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My mother absolutely loves hugs. Not a normal, healthy amount of love for hugs. No, she’s crazy for human contact in the form of hugging. She hugs people when she’s happy, she hugs them when she’s sad, she especially likes to hug when people are angry with her. As if the full-body squeezing experience is going to automatically turn my mood in a different direction. But I must admit, sometimes it does work. Her hugs are rather explosively addicting. She doesn’t just hug you on the outside, she power grips your heart like a vice, turning you into a puddle of goop on the inside.

I love to watch her hug people at the grocery store. No matter if they want it or not. Especially the times they don’t want hugsthose are the best moments. Their faces turn bright red with anxiety as they just hang there in my mother’s grasp, dangling in her arms like a piece of raw meat. They are so physically uncomfortable, you can literally see the pain in their eyes. It’s great. And my mom is as happy as can be; totally oblivious to the fact that they’re dying inside.

Since I was a kid, she’s called them “Love Gushies.” The uncontrollable urge builds up inside her body to give affection. She must either hug or kiss someone before she explodes. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes, I think she might actually blow up if she couldn’t get a hug.

But because I am who I am, I sometimes like to toy with her emotions. You know, play with them a little. She’ll be sitting somewhere, like the living room, and I’ll come in pretending to have one of her “Love Gushies” as I watch her get so excited. Right before, she picks her old, sometimes pain-ridden body out of her chair to hug me, I’ll say, “I was just kidding, Mom, I don’t want one.”

It’s all fun and games until I watch the tears build up in her eyes as if Niagara Falls was about to burst all over her face. I, of course, hug her right away, before the Vesuvius eruption of her tear ducts occurs. The sheer happiness she expresses after she gets a hug is truly a beautiful thing.

We have had sibling meetings, discussing mom’s unhealthy urge to hug everyone. We discussed mental illness, possibly some form of rare touching disease. But we always come back to the same conclusion. Mom just loves too much. She feels much deeper than most people. Hugging is her lifeline. If she couldn’t hug anyone ever again, I truly believe she would die. And it would be the worst possible death she could fathom. Not suffocation, not burning alive, or even the torturing of her children in front of her eyes (well, okay maybe that). But a hugless death would be near the top of her list.

My mom will always be a hugger. No matter the circumstances or whatever mood you think you’re in, she’ll always give you a hug. I’ve learned to accept that. Times are uncertain in this world. I know we’d much rather give people a squeeze around the throat instead of their shoulders, but give it a whirl. You might be surprised how it makes you feel.

The world of huggers still lives on. Despite how many anti-touch people there are on this Earth, sometimes a hug is all you need to get through life.

So next time you see my mom, whether you feel like it or not, give her a hug. You will make her day a perfect one. Because in her words, “More hugs could fix the world!” And believe me, she’ll surely try to make that happen. One hug at a time!

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Levi J. Mericle

Levi J. Mericle is a queer/disabled Christian writer and poet from Tucumcari, New Mexico. His work can be read in Mystery Tribune, Flash Fiction Magazine, South Carolina Review, Lunch Ticket, and others. He enjoys spending time with his family and loves hitting rummage sales with his mom.

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