Saturday, June 24th, 2023
I wince at the vulnerability in my writings sometimes as if they inflicted some sort of psychological torment on me. At the same time there’s something so human about them. They’re like a foggy window into the machinations and interweavings of my heart.
Oh, my heart, it aches, and I don’t know why. It isn’t idle, and my God what I would give for it be idle! I doubt it'll ever really be able to feel any type of serenity; it can only dream of it.
Lately, the bare verisimilitude of human embrace has caught my attention quite heavily. I don’t believe I’d like to break something as simple as an embrace down, although I have no doubt of my ability to do so. No, this whim seems more forthright—simpler within its bare bones. For once, I don’t think I want to know why; I simply wish to experience.
For some strange reason, I’ve been holding hugs for longer and longer periods of time where I used to have little care for them. Now I’m cataloguing them more closely, if you will. With family and friends, I’ll make an embrace last as long as possible without breaking the social bounds of normality. In other words, I’ll often hold a hug until the other person is ready to release it, whereas I used to be the one who released.
This isn’t a test of love or comfort or even of scientific reasoning. It’s not a test at all, really. I believe it’s a form of my own sincere appreciation because from the time I’ve started this curious index, I’ve been able to remember every single embrace across the span of months. If I close my eyes, I can even feel them, too.
I almost wish someone might be able to see me as I write this for the tears that gloss over my eyes as I remember these embraces are blatant and compelling.
I don’t know why these memories hold such a grip over me and neither do I think I care. I think I’m just … grateful. Perhaps to have people around me whom I can hold so lovingly, or perhaps simply because physical touch is a requirement for the human condition.
Either way, there’s one I remember so vividly I have to be careful recalling it, otherwise I might burst into tears. A rough time had draped about me like a cold rain cloud and I found myself ill-equipped to deal with it. So, I sought the only place I might compose myself and prepare for its effects—my solitude. I allowed myself twenty solid minutes of sorrow and tears of which I permitted absolutely no restraint until the timer finished.
The tears, like a flood, surprised me as I thought I might stop sobbing before my time ran out. I was wrong, and I cried the entire time. Finally, once my alarm sounded, I collected myself and walked outside for some fresh air. After a few minutes, my father, who had just gotten home from work, parked beside me. As I helped him unload the car, he used a tone of voice I don’t believe I’ve ever heard from anyone else in my life—a caring, sincere tone the likes of which I keep as one of my most cherished memories.
“Are you alright?” he asked, as if, deep down, he knew.
“Well,” I said, taking off my glasses and looking downward, trying to hide my sorrow. I had every intention of saying “yes,” but something prevented me from doing so no matter how hard I tried. As difficult as it is to admit, I broke down and I don’t exactly know why. I suppose I simply couldn’t help it.
We had talked for a while after my composure cracked and, standing side by side, we looked outward together as I tried to gather myself for a second time. I still awkwardly held a few things in my hands and had a couple bags over my shoulders while the tears streamed down my face, but it surprisingly didn’t matter. It was like everything else drifted away but the weight of the moment with my father.
Once our conversation had finished, like any father would do with his adult son, he held out his hand and I shook it with little hesitation. It was like some symbol of manhood we portrayed to one another with this simple gesture—like some spirit or ritual of adulthood and maturity had been summoned in this instant. I told him I’d be okay, and I just needed to catch a breath. After he made sure of that, he walked toward the house as I watched him leave.
“Wait,” I said. “Could you—?” and I began taking off the bags I was carrying, though my choked tears wouldn't allow me to finish my sentence.
“Yeah, I’ll take those inside for you,” he said laconically.
“No, no,” I said. “Can I just—?“ and I held out my arms.
Even now, that embrace I find difficult to describe. Picture one of the most loving familial moments of an entire lifetime balled up into a single hug, and you might conjure some idea of its magnitude. It took every fiber of my being not to weep on his shoulder, but I finally controlled my tears. I assure you this memory of mine will last forever. From what he told me in those few moments to the sheer power of a hug from a father … forever.
Something as forthright as my father asking me how I’m doing and taking the time to support and comfort me warms my heart so dearly, I grow emotional every time I think of it.
I do believe I’ve come to learn something profound about the human embrace. Experiences like them are not beautiful because we try to make them last forever, but because they have the opportunity to have been experienced. It’s the inevitability of their end that make them so profound to have been able to encounter, let alone hold onto. It’s the realization a wholehearted moment will undoubtedly cease to exist, and the stark, commanding epiphany to savor every second of it that makes life so sacrosanct with meaning.
Though I sometimes wish I could stay in the safety and comfort of my father’s embrace forever, there’s no word in any language, on any continent, or in any place or time of history that could truly be able to describe my gratitude for having experienced it with him and him alone.
Yes, it must be the understanding of the inevitability of the end which holds the key to savoring the hallowed depth of life.
I pray to God I might hold onto this understanding, if only I’m able to capture more pieces of my life worth the unfathomable weight of cherishment. Even despite my comprehension, though, I can dream of it—my heart idle in the warmth of someone loved. If only an embrace could last an eternity, then maybe I could find peace. Perhaps in these embraces are shards of that peace which is why I now crave them so fervently.
I wonder … Could you imagine a heart dreaming of tranquility but that’s been doomed into its opposite? No, I don’t think you can. Dear God, I am utterly alone then.