The Stranger I Should’ve Hugged

I was sitting at my usual spot in the public library—on the floor, between the aisles of bookshelves, with a fortress of piled books. A few feet away from me sat a red-haired woman with an equally large pile of books. I pointed to one of titles and said, “that one is really good”. Then I started rambling about the different books that she could read.

As I spoke, she peered at me through her glasses with a contagious smile that could infect the most serious of people.

We spent a good five minutes talking about different things. We talked about the history of witchcraft and religion. But then, our conversation took a quick turn when she mentioned her mother. Her mom passed away and while she began to explain how much she missed her mom, her eyes turned red as they pooled with tears, threatening to spill over.

“Enjoy your mother while you can because you don’t know how much time you have left,” she said, battling the tears with her only weapon—her smile. All I could manage to say was, “It’s all going to be okay.”

I could’ve done better. I’m not good at comforting people—let alone, grieving strangers. She needed more than cliché half-hearted words. But I couldn’t conjure up anything else, anything that would comfort her restless hurting soul, but I simply couldn’t.

Months later I would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking of her. Laying in my bed, I’d think to myself, “Damn I should’ve hugged her.”

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