“I know ___ like the back of my hands.”
I’ve always liked that saying. It’s tossed around here and there without much thought, but the content of it implies a confident, (mostly) non-sexual self-intimacy. These are my hands. I know them, these things I work with.
I have a funny relationship with my hands in that I realized exactly how much they do relatively early on. I was eighteen when I lost use of one of them for a month and a half partying too hard at Oktoberfest. That’s the kind of thing that opens your eyes to the little tasks your hands accomplish. Tying your shoes. Buttoning your pants. For a while I resigned myself to a bleak future full of velcro kicks and sweatpants.
I got my hand to work again, but now it’s got personality. One full of snark. Sometimes it likes to let go of things I’d much prefer to keep a hold of. Sometimes it spasms, like those full-body shivers you get for no reason, but at a fixed point. Sometimes it shuts off altogether and the static feeling coursing through the meat of my hand stresses me out with the thought that maybe my recovery from paralysis was only temporary, a last-minute pardon with an expiration date.
You know what? Fuck you, left hand. You’re like that friend that does favors but then never lets you forget about them.
More than tools, though, my hands hold history. A couple knuckles click into place when I clinch my fists, consequences of hitting faces that were much harder than I expected in fights that never should have happened over things that probably didn’t matter in years long past.
Scars cover the backs of both hands, marks I’ve collected since childhood being clumsy or stupid or emotional (and stupid). There’s a scar on my left thumb that came from burning mattress glue. My friend and I were tossing out a ruined mattress and he decided to set the thing aflame once we got it in the dumpster. I told him to put it out. He blew on the fire and sent molten adhesive onto my hand.
On my right hand, I have two pairs of parallel scars. One sits in between my ring and little fingers. I was playing beer pong at a friend’s house and reached under a bookcase to retrieve a wayward ball. A screw poking through the bottom of the lowest shelf caught me going in and coming out.
The other pair sits between my middle and ring fingers. They’re faded now, but the memory lingers. Same house, different night, an ex-girlfriend came over with a mutual friend to meet my other friends for the first time. She got drunk and spent the rest of the night emasculating me in front of everyone because she knew I wouldn’t say anything back. I took out my rage and hurt on the steering wheel of my car and came away with a bloody hand and a cracked knuckle.
I also have a mosquito bite right now on one hand. Fuck mosquitos and their bites.
…..it’s funny now, looking at my hands, to consider how little I think about them from day to day, but how much they impact other parts of my life. I don’t mean the little tasks I take for granted that I listed above. I don’t mean it as far as dictating my future, either: the creases in my palm are smooth and seldom converge. I’m no palm reader, but that seems to me to imply a simplicity far removed from the reality of my life.
I mean that hands are very sensual. That touch is intimate. I find I’m not just a pretty sexual man (in that I like sex; I’m not implying that I’m sexy), but that I crave closeness as well. I’m content to cuddle on a couch, to hold someone near in bed just to talk. When I’m sitting next to someone I like, my hands reach out to send lights scratches along their back or to rub their leg.
Looking at my hands, I think of the love letters I’ve written along a woman’s arms, the poetry I’ve traced along the dip in her back at the base of her spine. I think about fingertips on goosebumps, feeling skin shudder under my palms. I think about sending strength into my fingers and the ball under my thumb to knead out knots or to pull her closer to me. I think about holding hands and running my thumb along the back of hers. I think about holding the nape of her neck, fingers curled under her hair while my lips kiss lips, cheeks, freckles, everywhere. Hands and hips. Hands trailing a serpent’s trail along her frame.
My hands have been violent when they needed to be, and expressive much more often ( – peace – hang loose – blown kisses – fuck you), and useful constantly (except for left hand, which took that vacation and occasionally calls out from work). But I love using my hands for affection, even when I don’t realize I’m doing it. I register the warmth. The closeness. The way she sinks into my touch and the tension disappears beneath my palm.
My hands aren’t the greatest, though. I can’t end this on that assumption. My fingers are kind of short and I bite my nails because I’m anxious all the time. But! But!
At least I’m not this lady.