Hands

By Arden Schraff

His index finger traces my swollen veins, following each branch across my weathered hand. I feel his chest rise and fall against my cheek. I hear our granddaughters muffled laughter spilling through their small hands from down the hall. I reach up from Sebastian’s sunburned chest to curl a piece of brown hair around my wrinkled finger. Slowly, I fall asleep to the symphony of breath and heartbeat. His hand hovers over mine, still tracing. When I met Sebastian, his hands were one of the first things I noticed about him. They were rough, dark, a stark contrast to the manicured white hands I’d known my whole life. “Migrant hands” he said. Strong and slightly toasted, traits passed down from his ancestors across the border. His calloused hands brushed mine, in a flash I saw the story of our lives up until this point and just how different they were. My nails were always painted black when I was younger. Sebastian thought they were a “hint to my darker side, a rebellion from my strict Catholic school days.” I fidgeted with my hands when Sebastian and I fought; I couldn’t stand to look at him and see the fire behind his hazel eyes. Afterward, he wiped away my tears with his thick fingers and held my pale shaking hands against his chest. My fingernails now naked. The first time we held hands was when I snuck out to his beat up pickup truck senior year. He slid his long fingers down my forearm and intertwined his with mine. Sparks flew up my arm. I looked down and memorized how his hands consumed mine. That night he cupped my face in his hands, fingertips resting on my temples, his square thumps petting my pink cheeks. Sebastian hated galas, but he escorted me anyway when my publisher told me I needed to network. He “felt out of place,” like he was supposed to be “serving not being served.” He used to tighten his grip on my hand as we walked into the ballroom, often leaving white imprints around my fingers when he finally released. He switched to twirling the simple golden band around my ring finger; he was scared he would accidentally shatter my delicate “mittens.” When Sebastian laughed he had a tendency of clapping his hands together. When he thought something was really funny he clapped even harder, a steady thunder clap. He thinks I’m funny and that’s all that matters. After Sebastian’s father died he would disappear for days and come back bruised and battered, the stench of rum lingering on his breath. I never asked questions. His hands shook as I washed and wrapped his swollen knuckles. We still don’t talk about this time in our lives, but the small white scars stretching across his mountainous knuckles serve as reminders. When our first daughter was born, he tattooed two stars on the back of his hand, at the bottom of his thumb. One for our Sylvie and one for me. “I love you, I love you.”