Lee Pace and Anna Friel from Pushing Daisies,
almost (but not quite) kissing
Lately, I've gotten hooked on a show called Pushing Daisies. I don't get Showtime, the network that airs it, so I've been watching it on DVD and am most of the way through the second season. I love the show's unique presence.
The main character, Ned (played by Lee Pace), a pie maker, has a unique ability. If he touches a dead person or animal, it comes back to life, but at a cost. If he allows the reanimated body to live for longer than a minute, another person or animal in the immediate area will die. If he touches the reanimated person or animal a second time, it results in death, permanently.
A private detective learns of Ned's ability and hires him to help solve murder cases. Typically, they revive dead people for just a little less than a minute and interview them before Ned touches them a second time. The detective and the pie maker then use the information gained to start unraveling the mystery.
Life gets more complicated when Ned brings his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte, a.k.a. Chuck (played by Anna Friel), back to life. Try as he might, he can't make himself touch her a second time, and so at the expense of another person, she lets her live. And so begins one of the most intriguing love stories on television: a couple who is deeply in love but can never touch.
As you might imagine, this makes for some interesting plot twists and choreography. It can be unnerving, watching the show, to see how close Ned and Chuck sometimes get without touching. The show is told like a fairy tale: with bright colors, fantastic scenery, and splashy characters with fanciful names. Like in any Disney romance, the two express their love through affectionate glances and light banter.
But realistically, how long could such a romance survive in the real world? It's hard to say. I have known people who have gotten involved in passionate long-distance relationships with people on the other side of the world, romances that flourish despite the two lovers not meeting in person, sometimes for years. Yet, those relationships, if they go anywhere, tend to progress to a face-to-face meeting with hugging, kissing, hand holding and more.
The closest I have come to such a relationship was dating The Invisible Man, who lived in the next city, about 2 1/2 hours away. Since he had to rent a car to see me, and because of our busy schedules, we only saw each other in person once a month. Those times in between could be difficult.
On 9/11, I was working in Center City Philadelphia. Our boss sent us home, and I immediately called The Invisible Man, also sent home from his government job. We spent hours on the phone, trying to make sense of it all, trying to give each other comfort. But I would have exchanged all that for one really good bear hug.
Bear hugs are my husband, The Gryphon's, specialty. I've needed a lot of them lately, both from the stress of pregnancy and the added anxiety of waiting for results of genetic testing (which ultimately showed our developing baby is normal). During a recent medical procedure, part of the genetic screening process, The Gryphon sat in the chair next to me, holding my hand. That's one of the reasons I remained so calm.
I don't know how long my relationship with The Gryphon could have lasted without any touching. There's a certain closeness, a certain intimacy that comes from touching that cannot be replaced with the sound of a loved one's voice or a loving gaze. To touch makes love real. And while real love may be more complicated than ideal love, it's also ultimately more rewarding.
Yet, at the same time, that's the charm of a fairy tale like Pushing Daisies, where the two lovers who can never touch are frozen forever in the fairytale fantasy of ideal love.
Words and glances can't substitute for touching those you love.