The invisible area around any person which is off-limits to others.

Generally considered to be a foot or two here in the U.S.
There are, of course, special occasions. For instance when standing in line people can be closer, perhaps even touching, and not be considered awkward or uncomfortable.

Usually used in reference to someone's invasion of a personal bubble. Often when someone who is smelly, disgusting or disliked is trying to make friends, and not succeeding.

He keeps a certain distance. Only twice have I seen him break it to reach for me, and both times it took me by surprise. Both times I should have seen it coming because I had broken it already. He kissed me in a parking lot after I hugged him goodbye; I held him as a way to break the awkward silence of his smile without giving in and kissing him myself. He touched my arm as he rose to go once we’d sorted out our feelings, and he’d told me he wouldn’t do this when he had nothing he could give.

He keeps a certain distance. Today, the first time since ‘this is not the end of our relationship’ he came to me in the crowded hallway. He came to me and touched me gently in hello. For an instant he dropped the distance and let me know it was ok.

Agreed, a hand on a shoulder is not a life-altering affair. But it spoke enough to drop my nervous stomach-ache of ‘how shall i approach you now?’ -- now that you know, now you want me but won’t have me now? It spoke enough because it was him, reaching out of his personal bubble to tell me hello, unsolicited. When his bubble had always been so firm, so large, so solid. When he didn’t have to, and when I hadn’t done so first. And when he’s so protective of his skin.

You said you were shocked when I kissed you. Has that shock worn off now? Am I just looking at you more now that all is understood? Have you changed your mind so quickly in the aftermath? Can I really be contemplating you changing your mind when it’s only been a day since I was crying?

He keeps a certain distance. And I imagine, for now, until it all comes crashing down, that I have come inside it.

... And that maybe I can stay.

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