I was nearly done packing.
I’d sorted all my toiletries, added thoughtful touches like a scented candle and sparkling water, a bag of citrus and kolaches, lots of sun screen and self tanner. I needed to only pick out which bikinis I’d take, but the thought was close to revolting.
While I lay out tanning my soft, middle-aged body, there would be a hotel full of people there not by choice, but out of necessity and 6 blocks away people protesting for the lives of black Americans.
It just didn’t feel right despite everyone I talked to telling me I deserved it. Do it, go for it, you need it. Truthfully, what I needed was to stay home and be that person.
The person who wept when she watched the videos of people bravely hitting the streets and peacefully protesting get mowed down by mounted police or thrown to the grown by big, muscular men in riot gear, a septuagenarian harassed and left bleeding by callous officers sworn to protect us.
The person who yearns for a world that feels safe. For women, all people of color, every sexuality and every religion, every different mobility and health status, every height and size., every gender identity.
When you think about it, this world is set up to be kind and accepting to very very few types of people. The lane to acceptance is narrow: attractive, tall, fit, straight, Christian, white, cis, preferably male, [college] educated, never incarcerated. That was a very easy list to write down versus the hundreds of other combinations I could come up with that are not that.
My decision made and my heart light, I called the hotel. I explained that with the uptick in COVID cases in the last week coupled with the protests, “It just isn’t a good time now.”
She was perfunctory and efficient in her response and in less than 4 minutes I’d rescheduled my stay for the end of August. Perhaps then it won’t feel so gross.
I texted The Vet. He was sweet. “Want me to come over instead and bring a pizza?”
“Nah,” I replied. “I have a shit ton of kolaches.”
We sat on my back porch, the cicadas drowning out our conversation from any possible eavesdroppers. We drank and talked and laughed. He’s leaving in one month.
I felt tears, but ignored them. We have never talked about our feelings regarding our friendship and what the move will mean for us. He’s happy to be leaving; it’s good for him. I’m happy he’s happy. But I will miss my best friend and I wanted the weekend at the hotel to be a last hurrah for us. Strictly platonic, of course.
At 1 am, fighting the urge to close my eyes in my chair he bid adieu. He stood tall and bald, casual in cargo shorts and a t-shirt that clung slightly across his broad chest.
“I read an article about how to hug safely if you’d like to,” I said. “We just can’t have our faces face the same way and I have to keep my face in your chest.”
He answered by opening his arms and I stepped into them. I turned my right cheek against his chest and wrapped my arms around him. I breathed in the scent of him, his detergent probably, and wished we’d held on a few beats longer.
I quickly stepped away per the safe-hugging instructions and felt awkward, like I’d just been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
I walked him to the door and said goodbye. My entire night was the right thing to do and just what I needed, and today I slept until I could sleep no more then walked the 1.45 miles to my ex’s and played for an hour with Peyton and a hose and some slippery grass.
I don’t need fancy right now, all I need is simple: friendship, love and rest.