open letter to my friends asking them to hug me

written and illustrated by Kezia Rice



listen to Kezia's reading of the poem here:



if


you


type


how often should i be hugged


into google


without having to click on a link


or digest an article


without having to think


the internet tells you


we need 4 hugs a day


for survival


we need 8 hugs a day


for maintenance


we need 12 hugs a day


for


growth

Oh.


Only during my relationship

did I engage in so much touch

the elongated lingering kind

when we lay on the sofa watching Premier League

his naps on my lap as I wrote my university essays

and at night

before and after

- never during -

sleep

he greeted me at the weekend

with a hug lasting as long as it took to catch up on our week

invariably a long time

though reality TV was our one shared interest

we rarely ran out of things to talk about

but

(big surprise)

our relationship was not sustained by one shared interest

after two and a half years

we

break

up

Oh.

I hadn’t been properly hugged in weeks

I took matters into my own lonely hands

and asked my dad and friends to hug me

(yes, it is a bit sad to ask)

(but desperate times mean swallowing your pride)

(see this poem’s title)

this was November

on barely 4 hugs a day

I was surviving

3 months later:

a ban on human touch so significant

it sparked countless articles

(including this one)

(probably lost in the depths of the internet)

elbow touches

waves from a doorstep

the warmth of a friend

formed in pixels on a screen

only couples in quarantine together

had sex and hugs on tap

I read in the paper about 'love in lockdown'

and felt literal vomit in my throat

I was mostly disgusted

(I was slightly jealous)

I was very un-touched

my insides colder

my mostly heartless heart

in an isolation of its own

mid-way through lockdown

I had a bit of a

break

down

I would explain here

why

I felt so panicked at the thought of life

but I didn’t

(still don’t)

know

what was happening to my mind

I think I knew I needed touch

I asked my dad for a hug

holding me

he told me

he had wanted a hug for weeks

hadn’t wanted to bother me

by asking

Oh.

Both of us

lonely

in the same house

doing nothing about it

we broke the distance

with a daily hug

sometimes it felt like a chore

but ritualised human touch is better than none

only once before in my life was I hugged enough for significant growth

winter mornings in the kitchen

enveloped by my mum and her thick woollen jumper

before we put the porridge on the hob

after school

I met her in her study

with the view of the postcards on the bookshelf

and the plum trees out the window

as I sat on her lap

and told her about my day

when it got dark at night

we met at the fireside

our cashmere jumpers touching

as we looked through magazines of clothes too frivolous to buy

that winter

I didn’t know

it would be the last time

Oh.

It turned out she had

just days or weeks

or more or less at home

I held her tighter

her body always frailer

(if I was hurting her she never said)

she still let me sit on her lap

until she was no longer sitting

but lying

down

on the bed

into death

Oh.

I still sometimes sit

on my auntie’s lap

my sister’s

a friend’s

a lover's

but never

do I ever feel

so like a child again

as when I was

so tightly

so fiercely

held

so unselfconsciously

loved.


Kezia Rice is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of imprint mag.zine. As well as running imprint, she has made a podcast @kezsbookshelf, and can often be found taking scissors and a sewing needle to her clothes or having a refreshing dip in one of Lancashire's rivers. She has previously written for imprint about everything from living without a car to the problematics of Love Island to her passion for charity shopping, and her lockdown sewing experiments, part one and two!