I want to write about the hand I saw in the subway car, how I was sitting in the corner of the train and the five fingers crept around the mirrored surface of the car in an odd, backward way. I remember that the nails were wide and the fingers themselves were thick and sturdy and pale brown. The fingertips were almost near enough to touch my hair, which was still wet from an evening shower. I was drinking white wine out of a travel mug because I was on my way to my bereavement group at the university. I used to drink wine at a neighborhood bar before bereavement group, but lately I have started commuting with wine so I’ll be ready to talk about my dead relative the moment I arrive on campus.

When I boarded the train that evening with my mug of wine I had a feeling that I smelled like an actual wino, perhaps a homeless woman. I had done nothing to convince the other people on the train that I was not a homeless woman because I was sitting very still and sad in the corner and probably appeared spaced out to them. There was also a half-smoked cigarette in the pocket of my coat, which can tend to smell worse than any other thing, even if the cigarette is only five minutes stale.

I only started paying attention to my surroundings on the train when the man’s fingers edged around the mirrored corner and I felt that I needed to touch them. Sometimes I like to pinch the pads of my husband’s fingers one by one in order to soothe myself, or to squeeze his earlobe, and I felt like doing exactly that on this train to the fingers of the man whose back was to me. In fact, I’m still not certain that the fingers belonged to that same man I observed standing around the corner from me in the subway car, the man who wore a bright yellow jacket. I say that because from where I was sitting I couldn’t see a bright yellow jacket sleeve connected to the hand, only the skin of a wrist and a bit of black elasticated fabric that kept a jacket near the hand.

We rode together for a while. I sipped my wine and watched the hand. I tried not to spill the wine on my coat because I didn’t want anyone in my bereavement group to smell it and know that I’d been drinking. When the train stopped hard the fingers gripped the corner of the mirror and I saw the knuckles whiten momentarily, then relax again. I was the man’s right hand. That was a typo recorded in my journal from when I wrote all this down. It was meant to read “It was the man’s right hand.” But like I said before, I am still not sure if it was the man’s hand or not. The hand was arranged backward and in reverse behind him, the fingers pointing in the direction that a left hand’s fingers should point, so if you only had a second to determine which side of a man the hand belonged to, you’d guess wrongly about fifty percent of the time.

After a while I felt that I needed to put my mouth on the fingertips of the hand. I felt like the hand and I were in an intimate situation where it wouldn’t be out of place for me to nibble on the hand’s fingers. At times the fingers spiderwalked across the mirror closer to me and then I experienced a thrill and it was harder to keep my hands to myself. If I could have put my fingers near his fingers and matched my pinkie to his pinkie, the man probably would not have noticed, but the other passengers on the train who suspected that I was a vagrant might notice. I was so sure, in fact, that they would all notice, that I continued to stare only at the fingernails without touching them even though I wanted very much to touch them. I felt as if the hand were a pet made for me to hold. Yet I must have known that the fingers were attached to a hand and the hand to a man and the man was a real person who might not appreciate my taking his hand home with me and treating it like a pet. I drank more wine and felt unhappy because I knew that I would never again find myself in a more ideal position for squeezing those five fingertips one by one, yet I was still not going to reach out to them. The train kept moving through the tunnels and one stop would belong to the hand and one stop would belong to me and I knew that sooner or later we would both have to let go.

4 Thoughts on “Beforehand

  1. Explanatory note: This was a school assignment. We were asked to write something in the style of The End of the Story by Lydia Davis. I loved that novel, and I loved doing this mock-up because it gave me an excuse to obsess over this guy’s hand some more. I consider this post one long Missed Connection ad for that subway hand. Hand from last Thursday, from the Uptown 2 train, if you’re out there, please come find me. Maybe we can high five each other.

    This blog is not getting weird so stop thinking it.

  2. courtney (nick and alice's buddy) on February 20, 2010 at 6:45 am said:

    this very much makes me miss writing classes.
    gracias for sharing : )

  3. But I want your blog to get weird. Er. Weirder.
    (Also, you said husband. Hahahahaha! Um, sorry. That was inappropriate.)

  4. Bizarre, Amanda has a total earlobe fetish and is constantly squeezing mine. I’m talking about waking up in the morning and feeling a tug on my ear. Or just randomly having my ear yanked in public.

    I’ll have to tell her about this finger tip thing. She’ll love it.

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