CNF: Hug

by Ronit Feinglass Plank

When I open the front door of our house after ten days away my husband looks up at me but it takes a moment for him to realize I’m home. He hadn’t been expecting me then.

He says nothing but he rises from his chair. He puts his arms around me; he folds me in. For a slim man he becomes padded and soft; he knows how to feel all parts of me at once.

When I think we’ve finished holding each other he brings me nearer still. I wonder how much longer it will last. I’ve always been this way. Silently I ask how long do I have to stay so I don’t seem like I don’t want to be close? I don’t like myself for this. I wish I could hug and hug, on and on, allow my borders to soften until they blur into his.

I wish I was able to rest my mind, to move, unhurried, from one sensation to another, like warm gravy finding all the places where there’s nothing, filling the vacancies and moving further, covering even more.

I wonder if some people are warmer and softer inside. If they are born knowing how to hold someone. I wonder if anybody else thinks about closeness the way I do, worried I’ve got it right, worried the other person will notice I’m thinking about it instead of doing it.

A hug has been a test at times in my past, a way to show me how I don’t love enough. How I don’t let myself need. It’s true. I don’t easily collapse into another. I never have.

I think I misunderstood when I was young. I thought I was supposed to stand with only myself for support. I thought it was a good thing to be strong; I thought I wasn’t meant to reach for more. That to ask for anything else was to bother; to soften was to be helpless.

How is it that the way you survive growing up can make the life you share with another so hard?

From inside his arms I signal that I’m ready to let go by blurting out a series of one-liners: Where is everyone? And: I like your shirt. My old stand-by: did you eat lunch yet? My husband doesn’t answer.

He folds me in closer, his hug deepens. He is taking me and, as if my skeleton was on the outside, he is gently prying me open, finding a way to melt me. Like those little gelatin capsules I had when I was a kid that would get gummy and dissolve when I soaked them in water until a spongy animal would emerge. I learned to use a big bowl instead of a cup so the creature had enough room to grow. I was never sure what the animal was until it finished unfolding and expanding, taking up all the room it had. That’s what we are becoming together, my husband and me. Transforming into something new, bigger, shaped different than we were before.

We are so close now that my neck and his neck are touching. Almost intertwined and for a moment I imagine us giraffes. I fight away the memories of other hugs, the ones that questioned my love, the ones he could use against me, the ones I used against him.

I stop talking. I rest my body. I let myself spill; my borders slosh over the sides. I take his hug like he’s wanted me to do for so long. I understand now he’s not asking anything of me but to be there.
He pulls only his face away so he can see me. I let my eyes find his. I don’t look away.

Ronit Feinglass Plank’s essays and fiction have appeared in The American Literary Review (runner up, 2016 Award for Fiction), The Iowa Review (runner up, The 2013 Iowa Review Award for Fiction), Salon, Lilith, has won the Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose, was a Narrative 2014 Winter Short Story Contest finalist, and is included in Best New Writing 2015. Links to her writing can be found at ronitfeinglassplank.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Hug”?

    As with most of what I work on I didn’t know where I was going when I drafted “Hug.” I was’t yet sure what I was really asking myself or what my answer would be and that’s what interested me. I did know I wanted to stay in the hug within the writing as long as I could to try to mirror the actual experience.
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