I know an absent-minded hug or kiss when I see one.
I have been there, and I might have given a few myself.
The fleeting, out-the-door, going-to-work kiss, where worry interferes and fills out the space between lovers. The I’m-already-gone-I-just-haven’t-told-you squeeze of the shoulder or slap on the ass. The kiss on the forehead when you offered your lips. The superficial hugs called for by circumstance, where newly met strangers end up energized with what was supposed to be your child’s bedtime cuddle.
I have known all of them.
The time we saw Grandma off at the hospital before her bypass surgery. I remember exactly what I wore that day, I remember the last words she said to me. And I remember thinking, this could be the last time I ever see her. It was.
That coffee and cake with a college friend, just after graduation. She was telling me about her thesis, I provided a counter-argument, and we couldn’t see eye to eye. With acceptance and serenity that I can only dream I possessed now, I thought This friendship has run its course. This is the last time we will meet. It was. For many years, after which she found me again, both of us wounded and climbing out of a hole and still getting there.
That rainy morning when I was dropped off at the IT building on campus to get my computer fixed, and the ten last minutes of stompy-feet, refusing-to-breathe, silent scream protest that went off inside my head as I realized, no outward confirmation necessary, that it would be the last time I ever see that particular acquaintance. It was.
That was instinct, and the curse of being a hypersensitive little chucklehead.
Since then, I have exchanged warmer hugs with strangers in bars than certain members of my own family. I have witnessed an eight-year-old’s affection amplified from a timid handshake to falling into my arms in a matter of hours. A feral cat jumping onto my lap, deciding it was time to start trusting one another. I have recognized, in my own gestures, when it was time to pack up and leave. I am a good judge of human touch.
I have learned to be present in these marginal moments. My embraces always last a second too long, because my heart is taking a snapshot. Whether we sleep in the same bed or never meet again, if we were in any way connected, I will want to remember this. Remember you.
So no half-assed pats on the shoulder or pecks on the cheek, please. No clammy fishy handshakes. We both deserve better. If you put your arms around me, please don’t be one of those people that hug by grabbing a hold of their own arms (you know which ones I mean, don’t you?). Give me a moment to take you in, and accept the piece of my soul that is offered to you in this moment. You can spare a second. Acknowledge this connection. Be present with me.