Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Allure of Hands

Hands -- large and small, callus and supple, thick and aquiline, balletic and grasping gaspingly -- are the single most compelling argument for intelligent design I can imagine. Imagine the delicacy of the human hand, its dextrous articulation in even the most physically enfeebled or effete among us: an infant minutely encircling a father's finger with his own pudgy digits, Stephen Hawking piloting his chair with movements of his twisting, gnarled hand so fine as to be imperceptible at any distance, a centenarian weeding her garden, turning down her bed, or operating a remote control console.

How many operations, minute by minute, second by second, that only a man or a woman among all living things could hope to effectuate manually do we blithely take for granted? How much physical lyricism is there in the mere (!) act of typing these words, bringing to life in a medium recognizable to others these abstract maunderings, in fits of ten, twenty, thirty words, the staccato cooperation of my fingers wholly unconscious, as I watch these words emerge as though by magic on this screen, the blur of my dancing hands an undistracting and peripheral matter, wholly outside me?

And if this isn't enough, imagine those who use their hands to truly extraordinary ends, achieving an astounding variety of ends as unconsciously as I type: Zulieka playing her violin, Brian Setzer on his guitar, an artisan creating a cast to hold and shape an earth metal of intractable hardness at ordinary temperatures, a jeweler setting a diamond, a television repairman soldering a loose connection back into place, a woman on the corner deftly picking her nose, Dali painstakingly rendering in photorealistic detail the impossible landscapes of his inimitable imagination, a mechanic adjusting an old timing chain into its proper alignment, a surgeon inserting delicate instruments through a hole no bigger than a nighttime star in the base of a human skull to effectuate profound improvements in a patient's motor function, a single finger plying virtuously the folds and corrugations and hollows of a lover's interior.

Running a finger absently along my own fine eyebrow for a moment as I review a few of these words, I find myself defiantly rejecting the notion that such perfection might be the product of biological chance, while my mind, puppetmaster of my hands' dexterity, rejects the whimsy of my defiance, its latent romaticism, its unverifiable premises, if premises properly understood they even are.

I wear a single ring. And should I ever don another, more powerfully symbolic ring, I will shed the current one, which has adorned me well for three years now. I wouldn't crowd my hands, wouldn't restrain them; one ring is enough.

At a local tavern a few weeks ago, I sat with two friends, one beside me and another alone on the opposite side of the table. Behind him, her back to us, sat a woman with a straight back, a fine neck, an impossibly thin waist and immaculately styled hair. Inexorably, my attention insistently returned to her in its every idle minute for the better part of an hour until I became self-conscious about my eyes' constant wandering back. As much as any sitting form might, what I could see of her suggested a conventionally attractive specimen, thin, well proportioned, healthy. But it wasn't this that drew my attention, since in our orientation toward each other the prospect of her more comprehensive beauty was merely implied.

Rather, it was the fluttering flight of her right hand into and out of view above or beside her delicate shoulder. Sometimes it held a cigarette, but other times it winged about, a dancing girl to decorate the margin's of a master's stage. I couldn't look away for more than a few seconds. The fingers were long and straight, the nails modestly short but impeccably lacquered in the mode of serious professional women everywhere, its attachment at the wrist at once sturdy and fragile, an undisturbed curve rather than a jumble of angles and ill-suited shapes -- the very essence of femininity. I imagined her hand lying gently on the nape of my neck to hold me near, resting affably on my upper harm to impel my attention, interwoven with my own knuckly and scarred instrument in quiet acceptance, resting amorously on my thigh under a table of friends, slithering playfully into the waist of my jeans later, at home, alone.

When finally she stood my suspicions about her greater form were vindicated: she did, indeed, have an exquisite body, and carried herself as gracefully as her hand had insisted she would, proud and indifferent to the attention her elegant shape and movement commanded. I never saw her face, however, and I remember only the most general contours and proportions of her form and outfit.

But her fingers, holding her cigarette courteously high to allow the smoke to drift over her companions's head, her hand tattoing the noise-polluted air with an artistry that defied distraction, this I remember as though it were my own.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker