Over coffee, over phone calls, and during exuberant gatherings of our exuberant friends, she had praised her lover as if he were a god. With a squeal and a kind of radiant, teenage grin, she’d say, over and over, He is the most fascinating, most amazing and sexiest man I’ve ever known!
My dear friend was happy. And I was happy she was happy.
And so it was, in this way, that I began to grow curious. I wanted to know him, too.
He was a quiet man. He was a man who selects friends and lovers carefully, and with no great rush.
He was a man famous for his hugs. My friend had so many times gushed about the intensity of his hugs. She had playfully warned that, were I ever to have the pleasure of an embrace, all time would cease and I might pull back from his arms only to discover that five hours had passed and I had missed my bus. She had said, so many times, His hugs are incredible, like a time warp.
It’s spring. He is wearing a dusty jean jacket from some long-ago decade. Simple round wire glasses. To me, in this moment, he looks exactly like John Lennon. (Which is comforting.)
It is early evening, around seven o’clock. A sacred sexuality workshop. Our friends, deliciously naked, hovering around the snack table, nibbling on chocolates and mini sandwiches. Giggles and flirting and silliness everywhere.
The man and I have been standing by the coffeepot; serene silence shared between a few words and sips. As he takes a step toward me, unfurling his arms in the universal gesture of let’s-hug-now, something inside me trembles. Time already seems strange. I make a joke, stalling. My heart is pounding. It feels like my words are some defense—but for what? I suddenly feel years younger; like a child.
I’ve heard about your hugs, I say. Should I be nervous?
No, he replies. A gentle smile. Merry eyes.
I find my skin changing shape; my bones with new languages. I sigh a sigh I’d been holding but hadn’t known it. We stand there, the din and chaos of happy friends around us. We are floating. A sea of touch: no boat, no anchor, no map or plan. There is just this. Only this.
I cannot guess how long we stood there.