Here are some of my thoughts about HUG by Verity Standen at Forest Fringe:
‘If you feel uncomfortable at any time just raise your hand and we will lead you out.’
I can still back out. This is important to know, because I have thought about backing out. Because I am me and sometimes I don’t like to be touched.
I sit down. Put on my blindfold. I tie it in a way that means I am almost completely blindfolded but there’s a little gap at the bottom so if I do need to leave I can tilt my head back, cast my eyes downward and see forward so I can get out. I want to be invested and do this properly, but I am still me.
It’s dark and silent and then there is singing. One voice at first, then a few more and then many. It is somewhere between choral music and inuit throat singing and it is beautiful. Beautiful. I feel calm. Calm and peaceful and distant from the world. Isolated but not alone.
Slight panic rises as I realise no one has yet touched me. I worry there will be surprise hugs, the owners of the voices jumping on me, caressing me at random, squeezing me too too tight.
I sense that someone is in front of me. She takes my hands, slowly. Not sensually. Gently. I think she realises my discomfort but I can’t be sure. She tugs slightly at my hands to indicate I should get to my feet. She is always holding my hands. Not tightly holding them. More supporting them than holding them.
She holds my hands out to the sides and for a brief moment I think she might be about to try and slow dance with me and this worry makes me nearly shoot my hand into the air and ask to leave. Even blindfolded I am too embarrassed to dance. But she puts her arms around me.
I HAVE NOT PUT DEODORANT ON.
Her arms are around me and my spine is tense and my arms hang down by the side. She is much smaller than I am and I know she is wearing a checked shirt because of how I have tied my blindfold but otherwise I do not know who she is but her arms are around me and she is singing and I can feel every vibration of her singing running through me. Engulfed and enveloped in the melody and in this odd hug with this stranger somehow Who I Want To Be wins a battle against Who I Actually Am and I relax, step a little to the side which allows me to dip a little lower, and I wrap my arms around the small stranger and I sink into the hug.
My blindfold is damp. I squeeze a little tighter. The stranger responds and squeezes a little tighter. I am crying. I am consumed by the voices as they swirl around the room. I feel empowered by this hug with the stranger as if in someway I am breaking through or breaking out. Like there is some tiny revolution in my body that means right now I am not me. I am part of something and in being part of it I can leave behind some of the pieces of me I wish I could always cast aside.
It is intense and gorgeous and warm and I even forgot to worry about the fact I had not put deodorant on.
I am gently led back to my seat. I sense she sits before me and she still holds my hand. And here is the second wave of crying. More intense now. Now it feels like this was all for me. A deep, intense connection for just a short time created just for me by a stranger I will never know.