As a matter of fact, the thought did cross my mind.
“No,” I said, “it’s not that. It’s just, well, I’m just shy and I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.”
“I don’t do this all the time. I haven’t been with a man in, like, ages. I jumped your bones because I just thought that’s what you wanted.”
“You’re a very attractive woman.”
“Thank you. I don’t go to bars, either. I never go to bars, but I’ve been so lonely, I’ve been praying to God to find someone. Then I heard this saying, ‘Pray like everything depends on God, act like everything depends on you.’”
I heard that before. I think St Augustine said it, except he said ‘work’, not ‘act’, and ‘as though’ rather than ‘like’. Actually, he spoke Latin, so I don’t know what he said.
She continued, “I figured I’d go to the places where men go to look for women.”
“I really didn’t go there looking for a women; at least I didn’t think I was. I was just lonely, myself.”
Also,” I added, after a hard swallow, “my son just died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. She pulled me and held me for a long time.
I could tell right away this one wasn’t a sexual hug. At first it seemed like an obligatory hug as one sees at funerals. They are tent-like, the participants lean chastely to touch each others’ shoulders, the lips avoid the other’s lips, of course, the pelvises keep their distance, the arms stay high, and the hands do not fondle the hair or go lower than the shoulder blades. They remain hugging only as long as it takes to define it as a hug, rather than a chest bump because a chest bump would not be appropriate at a funeral.
In this case, what first appeared to be an obligatory hug turned into something different, as she held it for so long. You might call it a motherly hug, except that my mother never hugged me that way. My mother’s hug was like a prison; her arms wrapped me as one wraps a patient in a straightjacket, as a wrestler hugs his opponent. I never got the feeling that my mother was comforting me; at least that I can remember. It seemed more like she was restraining me, or enveloping me as a venus flytrap surrounds a fly. It would have suited her had my body melded back into hers, if it had returned from whence it came, to the womb and to the moist mysteries of her ovaries. I was a squirmy worm, as she used to say, and could never tolerate her touch for long.
This hug, Carol’s, was more like the hug that a warm coat gives you on a cold day; except that it was alive, a live warm coat, I guess. Maybe it was more motherly than my mother was capable of. Carol was a mother, after all; although, from what I had seen, not a particularly good one, but who am I to judge. No, I’m not judging; I’m just trying to understand or, at least classify.
In any case, if it was a motherly hug, it was better than any I ever got from my mother; which makes Carol the-mother-I-never-had; which makes me glad I didn’t schtup her.
I have to confess that I have never been much for hugging. Oh, I’ll consent to the obligatory hug if obliged and someone at a funeral, or wherever, moves towards me with his or her arms thrown wide; but I will never initiate it. Even with Joy, I was never one of those husbands who would approach his wife from behind as she chopped carrots in the kitchen, not unless I thought I could cop a feel in the process. No, I always associated hugging too much with mother’s prison, at best, and subject to too many hazards of miscommunication and sexual harassment at worst.
Another reason that I have always avoided hugging is, for some reason that I don’t understand, the most simple, tender, non-constrictive, non-titillating embrace will, if applied long enough, result in my sobbing on my hugging partner’s shoulder. I’m no more a crier than a hugger, but evidently, the two go together.
Carol understood my crying to mean that I was in anguish over the death of my son. In fact, I was crying over being hugged so well, so completely, by someone who had so little claim on me. It was a cry of pleasure, not of loss, although, as with all good cries, the tears come from various sources and it is impossible to sort them out once blended. For the most part, I wet her shoulder for the same reason that a sponge will shed its moisture when given a good squeeze.
Just as a sponge is eventually wrung dry, I, over time, ran out of tears. I attempted to clean them, and a frightful amount of jelly-like snot, off the shoulder of her yellow dress.
“It’s OK,” she said. “You know, you’re a good man, Charlie Brown. You’re sensitive and caring. You’re not the type of guy I’m usually attracted to, but I could get to like you.”
“Maybe even love you,” she added, with a conniving sparkle in her eye.