By Ashley M. Nissler
From the first his hands fascinated: the delicate wrists, the fine bones and slender fingers, the palms just wide enough to cup my ear or the neck of a violin. I gave my love a pair of kid gloves, thin and soft, to protect his lovely hands – but found my gift was too small: time had passed between the measurement of my palm against his, finger pressed upon finger, wrist flush against wrist, a little warm hollow between our palms.
I bought a larger pair but after a time his hands were again too big – five fingers soon poked out the ends. Now he could wrap his fingers around my neck or encircle my waist with one hand. His thumb alone covered my eyes with little effort. Still we danced, he clasping his growing hands behind him, me reaching, chasing, 5,6,7,8 to grab onto them.
When the music stopped I had to buy yet another set, elastic and elephant, and he pulled them on and flexed as if to say perfect fit.
When his one hand spanned my entire torso from chin to hip, I sewed him a pair myself from all the old gloves, a patchwork of leather as wide as a sheet. Still his hands dangled down from his sleeves, fingers brushing the ground when he stood to kiss me. Each day the fingers, palms, bones, and tendons stretched and stretched until he could hold the house with one and my whole self with just a finger. I would sleep in one hand at night or when he worked; he would look at me with sad eyes as if to apologize for his giant hands and regular-sized heart.
We went on like this, my body in his hands, his body farther and farther away in the house while his hands lengthened on. We ceased to speak – his voice now came from so far away even shouting could not bridge the distance. Eventually, he had to sleep in the attic, and while he rested, his hands spilled out of the house, through the dormered windows, past the second story and the bottom floor, into the garden.
I would stand near a finger in the backyard and he would stroke me, hoping that it made me happy, but just as often his touch would knock me down onto the patio or into the neighbor’s yard.
Winter’s storms brought leaves and branches down on top of the tarps I had dragged over his hands, and dirt drifted under and between folds of skin. While he slept the gray days away, his fingers rooted in the damp soil, married the dirt and lay there until spring, when his end came.
And then the fingers, knuckles first, pushed up through the greening earth, unfurling their joints one by one to stand straight up to the sun.
All day all night they wave to me, calling my name.