Her intense focus on my hands almost made me uncomfortable.


She would often spend whole minutes just cupping my hands, staring at them and letting them rearrange her thoughts. Sometimes she would lightly trace the pads of her fingers across the callused fields of mine. Sometimes she'd just rest her palms there. A light kiss fell between them here and there. Chilling sometimes, othertimes soothing, occasionally very relaxing, the sensations of her focus could carried me off the couch, the bed, the chair, and deposit me on a cloud in the shade, where I would rest.

It took me a long time to understand.

Many people think their feet are disgusting. Many of them are right. I had beautiful feet, and I knew it.

But my hands were another story.

Ink stains from carelessness with markers on the half moon a momentary lapse in attention with a hacksaw once left on my left index. A permanent graphite hue on the inside of the third section of the middle finger of my right hand. Fingernails on the ring fingers that were always just a bit too long. A pinky that would only bend half way. A lifeline that jumped a good centimeter at the base of the thumb where the palm meets the wrist (my sister once joked that the jump marked the moment I would have a sex change operation). And the calluses. Always the calluses, particularly on the left hand.

I never felt any shame at earning my dinner with my hands. I never felt any pride at it. Just the way things were. And alone in the shanty of an apartment I kept, the roughness of my fingers never prohibited me from working the tension out of my neck, my legs, my joints. I never noticed it at first. And most of the women I had known never noticed my hands. Most of them did not notice a lot of things.

I met a nice girl once while walking back to my car following the night shift in some small town. She invited me back to her place, and we enjoyed a nice conversation. She asked me to leave shortly after I touched her for the first time. Not disgust or dislike, she explained. Simply too rough for her. We hadn't even kissed yet.

I did not enjoy meeting many women after that. I kept my hands in my pockets when I did.

Some time later, I lay on my back, feeling the softness of her lips work its way into the nook between my thumb and index finger. The almost silence of my skin slowly cracking under her nibbling teeth made me want to draw my hands away. But with a soft firmness, she held them in place.

The ink stains and the half-moon and the crooked pinky still showed up the next day when I awoke. But something else was missing.

Thirty years later, and I have never bothered to look for it.