Poetry & Prose


If I’m in a cafeteria, my hands will be gripping a heaping plate and I won’t know

where to put it. The huggee might hug me despite the pile of red sauce and

spaghetti. The huggee might nearly press my white shirt into my spaghetti. While hugging

the pasta, I curl my spine like a cat agitated, stiff and unyielding, and I seem like a bitch.


Great. Maybe I’ll have the foresight to balance the plate in one hand. Is it still an embrace

if you use just one arm? I’m very short and I wear makeup. My lipstick will end up smeared

on the person’s shoulder, leaving a waxy, carmine streak. I hope they learn a lesson

in stain removal. Group hugs are even more unpleasant; I always try to pull away.


I may wind up with my face pressed against another person’s face. My nose

might become a cork stopper stuck in the crevice between head and neck, a moment of

forced intimacy. I might suffocate on the potency of their cologne or choke on the odor of

sweat and unfamiliar pheromones. I might want to thrash, claw my way out, wolverine


style. I’m sensitive to smells, even more sensitive to touch. A hug is comforting

or awkward, and I can never decide which. My arms spin awkwardly, constantly adjusting

to the angle and speed of the approaching body. Hugs begin too suddenly for me

to fix the placement of my limbs—once I latch on, I’ve committed, so that


my arms may intimately encircle the neck of a vague acquaintance. Or, one may lodge itself

in an armpit, with my other hand on their back, not sure whether to rub or to pat, or to let it lie there limply like a small, bony dead thing. Pressure is hard to gauge, too. How hard

do you squeeze? Too soft and I’m not genuine. Too firm and I’m a strangler. Hugging


can be unavoidably so surfacely social whereas my fondest hugs happen only

in private. After hugging, I might stand there for too long, wondering when we decided

we were close enough to touch.



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