Fathom Mag
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Published on:
February 26, 2019
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2 min.
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Airport Side Hugs

We didn’t touch. Not for hours. We were half in-love from talking on the phone and writing letters, but we had never met in person. Now, just inches apart, we kept our hands by our sides and looked each other up and down, like a navigation system recalculating. He commented on my height. I commented on his shoes, and we smiled like children. 

I rested, maybe for the first time in years, while breathing in what he would later identify as “Jay-Z’s cologne.”
Rachel Joy Welcher

I should acknowledge the self-conscious side hug at the airport, which hardly counted as physical touch. My mom was there and his ears hadn’t popped yet from the in-flight elevation. It wasn’t until after we arrived at my parents house and had dinner with them that we slipped away to take a walk to the boat dock five minutes from my house. On our way there, we paused on the side of the road and hugged. It was a longer hug, worthy of the term “embrace,” and to quote Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, “it felt like coming home.”

We kept walking, stopping now and then to look at each other and hug again, and when we got to the boat dock, we sat side-by-side with our feet almost touching the water. We sat in silence. One positive thing about long-distance dating is that it forces talk, because that’s the only way to connect. But after months and months of talking, we were finally able to be near without words. He drew me close by wrapping his arms around me and pulling me to his chest. I rested, maybe for the first time in years, while breathing in what he would later identify as “Jay-Z’s cologne.” After some time, he finally spoke. “I am so sorry for what you’ve been through” he whispered, and “I have been wanting to do this for a long, long time.” 

First hugs are different than second hugs, and hugs a year and a half into marriage, but his arms still calm me like nothing else. This morning I listed to him all the things that were overwhelming me and after some generic lines like “it will be great” and “you’re great” we joked that his pep talk game was off. But about ten minutes later, he stood up and motioned for me to stand up, and he held me for a long time. I told him that he had redeemed himself and thought “This. This is what I needed.”

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Rachel Joy Welcher
Rachel Joy Welcher is an editor-at-large at Fathom Magazine. She earned a Master’s degree in theology from the The University of St. Andrews, taught high school English for ten years, is a published poet (Blue Tarp, Finishing Line Press), and writes for magazines such as Cordella, RELEVANT, and The Gospel Coalition. She lives with her husband Evan, who is a pastor in Glenwood, Iowa.

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