As I am walking across the dimly lit dance floor, I feel a slightly moist hand grip the part of my arm just directly above my elbow.
I turn around; my long gown twists along with me. The netted beige overlay hides the aqua cloth beneath it. The dress covers my right shoulder, wraps tightly around my upper half, and flows all the way down to the floor. The ruffles of my skirt react to my jolt as quickly as I do.
His hands are out like I am expected to take it and follow his lead. I do exactly that. He slowly brings me closer to him the moment I touch his slightly shaking palms and gradually seizes my waist when it is near enough for him to hold.
I am unsure how this works; it is my first slow dance with him, and I’m worried about how I should carry my tall and daunting silver heels so I don’t embarrassingly trip and fall. Thankfully, he guides my hands and allows it to rest on top of his shoulders, slightly near his neck, while my right hand follows suit on the other side.
My entire arm is resting on the front part of his tuxedo, keeping ample enough distance between us. I am looking at his eyes, his nervous smirk and the way he twists his eyebrows, as if to say am I doing this right? I smile at how cute he looks while uneasy. I try to comfort him by easing into an embrace.
I drag my hands along the front part of his chest and I feel the roughness of his suit as it grazes my skin. My arms join together along the back of his neck while I catch a whiff of his strong perfume coupled with the scent of his natural body odors. The small stubbles on his chin tickle my right shoulder, and send bursts of chills down my spine.
We are not just hugging. We are binding one another with our touch, together creating gentle promises that come with a hopeful kind of love. We are letting another life just moments away from our own skin, carefully cradling and swaying and opening up the vulnerabilities we once kept guarded.
We are moving together, swaying to the rhythms of dancing lights and beats of peaceful music. But in this moment, the only sound I allow myself to hear is his paced breathing, and slowly steadying heartbeat.
My mom stretches her hands out wide and I uncomfortably force my body towards hers. I acquiesce to her attempt at affection. My left arm hooks under her right one and my other arm rests uneasily on her shoulders.
We are not hugging each other. We are hugging the pockets of air that cram tighter and tighter within the crevices of our bodies. My bent arms awkwardly hover at the round of her back. My head does know what angle to take while positioned on top of her shoulder. My chest attempts to keep an ample distance from hers, but fails as she keeps pulling closer and closer.
I am dressed in my usual get-up whenever I travel long haul: plain t-shirt underneath my red hoodie, cozy maroon pants, and my bright pink and purple sneakers. She is in her pajamas: a large white shirt, that’s probably my dad’s, and a pair of loose black shorts. There are remnants of cigarette smoke still attached to the fabrics of her clothes that I sniff out. I can feel the warmth of her skin despite the layers I have on, a warmth that I do not feel from her as much as I would like.
The car engines are waiting to rev up and take me to the airport, but she refuses to let me go until I forcibly take a step back and tell her I will be late. We release one another and I wonder when I will ever learn how to give my mother a hug she deserves.
I’ve never seen him look this sad. His eyes are puffy and at first I think he came from a really long nap. I am very, very wrong.
We enter the brightly lit room, a place we can privately inhabit. He will not allow himself to expose his reddening eyes to the world, even if he knows he needs it. I do not usually hug him, even if he is my best friend; I do not usually hug others first. But it is one of the very few things I can offer that I know can help, albeit slightly. I extend my arms outward while slowly moving towards his being until I am able to cup my arms around his neck. His arms wrap tightly around my waist, and his palms lay gently at the lower part of my spine. His bulky backpack is in the way and I am unable to give him the full hug I feel he needs, but I try to squeeze him snugly anyway. My fingers soothingly stroke the thick black coat that covers his shoulders until I feel they should stay motionless for a while.
We are silent. We are still. We are hugging one another, him more than me. He is craving a little bit of love, searching for a certain safety and comfort, the one just recently robbed from his existence. I am not enough, but I hope I can come close.
I feel him trying to hold in the tears that will inevitably come. Let them flow, I want to say, but words are not called for now. I imagine his eyes are starting to get damp, and his mind is filled with shattered images of his former lover, now just fantasies never to be realized. I am quietly extending my tenderness, but a hug can only do so much.
Slowly, his body shifts and pulls away. We break apart and I offer him a reassuring smile. He struggles to reciprocate, then lugs himself towards a chair. I sit on the one beside him, hands feebly patting his shoulder in an attempt to console. I stare at his sad eyes in silence.