Between all-white bed sheet and the sound of beeping monitor every now and then, I cringed a bit by the scent of disinfectant.
“Does it hurt?” you asked.
I looked at my hand engulfed in yours. My hand seemed so small and fragile there, nestling between your hands.
You held your hand out that time remember? Open, palm up and leaving it up to me to give my hand. I thought with some amusement that men must take lessons.
I remember how we sat decorously apart. Sitting side by side, staring at the sea. I sat with my knees drawn up, forearm around them, trickling sand through the fingers of the other. We exchanged sidelong glances once in a while. There was his hand on the sand between us. Open, palm up. I slid mine into it. We continued staring at the sea.
Later, we played, doodling messages on the other’s palm, silly endearments and questions we were too shy to voice. But I still remember that hand, lying open on the sand, waiting. It asked, without asking. Lesson I learned that day; holding hands is in a way more intimate than other intimacies.
I remember the first time you held my hand. Your hand was warm, big and gentle. You stroked my fingers then too. Not looking at each other’s eyes yet, hand in hand, pressure returning pressure, squeeze responding with squeeze, world reduced to that connection, our hands twining together. No need for words just then. A glance and a smile and all that needed saying said, without words.
There was that day when you drew me close. Nestling against your shoulder with your arm around me, I felt small and safe. When your hand cupped my cheek and you dropped that fleeting kiss, it burned a brand in my memory with its gentleness.
You looked at me with such tenderness, an indulgent adult at a dear toddler. You leaned forward once, to cup my face and give it a fond shake. I protested that I wasn’t a child. Your smile said you thought otherwise.
My hand seemed so small and fragile there, nestling between your hands. You patted it, gentling it like you would a kitten or a baby bird.
“You have become too thin,” you accused, as thumb and forefinger circled my wrist. You gripped both hands in one and looked upset. “See.”
“Does it hurt?” you asked. I looked at my hand engulfed in yours.
No, dear –I thought. It doesn’t hurt. Not when you hold my hand like that.