Amidst the forest standing on solid ground, heart sinks as the sound of crumbling dry leafs crescendo. Fallen in an instant now neck deep in quicksand, the frantic struggle ensues. Kicking in vain at imaginary stairs, arms in this wet cement muster strength unknown to lift out of this doom reaching up and out in the darkness fast closing all around. Deafening screams laced with panic heard only by my fear. Slipping under, I taste death on my lips. Hope touches my hand, and I grab hold of a rough, thin branch. Pulling I am slowly dragged out of danger onto the bank of the pit, still clutching it my grip white, palms bloody. Tall and strong a silent witness, the tree never realizing the part it played, flat on the ground I lay safe.
There was this one time... recalling a day I spent at a busy convention center when I was working in a sales booth, bored and tired it had been an early morning start with frustrating traffic all to weave through the crowds and set up the space. It had been four of the longest hours in memory with a companion who had a way of non-stop talking without saying anything.
A tall man walking purposefully came down the aisle, wearing an old style fedora hat with his long coat open I could see the well- fitted suit underneath. He stopped across from our booth in the narrow common area and set a large box on the floor.
My colleague continued her rambling even though I was no longer looking at her. Many of the attendees were gathering in front of us obstructing my view so I could only see his hat as he moved around. Curiosity growing I excused myself offering to get coffee for my colleague and I, she released me from the never-ending account of her families' events on a previous weekend.
Being 5’6” in heels I felt swallowed up in the heard of people occupying the noisy aisle as I made my way over to the man in the hat. He stood alone now, the group of patrons having discovered whatever it was he was selling had moved on to the next booth. He smiled wide directly at me as I approached, and motioned to the box to his right. There was a sign marked in bold letters, it read ‘Free Hugs’. I chuckled, smiling a polite smile I looked at him again.
Before I could walk away as I was intending now, that I too had solved the mystery he spoke to me. “Can I please give you a hug?” His voice kind and solemn, it surprised me.
Doubt and miss-trust of hugging a stranger that had been my automatic reaction to the sign, suddenly faded and I stood there silently contemplating the possible outcomes of being hugged by this man.
He smiled warmly at me, and repeated his request. Decision made, I took a few more steps to meet him. He didn’t move. Behind his wire-framed glasses, he didn’t break eye contact with me since he asked, and there I saw the mere human connection that had been waiting for me. “Yes, thank you.” I finally replied, and moved into his personal space, he was quite tall, 6’2” if I had to guess.
He leaned over me with arms outstretched, and began to hug me, feeling safe I hugged him back. Holding me in a unique embrace, it was a hug from the heart. I felt myself surrender as I hugged this stranger with my whole heart. He stopped first, and we ended up a few inches apart when the hug was over.
“Thank you for that.” He said in a most wonderful way, I realized I had made him happy. Offering me a business card that simply said ‘Free Hug’. I took it, thanked him for the hug, turned and walked away. The feeling of happiness overflowing inside me, I found myself humming. Tucking the ‘Free Hug’ card into my pocket, I began looking forward to offering it to a future stranger.
When your turn arrives, knowing the brevity anticipating its fear, stepping into that moment remember as the roller-coaster jolts into action hold on, keep those eyes open and surrender. Feeling its restraint you are safe. Succumb to the thrilling experience that forces the screams out of you with abandon.
“Just wait”, he convinced us. We waited. Standing there like statues, exposed faces and hands bare silently protesting the harsh cold air, and the end of one life. Then we saw it, all of us together the sun rising in the distance. Witness to this perfect morning, the light soft and orange tattooed in our memories a new beginning.
With eyes closed the intoxicating aroma of strong coffee wafts from the hot mug as Jane inhales its comforting scent. Both hands hug the sides of the large cup, heat transferring through the thin sleeves pulled onto her palms to avoid the burning sensation that otherwise would result. Just the right temperature to drink and be swept out of the kitchen and into fading memories of a dream witnessed mere hours before. Grasping at the lingering bliss that had felt so real upon waking that morning, Jane lived those fleeting moments over again.
Seated high in the back row amongst her classmates, assembled in a large auditorium a hush blanketed the noise of everyone settling into their places. Conversations trailed off, laptops snapped open, tapping keyboards and rustling snack bags quieting the room as the speaker moved front and center of a sunken stage with podium and microphone. The tall man stood confident and relaxed with his hand on the open notebook which lay on the podium, his other hand deep in his jean pocket. He squinted a few seconds as his eyes adjusted to the spotlight softly illuminating his figure, watching the faces of the students dim to near complete darkness save for the faint glow that outlined the monitors of their laptops and mobiles.
