First touches.

handshake

NOUN

1 An act of shaking a person’s hand with one’s own, used as a greeting or to finalize an agreement.

– Oxford Dictionaries

*

I am waiting at the train station for a punk. I text to describe my attire to him. I see a Malay boy walking towards me. He smiles so I know it’s him. I contemplate extending my hand to salaam him but I know I don’t look Malay enough. I give him a professional handshake and we move off to our venue. Somewhere during our conversation, we realize that both of us used to be percussionists in secondary school bands. “Ehhh sama sama!” He beams and offers me a fistbump. We touch;

*

I am running late to a shopping mall to meet with an actress. This is not going to be a great first impression. I see her waiting outside a cafe. I rush up to her. I apologize profusely and give her a professional handshake. She ascertains that I have travelled 90 minutes to get to her and am alien to this part of Singapore. She rests a palm on my shoulder and gasps that we should have met midway. I tell her I don’t mind and apologize again. She grabs me by my forearm and pulls me towards her as we walk along. We touch; and

*

I am walking hesitantly into a shop. I ask the shopkeeper if I may have a few minutes of her time to chat about the neighbourhood. She eyeballs me from head to toe. She glances at the clock on the wall behind her cash register and purses her lips: “Hmm, okay la!” I introduce myself and give her a professional handshake. I start with a few questions. She reciprocates with some of her own. She learns that I live in Perth. “Oh I have a very good friend who lives there also!” She takes my hand and asks me what life is like there. We touch; and I

*

I am waiting for an informant at a Starbucks. He arrives and I give him a professional handshake. I get up to get him a drink. He is telling me about a decade of personal grief. She was still his girlfriend when she passed away. For such tricky terrain, he never breaks his gaze from mine except to peer into his coffee mug. We end the interview and I switch the recorder off. I express my sincere gratitude and attempt to cultivate a post-research relationship. I want to be his friend. He tells me that he spends many days thinking about dying. I reciprocate his extended gaze and instinctively hold his shoulder as he speaks. We touch; and I know.

*

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