it was impossible to count all the hugs and european kisses received. in the first few days i felt like a skeleton because even with so much meat on my bones each embrace felt to penetrate through layer after layer of carefully constructed retaining walls. there were varieties i’d quickly learn and effort to reciprocate. the soft and short were easy. the long and hard felt painful and difficult. there were people that wanted to hold me for what felt like an eternity. i pretended we were beetles and magnolia trees as i counted one mississippi, two mississippi and on, gauging that four or five must surely equate to a respectable pollination time before pulling away. after every hug each person stood curiously close to engage in immediate eye contact which normally i can excel at, but after an embrace i learned It feels too intimate, too vulnerable, and i found myself looking in other directions while listening or responding. i felt that every day afterward would be increasingly uncomfortable and challenging. i wasn’t wrong. even though i was hugged over three hundred times (without exaggeration), no one hugged me like him. in the end i was grateful for all the love but also sad, realizing i’d instinctively made comparisons to a once in a lifetime embrace that changed how i felt about being held in general. none compared yet still i’m held.

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