Give Me a Hug
Kissed my first guy tonight, a convict, and at my neighborhood bar in Brooklyn. So why the hell did I have to ask him if the Giants won? Seemed an innocent enough question at the time. The game had just ended. “You’re asking me?” he says. “You’re asking me if the Giants won?” He looked up at the TV over our heads. “I lost $60,000 on that game, and they had the ball five yards from the endzone when the clock ran out.” Actually, I could see the Giants had the ball three yards from the endzone because Sportscenter was running the play over and over and this poor bastard has to keep watching himself lose 60 large. Couldn’t tear his eyes from the screen. What was no doubt running through his head besides his loss, was he’d only been three yards away from making $80,000. He was drinking and sweating. He was asking waitresses to hug him.
The first thing he said to me though, before I brought up the Giants, was that he nearly “popped me one” after I sat down because he asked me how I was doing and I didn’t answer. Truth was I hadn’t been that interested in conversation, but at this bit of info I smiled real friendly and said, “I didn’t hear you. I’m a little bit deaf.” That’s when I asked him if the Giants won because I figured I’d better say something. He was a big guy, a good six inches taller than me, and he slid off his stool to hug more waitresses. Well, before long he came back over and flexed his bicep and said “feel my muscle” (it was pretty big), and he told me he was 31 and had just served 5 years in prison and muttermutter something about his mother and her mortgage or muttermutter maybe he could kill this guy or he’d have to pay him back 60,000 dollars is a lot of money. Yup, I say. He was a pretty good-looking fellow (though he looked older than 31) and seemed almost nice in a weird way and he had muscular arms alright. But when he hugged one of the waitresses a little too long I figured it was time to knock back the rest of my Guinness and slip off. Since he was between me and the door I reached out to shake his hand as I passed (figured it was a good idea) and he pulled me into him and said “give me a hug” and I’m like “okay,” but he held onto me different than I expected, like I was a mooring. And I wondered where he would end up after this night, after the water pulled him away.
When he said “give me a kiss” I was hoping it wasn’t supposed to be on the mouth, but he kissed me on my cheek, so I kissed his whiskery cheek back (you know, what the fuck and go with the flow and get out the door), and then he pulled me into him again, his arms wrapped around my shoulders as if I made a difference. He was starting to hurt. He was starting to really feel it. But there was no saving him, and his mood or circumstance would hardly be improving before dawn.
Steve Adams’s creative nonfiction has won a Pushcart Prize and been listed with the Notable Essays in Best American Essays. His short fiction won Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and has been anthologized, and his plays have been produced in New York City. He is a writing coach at www.steveadamswriting.com.
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Image: Rondell Melling