Finger Tips


It’s 3 AM and my head is filled with substances and little substance. The light feels like a darkened red, though it’s really a mixture of heat and moonlight, which translates chroma-neurologically into the blood red light of darkrooms and nights at Rubulad.

I am not at Rubulad; I am at his house. Everyone starts to leave, not giving my continued presence a second thought and this blind permission unknowingly starts to fuel a desire, as the loathing of my acquiescence begins to suffocate lust. Thoughts flit temptingly around the standard adages, “Make them want what they can’t have,” “Distance makes the privates grow fonder,” “Running away to the Philippines makes everything more fun,” “I miss teenage angst ’cause this is too easy,” etc., etc.

Alas, I only make it as far as the fire escape. Anyway, I’m too inebriated to make it much further, so I light a cigarette and watch as my hands knowingly cup the flame of the lighter to shield it from the wind. Every time I light something, the memory of my first love whispers into my ear, “Don’t fear the flame,” a first lesson I impart on all smokers struggling with a lighter and caustic winds.

My hands. Tonight I am in love with my hands. They are delicate things, much like the rest of my cellophane and Diet Coke body, dexterous from years of classical musicianship. Yet they are marked with a few too many lines around the bends, lines I once abhorred for making them look old, lines I now hold up in drunken defense of my “old soul.” They’re beautiful hands, with consistently half peeled nail polish, a faint scar in the shape of a cross and another from trying to punch my way through the walls of a Communist prison.

Shakira once sang (is she still around?), “Hips don’t lie.” Well, Shakira, my mother once said, hands don’t lie. I don’t think I need to quote it ’cause it’s true, they don’t. Worn hands, tanned hands, unused hands, awkward hands, polished ones and wrinkled ones; hands reflect the life of the person working them and unlike our other features, we cannot manipulate them as we see fit, we cannot stop their lines from forming.

I take a drag as he comes out to share the cigarette. I lean against his shoulder, half listening as he rambles banalities, still enamored by these extremities that are, at once, mine and not mine. These hands that I’ve been examining for a quarter century, always coming short of truly understanding that they are not mine, but rather, they are me. How have they existed as long as I have and how have they acquired knowledge I cannot put a finger on? Inebriation often results in this sort of endless wonder in what they can accomplish: the correct notes they strike on a piano when I cannot name the note I’m reading, the crevices of a man’s body they stimulate when my mind wanders away into darkness, the tossed objects they catch when my eyes are elsewhere. How the fuck are these part of my stumbled, haphazard, very poorly organized life?

A thought strikes.

Growing up never ends, does it?

It’s my hands that serve as a constant reminder of how much there is left to do. Unlike my face or my body, on which I’ve never been able to obtain any sort of objectivity, recollections of examining my hands persist through every stage, every day of my life. My hands are probably the only parts of me that do not think or hesitate, simply do, and they reflect the ideal me, the Reya qua Reya, I struggle to reach. And simultaneously, the dark depths reveal themselves through these fingertips, the angry, brash girl of yesteryear, who smashed glass through the air, hurled fists at he who disappointed, cut lines in desperate attempts to find stability in twisted control.

When I was seven, all I wanted to be was eight. I would think, once I’m eight, everything will be different. The 3rd graders will finally accept me and, of course, it didn’t occur to me that the 3rd graders would be 4th graders and in a different wing of the building. Then I was in middle school and everything would change if I could just make it to high school. Always, in the back of my mind, was this urge to become an adult, living on her own in New York City, and always, this was the final, final goal.

Now that I’m here, in this when and this where, making x amount of money as a young professional, generating x amount of art as a young artist… and it’s still not enough. Fantastic things happen – circus-like nights, infinite laughter, love affairs, foie gras of the gods, drug-addled traipses – and I don’t blink an eye. I think one can consider oneself lucky, if on the day of his death, he decides that he has accomplished enough. On that day, he will really, really smell the roses and not just smell them because someone told him he should slow down and do so. It is human nature to strive, to push. So, I want more. More, more, more. At once, thrilling and exasperating is the constant discontentment, the idea that now is so far from enough, and it’s tomorrow that I crave, but tomorrow can never be today and goddammit, I want to squash my brain.

Against the moonlight, I dovetail my hand with his, taking the cigarette from him with the other. Looking down once more, reminiscences stir of long-gone hands that once wrapped my own. As we kiss, those memories bring with them the oft forgotten knowledge that there will be new lips, new hands, new lives and suddenly, the aforementioned loathing slips away and I am compelled to kiss him hard; now isn’t so bad. I’m getting laid after all.

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image – Jason Barles