I’ve known him for years, he’s the flirty guy with the perfect teeth and a penchant for giving hugs. Big hugs. The pick-you-up, squeeze-you-tight, and swing-you-around type of hugs. The kind that are just a few moments short of being inappropriate when bestowed upon me, a woman who is nine years his senior and in a committed relationship.
So, I have to ask myself, why would a woman, nine years his elder and in a committed relationship, allow herself to be picked up and swung around by this other man? Why haven’t I told him to stop, if not after the first time, then why not the second? Or the twentieth? The answer is simple. It’s the reason most people do most everything they do. I keep letting him hug me because it feels good.
True, I have a crush on him, but who wouldn’t? It’s nothing more than that. I have a boyfriend; I certainly couldn’t date the hugger. Once, when no one else showed up to supper club, it was just the two of us for sushi, but that wasn’t a date. I did put on lipstick, but it wasn’t a date.
He hugs all of us, all of the women in supper club. But lately he’s been texting me, inviting me over to his apartment to watch football, or offering to buy me éclairs. Éclairs are absolutely my favorite pastry, he knows that. I don’t know how he first found out that I like them, but when he showed up at Carolyn’s picnic with a dozen of those Bavarian cream-filled, chocolate ganache-drizzled delights, I knew he brought them just for me. He insisted it was a coincidence, he claimed he only got them because the bakery was out of brownies, but I don’t believe it. He also said he didn’t know I was going to be at the picnic, but I don’t believe that either.
I’ve been having sex with the hugger. He doesn’t know about it. Whether I’m with my boyfriend or by myself, I think about the hugger every time I’m naked. He’s the one racing through my brain while my body soars and sighs. I don’t know when that started, but I can’t make it stop.
He texted me this morning and asked me to meet him at the bakery. I wanted to say yes, so I did. I lied to my boyfriend and told him I was meeting Carolyn, and then waited until I had pulled out of the driveway before I put on my lipstick.
When I walked into the bakery I was enveloped by the warm, musty smell of sugar. I wondered how long my coat would smell like that if I took a few steps backwards and walked out the door, if I just got in my car and drove home to my boyfriend.
The hugger was there, standing at the front of the line. As he turned and took a step toward me, I felt my heart skip and sputter, like a drop of water in hot oil. “Don’t!” I said. “You’ll lose your place in line.” He smiled and reached out to me.
“I can get back in line later,” he said, pulling me to his chest. “But what I want now is a hug.” It was a seven-second hug. I counted. Seven seconds is a wonderfully long time to be hugged, especially in a crowded bakery.
He bought a box of two éclairs and a bag of brownies, and I followed him outside to a picnic table. He sat down on the bench beside me. I ate my éclair while he told me about last week’s Cal State game, and predicted how they were going to win this afternoon. “Fourth quarter, fake punt and thirty yards to score.” He stood and extended his leg to kick at his outstretched hands. He looked strong and confident, like the MVP of a championship team. I didn’t mean to, but I sighed out loud.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Kick-off is in ten,” he said. “Gotta head out.”
“Aren’t you going to eat your éclair?” I asked. Beads of condensation had puddled on the chocolate, and the cream had oozed over the sides of the pastry onto the cardboard box.
“No, I got those for you,” he said. He shook the bag of brownies. “These are for me. Are you ready to go?”
I rose to my feet but then thumped back down on the wooden bench. “But, I thought we were hanging out,” I said. He cocked his head to the side, leaned over and smiled as he brushed his hand across my cheek. I closed my eyes and lifted my face up to his. “You have chocolate on your lip,” he said, then turned toward the parking lot. I swiped at my mouth with a napkin, smearing the chocolate and my lipstick with the paper, then stood and followed him. When we got to my car, he took me in his arms, picked me up and swung me around, just like he’d done dozens of times before. He didn’t say “This was fun,” or “Let’s do this again,” or “I’ll call you.”
I don’t know why I’m so spun up about this. It’s not like I ever had a real crush on him. That would be ridiculous. I am a grown woman in a committed relationship. The hugger and I are just two people who hug and happen to like baked goods. If I had a crush on him, replaying this afternoon over and over again in my head, like I am doing right now, would make me miserably unhappy, but I’m definitely not. I’ve hardly even noticed that he hasn’t emailed me. Since I don’t have a crush on him, I’m not mortified that I sent him a selfie of me eating the second éclair and he texted back a one syllable acknowledgement. And not having a crush on him means that I’m not at all hurt that my follow up text celebrating Cal State’s win got another one-word grunt. It’s okay. He’s probably busy. It doesn’t matter. I never really liked him in the first place. I’m telling you, seriously, it’s no big deal if he never hugs me again. It’s not like I’d be crushed, or anything like that.