiders, that’s when you became mass. Stretched on the bed with the books. Still in your towel, damp from the shower.

We’d prized ourselves on weaving through the pages of all that literature we’d overpacked; poetry, myths fanning across bedsheets, an aura to our warm bodies. I know what it’s like for a thought to become a held object. That’s the only magic trick writers get: to think hard enough about an abstract idea until it folds itself out from our palms, weighing a few grams, and can be passed round a room or dog-eared in a backpack.

So, it was then – under the wooden beams, as a dog barked in the distance and a bookmark fell from its place – that you became real. While pressing my thumb against the sole of your foot, it responded; a small white circle emerging from the pressure; a cloud coming heavy, ready to let its gown of warm rain slink to the ground.

At first, when I fall in love it’s all very visual. It isn’t until much later that my body recognises real touch; the meaty back of the arm, the angle of a hip bone, weight of a thigh. In that first month of dating, you travelled to Albania for two weeks to chase the sun. I wasted afternoons back in England looking at every picture I could find of you on the internet. There weren’t many. I would pause on my favourites, never screenshotted any of them, of course, nothing untoward like that.

Yes, at first, there’s just the idea of someone. A lover who doesn’t hold the weight of the world, whose body mass doesn’t press against my spine when they lean. All that before I know exactly where the groove lies in a stomach, the place to rest my head. The idea of the lover is made up of my own desire running out ahead of me. Just an idea, shooting around the fleshy reality of a person like a dart missing the board completely. You were that, in all those photos I found of you, and that first day we met among the spectacles and books.

I saw you first in the glasses shop, where a niche group of diaspora poets were holding a reading. Among all the frames and mirrors and queers and snacks and low-alcohol beers. You were taking pictures on someone else’s phone. The poets talked about bathtubs and cocktails. I didn’t want you to see me. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love that night. I was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that I usually only wore to bed. Equally, I didn’t want you not to see me, because the only chance of knowing you were real was to have something I touch be touched by you. So, I offered you a cigarette, you declined but bought a book from me. Didn’t ask for me to sign it, so our hands didn’t tété-à-tété as they might have. Didn’t yet pass the residue of our bodies back and forth; that confirmation of life coming alive between two islands.

By the time our trip to Somerset came I had bought a film camera and we’d learnt how to co-pilot a plan. I became fixated on shooting photographs of you reading, smoking a rare joint, or lounging in your underwear as we’d pretend to co-work during the long August weekdays. Every time I went to press the shutter, I would think of the boxes of photographs my parents kept in the cupboard under the stairs; one of my dad smoking on his wedding day, my mum in college with friends whose names she still remembers, teta sitting on the wall outside a house I never knew. I would need a garage rather than a cupboard under the stairs. We listened to Arlo Parks and I took photographs on film so I could hold the images later; these memories, too, will fold out of my palms one day.

There comes a time to stop looking through the viewfinder. I replaced the lens cap and joined you on the bed. All of a sudden you were there, fully. So close to my own terrifying humanness. We measured our pulses before and after we undressed. When my phantom boyhood enters you every desire became a measurable matter. The density of your body; yearning turned muscle. Your towel tangling into the bedsheets.

That morning, your fingers had been wettened by berries you prepared for breakfast. That night, you drank wine quickly and I watched the rim of the glass touch your lips, and then – emptied – it made a deep knock on the wooden table as you set it down. A chain reaction of touch reverberates through my elbows which had been leaning on the wood. I refilled your cup and placed it back it back on the table, we rhythm. A spider scuttles above us unseen, so much tangible folding out from every sound of our giddy dinner beneath.

lisa minerva luxx is a poet, playwright, essayist and political activist of British Syrian heritage. Their first poetry collection, Fetch Your Mother’s Heart was published by Outspoken Press in 2021, and their second will be published by Comma Press in 2024

Other Reflexes is out now – order it here.

Final Touches: lisa luxx; ; 2024; | Commissions: IntersticesOther Responses Artist: Georgiou, Diana; Contributor: Luxx, Lisa; Editors: Homersham, Lizzie; Penney, Bridget; Shlaim, Tamar; | Publisher: Book Works: