I Just Want a Damn Hug
Fantasizing about casual touch and social norms
Today is May 14th 2020; it’s my 28th birthday.
While most people seem bummed about their birthday falling during the stay at home order in New York City, I am happy with it. Of course there are things I would rather do and places I would rather be, but I assume I will never have a birthday like this again and that's what makes it memorable. Much like the symbolism of a birthday - another spin around the sun, time passing - I know this time will pass and we’re getting closer to that day.
The better days are ahead of us. Not so far in the future we will be looking back on this crazy experience we went through all together. For now, I'm dreaming of normality. I often fantasize about the first day post quarantine and ask myself, what will be the new normal? When will I be able to hug the people I love? Which of my favorite restaurants will survive? It’s cliche to say that I want to be wild and free but it’s how I feel! While I try not to stress about the unknown, there are some things I don't want to live without.
The gentle sounds of birds chirping and spark of sunlight glides through our blinds, gently rocking me awake. I reach up my arms for a stretch and roll out of bed quietly not to wake my sleeping partner. I almost feel like a child on Christmas, excited to run downstairs to open my gifts. Today is the day quarantine is lifted. I stumble through our railroad apartment to the kitchen where I set the moka pot up for espresso. I blindly pack the grinds tight, flip on the stove and froth the oat milk while I wait for coffee to brew. I walk towards the kitchen window and pry it open, letting the fresh morning breeze rejuvenate the stale quarantine air. I take a deep breath and sigh of relief. I gaze out, looking at the vast NYC skyline, crystal clear. I look at this view every morning, but today the feeling is different, the city feels as if it's ours. As if we’ve made the challenging journey, reached the peak of the mountain and screamed from the top. The coffee rumbles to a finish interrupting my thoughts on the exciting day ahead. I breathe the awakening aroma of caffeine and throw on "Good Vibrations" as I pour two lattes.
It's difficult to describe exactly what I would do next, the moments I crave feel like a dream and fantasizing about what used to be comes in faint glimpses. There are so many things that come to mind. Going to my favorite restaurant, having a drink with friends, barbecuing, skateboarding with a crew or even riding the subway. I also dream about traveling, navigating through the open world. But these things can wait.
What I’m craving the most is intimacy. The casual touch you exchange with family, friends and even strangers. I’m missing comfort from my mom, powerful hugs from my dad, play-fighting with my siblings, friendly hugs and kisses between friends, daps strangers give you when you land a trick at the skatepark, accidentally bumping into someone on the subway...that sort of causal interaction. I miss banter and laughs, handshakes and punches. I miss the friendly relationships I have with my local baristas, bodega clerks, bartenders that know my name, the people I see riding the subway at the same time as me and their recognizing head nods.
Friends, family and even strangers all feel so distant right now. It’s extremely uncomfortable when someone comes within 6 feet of you, there’s a weird aura within that space. I can’t wait to break that barrier. So while I don’t know exactly what I’ll do after my morning routine - the only that seems to have remained untainted by this pandemic - I know I’ll hug the people I love. This is what I crave. Beyond that, I can’t really wish for much more at this moment.
Written and Photos by Christian Johnson