The Hug

I had some time so I decided to go to one of my favorite restaurants and get dinner and a drink while reading my book.

Approaching the restaurant, I could tell something was off. The door was open but the place was empty and the owner was yelling.

Walking through the door, I saw her on the phone, yelling and crying. She put the phone down, apologized. I held up my book. “I’ll sit outside. Take your time. No rush.”

She emerged 5 minutes later, sniffing, red-eyed.

“Sorry,” she said. “Sometimes you just get so overwhelmed, ya know,” and she reached for the order tickets in her apron pouch.

My next move was awkward; I almost knocked over the little plastic table. There was no good segue. I don’t remember what I said.

I had to walk around the table; it took some time. I opened my arms. She accepted.

We had one of those good hugs, the ones that last beyond the expected first 3 seconds. No back-patting, no words, just stillness, as we stood on a square of sidewalk in our city, people walking by on their way to somewhere else, wondering what could prompt a customer in flip flops to hug a crying business owner.

The afterwards was easier. Looking at each other was easier. We talked about the East Coast, siblings, being business owners, and, of course, food.

Neither of us felt weird standing out of bounds. It was calm and gentle.

We’d stepped over an invisible barrier, as if stepping off a playing field, unsatisfied with the positions we’re supposed to be playing, being so bold as to walk toward the evening sun while whistles blew and the sounds of the game continued behind us.

Closer now, seeing the restaurant and the sidewalk and the city for the first time.