“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man.
The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.
It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
– Toni Morrison
My best friend hugged me so wildly, my windpipe squashed like ziti.
I was gasping but not surprised, tears running down my cheeks as I confirmed I was not about to die.
“I’m okay!” I smiled like a Muppet, hacking. “I’m okay!”
Hana’s hazelnut eyes shone. “I broke my Angie!”
“I’m okay!” I wanted to reassure her more than I wanted not to die.
Reassurance is the raft Hana and I have been constructing for years now, riverboat-sized and candy-colored. It thunders through muddy waters, making light of lagoons where languid lookers suggest we are a bit much.
Hana’s muchness matches mine like a cotton candy pink sweater with apple green pants. She is oak where I am willow, Eartha Kitt to my Audrey Hepburn, jazz to my ballet, fury to my sound, meteor to my starlight. She is seventy-seven thousand volts to my votive candle, the wild horses of Chincoteague to my sparrow.
She has repeatedly knocked me down with fullback hugs. She has reliably set me on my feet after self-doubt setbacks.
She loves with volume and valor, five feet and one inch of ebullience. She is a bluebird with a wingspan that crosses continents. She is Julia Child, convening countless creatures for her annual Cassoulet Day. She is the sister I have sought since childhood.
She is too much for too many fools.
At foolish first glance, my muchness seems a mismatch. I am the Jesus freak to her earnest atheist, the hermit to her hostess, so food-fraught I cannot eat a bite of her bounty. An acquaintance once lamented that I am “not exactly a rough-and-tumble girl,” while Hana was off roughing and tumbling it like the entire asteroid belt.
Yet my light has been too loud for the lagoons, my love too reckless every time the river bends. I may not hug your windpipe shut, but I will declare you incandescent and throttle you with tenderness. I may not make you dinner, but I will drag you to love’s table and tell everyone how much you shine. I may step gently, but I will clog-dance accolades across your lawn, rambunctious reassurance that you are a glorious gift of God.
I say too much, too fast, too soon, too long.
I erupt into affection, erring on the side of affirm-‘til-they-squirm.
I cherish you long before and after it makes any sense.
I love big, and I’m not for everyone.
I loved Hana immediately.
We were 39 and 49 when we met, and at last two loony little girls had a best friend. There would be no withering looks on this raft, no gusts of cool, no leash on the lunacy of love. She loves my faith. I love her courage. We dip our feet in the river and convince otters to come aboard for crumbs of cassoulet and poetry.
Gutted of guile, pathologically earnest, and at peace with being peculiar, we never expected each other. Both attuned to astonishment, wiggly just to live in a world with walruses and K-pop and buffalo plaid, we never take each other for granted.
Even when one of us crushes the other’s trachea.
Once the oxygen returned to my brain, I hugged Hana again and read her mind. “I love everything about you,” I whispered.
“I am too intense for everyone!”
“Not me. And the world is insufficiently intense anyway.”
The world, to its credit, is trying to help Hana and me on our mission of madcap mercy. The same day as The Hug, NPR reported that several hundred pounds of pasta — “multiple shapes, including spaghetti and macaroni” — had been found dumped by the river. Naturally, this could only happen in our beloved New Jersey.
The internet went as wild as one would expect. But no one from Jersey to Jakarta found this as fabulous as Hana and me. The river ripples with our laughter.
She fills my ziti windpipe with song.
She makes much of my muchness.
She hugs my world to wholeness.
Angela Townsend is Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary and B.A. from Vassar College. Angie has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for 32 years, laughs with her mother every morning, and delights in the moon. Her work has appeared or will be published in upcoming issues of The Amethyst Review, Braided Way, Dappled Things, Fathom Magazine, Feminine Collective, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. Angie loves life dearly.