I was sitting in a playground once, waiting for my mother. Someone held
his hands over my eyes, firmly, not saying a word. I could smell him: garlicky,
dusty, a sour cutting sweat. He had enormous hands, sand dry, gripping my
temples, pushing hard into my sockets. Then it was only one hand pressing
my head against his belly. The other hand pushed its way between my legs.
When I frantically dug my nails into his hands, shook free and turned, I
saw only the backside of someone running--some man I am sure that I did
not know; he wore fluorescent orange gloves cut off at the fingers and as
he ran they swung like orange lanterns. My mother burst into tears when
she heard this: why didn't I scream? Why did I just sit there? Didn't I
know that it wasn't a game? We examined the footprints left in the sand.
They were impossibly large.
I completely forgot about this event until I came upon a lone shoe found on a subway platform--a delicate high-heeled pump, black.
I picked it up, laid it on a bannister. Suddenly, it had the strut of
a sculpture and reared in me a sensation both sinister and intimate, as
though the man had fled only moments before, leaving behind this: a woman's
shoe; but how could he fit into them? He somersaults, leaps on his hands:
I force his thick fingers into the narrow confines of this slipper, and
mangled, but terrified, he goes clattering away on his hands, wrists cracking
on the stairs, feet treading the air.
Apart from this is yet another failed memory: my hands are trembling from cold or fear and someone covers my hands with his own to still the trembling, places my hand beneath his breast, on the pulse of his heart, but my hands drift upwards. Whose hands? I go fishing through the cold river of memories. There are coral fish, squirrel fish, nightmarish lanternjaws, lampreys, luminescent sea snakes, manta rays that fling and leap out of the waters, a portugese-man-of-war with its bubblegum float--I am looking for a small one-- an orange and white clownfish, brightly colored, darting between the fingers of anemone; it is immune to the poison of the anemone, finds its refuge there.
A thought comes to me in the night: that is why we shake hands: to see if our hands fit, if these hands are the ones that will still our trembling.
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