Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I look at my hands and ask myself, “Am I old yet?” I have been asking myself that question for as long as I can recall. My mother once told me that when I was four years old I asked her if the wrinkles on my belly from my too-tight bathing suit were a sign that I was growing old.
I check the progress of my life against the wrinkles in my hands, the wrinkles I see each time I set myself down to write in the soft light of morning, when I tend to do this scribbling. In that otherwise forgiving light, every scratch and line and pucker of the skin is visible. So it’s little wonder that much of what I write is in the nature of reflection. Perhaps I should try writing in the light of mid-day when the glare washes out the imperfections, smoothes the surface of the skin and gives me back a year or decade or two.
I pay attention to hands, after the eyes they are the thing I look at when I first meet someone. They tell me a lot about the person and they are difficult to disguise with creams or Botox or makeup or any other form of personal hygiene or deception.
A few years back, I worked on a documentary film about transvestites and transsexuals. Over the course of filming, I saw a great many men who had undergone transformations, adjustments in their hormonal balance to better suit their natures. Many of these people were stunning examples of female beauty and I expect they could pass as genetic females in their daily lives. But I always looked at their hands and the hands told me that they had been born with a measure more from the male gene pool than from the other. It’s an unconscious habit now, this snap of my eyes to the hands.
I met a woman recently, I was walking through a park, picking weeds and trash from a flower bed when she approached me and asked if I would sit with her for a spell. She said she had had a rough day and needed a bit of gentle company. She was covered with hat, scarf, heavy coat and boots, but here hands were bare. We didn’t say much, we just sat. She had strong hands and the joints were slightly larger than one might expect from looking in her eyes, she had worked with them and worried with them. I don’t know the nature of her troubles – we didn’t speak of them – nor do I know her name or anything else about her. I got up after about fifteen minutes and made my way home, shaking hands with her before we parted. I might not recognize her should we cross paths again, but I’ll remember her hands.