Taking a drink from the water bottle on the stool next to him on stage, he cleared his throat and then launched into his two-hour lecture. Animated and lyrical his voice was deep almost musical with resonance of meaning and insight. Steel blue eyes were dancing with enthusiasm and unbenonsed to the 40 year old he was enchanting at least one girl with his charismatic personality. Some words lost all meaning and Jane found herself transfixed in those eyes of his, watching his mouth form the sounds of his speech she instantly; as only one can do in a dream, was now sitting in the front row and he was walking towards her. Looking directly at her, he leaned down resting his hands on the back of her chair, she could detect the scent of his shaving cream as he stopped talking and simply kissed her. Savoring the thrill, Jane tasted his passion and felt the surge of excitement throughout her entire body. Slowly opening her eyes, she was standing in her kitchen staring out at the bare trees of winter through the frosted window. Smiling she sipped her coffee.
In the stairwell Violet felt the pressure of silence crushing her eardrums as she stood there gathering courage to open the door. Holding the briefcase in one hand she turned the doorknob with the other. Startled by the sound of heavy footsteps below on the staircase she halted and held her breath. Turning she sees Tom bounding up the stairs at a quick pace. Relieved and puzzled she sets down the briefcase in front of the door and peeks through the thin window; no one was in the hallway.
Returning her attention to Tom as he closes the gap between them she can see the urgency in his eyes. Slightly out of breath he puts his hand on hers stopping her from opening the door. Violet whispers; “What are you doing here?” all fear left her mind.
“Just here for back-up…I couldn’t let you do this alone.” Tom said in a hushed voice squeezing her hand a little. She gave him a half smile while shaking her head, and replied. “You’re crazy Tom. If they see you we’re both dead.” Violet pushed him away from the window into the corner behind the door. With both her hands on his chest Tom instinctively wrapped his arms around her, his hands resting on her lower back. The tension she felt now was because of the electricity between them, she was in his arms finally. Forgetting her task, all she could think about was the warmth of his body against hers.
Tom was fighting what he considered his personal morality of right and wrong and this intense attraction he felt for her. Knowingly crossing the line, inches away from her mouth he couldn’t stop looking at her face. From her eyes to her pink lips the swell of emotion was overtaking him as she moved to kiss him; with great effort Tom turned his head like he was swerving to avoid a car crash. The sucker punch of rejection hit Violet in the depth of her gut; pulling away from him she murmured “Sorry…I’m sorry”.
Tom had never touched her before, and for a second she thought he had wanted to kiss her too, but she must have been wrong. He held her tight, “Wait.” Tom said as she squirmed and pushed away from him; he tried to get her to look him in the eye again. He was strong, and she relented shamefully looking back into his blue eyes. “I…I can’t, it just isn’t right.” He said apologetically as he released her and she took a few steps backing away from him. Confused Violet said in a low voice, “I know, it’s the wrong thing to do but when I’m with you…” her voice trailed off and she paused before declaring; “I want more of you.”
His heart pounded and he decided this was it, without speaking he stepped forward and grabbed Violet with both hands by her hips and pulled her into him and kissed her. Adrenaline filled them both; suddenly their world’s collapsed into one, heaven. He felt her lips tremble as he pressed his mouth to hers. His hands holding her close he could feel her body shaking and love overwhelmed him. The tender passion that was their first kiss ebbed and slowly they emerged back into reality, he opened his eyes just as her eyelids fluttered open. They both exhaled deeply settling into an embrace, barely able to catch her breath Violet quietly said. “Wow.” Blushing she smiled.
Tom slid his hand up her back barely under her shirt feeling her soft skin saying, “I just had to kiss you.” His eyes looked into hers and he said, “You feel so good.”
A noise from the corridor broke their trance and both reacted with swift motions as they hid behind the door. It didn’t open, and Tom looked carefully through the window. “It’s the cleaning crew.” He whispered. “We’re fine; for now. But you’d better get a move on.” He was never more sure of anything than he was right then, “Violet, this is real, I want all of you.” Then with purpose he kissed her long and passionately, she responded with the same intensity.
Eventually as their lips parted and they separated Violet said, “I can’t believe this actually happened, you picked a great time to show me.” giggling softly she kissed him quickly again. “mmm.” It was the sound of desire. “I’d love to stay but it’s that time.”
Satisfied he felt the conflict resolve within himself, “Keep your mind on the job now.” He patted her ass as she picked up the briefcase and opened the door. “I’ll be here waiting for your signal. Good luck.” Slipping out of the stairwell she looked back and winked at Tom.