Hug. Photo by Callen Harty.

Last night I had a dream that we were with a group of about half a dozen old friends. Our time together was at its end. We were outside somewhere, likely a park, and all of the friends were lined up in a row and my partner and I were standing about ten feet away looking at them. Two of them hugged each other and I looked longingly at them because I love to hug and I miss them so much right now.

This is the reality of the world we live in right now. We can’t hug our friends or, unlike the dream, even be with them.

The dream continued with me looking at each of them and extending my arms out in what is known as an air hug and doing the same to each of them in turn. When I got to the last one, he stepped out of line and started moving toward me to give me a real hug and I started backing away. He continued moving toward me and I walked away from him. He started moving faster and I started running. He ran after me and eventually touched my shoulders and I turned and said sternly to him, “That’s not funny.”

This, too, is the world we live in, when we are afraid of the ones we love.

Yesterday, sitting at my kitchen table while working from home, I wasn’t feeling very well. I was tired and just felt sort of yucky. Nothing fit the symptoms of the Covid-19 virus and despite being isolated, I started worrying about it, thinking that this might be it. I realized then that despite my stoic front I am actually terrified of this disease and worried about dying from it due to complications from heart issues.

It’s the world we live in at this time.

I desperately want to go for a hike, but the weather hasn’t been the best, so I’m waiting it out. The only time I’ve been outside lately has been to walk the dogs and as we do, we watch the strange dance of people avoiding each other, crossing the street before they get too close, moving around in such a way as to have no contact. At least some of them smile and say hello and wish you a good day.

And this is the world we live in, where neighbors keep their distance.

The thing is, the isolation has not been that long yet and already I am longing for the world I used to know–the one in which people shake hands, hug, and connect in so many ways. It is the way of humans. It’s the world we should be living in, and I already miss it desperately.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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