Purging Hands

By Sydney Howard

They were his favorite part of her. Those hands. Her wonderful hands. The edges of them, the lines inked on the inside, the open palm; the color of them and their warmth. He reveled in the feel of her hand to him, brushing over his own hands, or his face. He reluctantly began to let his eyelids fall and close. He both hated and loved when that happened. He had to see them move, he had to see her hands touch his skin, but she always managed to put to him to sleep, brushing his cheeks and tracing his smirk in unending circles and lines. He loved to feel her against him, near him, but hated that she could drown him to sleep; hated that her hands reached out like glints and rays of a setting sun, blinding, bedimming his eyes. She lulled everything around him, everything in him, with her hands. She gave to him these gifts, these pieces of her, this flesh. He never asked for it, he did not have to take. It was a silent offer of acceptance from her to him, and he never felt the need to ask for a different proposition.

She cradled him with her arms and her hands laced and closed around him; soft, benign vices about his shoulders. His head pressed into her neck while his tears were caught by her shirt, her own shoulder. He never gave up, but when he could not amalgamate the breaking parts of himself, he gave in...to her. He had fallen, he had caved in; when he could not feel his feet rooted upon the floor, when he could not feel himself at all, when he was not whole, a whole person. Her hands were as some catharsis, some purging of a burden, some onus. Her hands were some spell, some remedy to him, their touch were only ever dirtied by him. Her hands murmured words into him, and he heard them through his skin. She dispelled pain, new and archaic; wounds that bled and ones that had scarred, healed and darkened, and stung him when he recalled them. He felt like a demon in the arms of an angel. She was no saint, and he was no devil, but she heard him and forgave him like she was God. He lied there against her, in the nadir of his break.

This was bliss. This was rapture. Her hands; they created it. They painted it upon him. Each finger pulled a string beneath the skin as it reached out. Her hands were tiny pianos in motion. He was defended by her. He had this safety, that he had missed earlier; it was a feigned scar upon his back among the myriad of others, some still bleeding...Her insides sung full songs that he sometimes envied, but her feel made soft rhythms resound from within him, too. He tied the roots of himself to the ends of her hands. If he ever fell so far that he left a trail of armor behind him or let go and floated along the air like petals, she would be able to pull him back to her, where he wanted to be.

He didn't want to ever let go of her.

She, "the saint", gave to this "demon" a mosaic, one of delicate and beautiful pieces of themselves together. She lay in the white sheets, in a white gown, doctors in white around her. First holding it in her hands, then letting go so that he could see, take in this new part of him. He wondered if she would ever forgive this affront, his not being able or knowing how he could ever give her something back for giving to him his son. He wondered if the saint would hate him, if she could. He wondered if he were a devil for real. No, he could not be, the baby molded himself to his father's hands, he didn't cry when he was held by him. He marveled at how the little boy had taken after his mother, how he used his own hands, how he purged his father involuntarily. From them came drawings, paintings, all overtly as beautiful as his mother's own creations, what she awakened in his father. He drew in long, long lines that his father saw as his mother's palm. He painted in hues that he could match to the earth, which his father could match to his mother's flesh and eyes. And he filled walls with tacked up sketches and he didn't give a fuck who tagged him "strange" in school. His fifteen-year-old hands were possessed by his mother's gift, and his lack of doubt in his art was the only thing he ever voiced in any temerity, in any discernable pride.

She told him that hard things only made people stronger. But the demon wondered why he had to be, he was never strong, he had no strength. He wondered why he had to be stronger.

He lay on the bed, on his side. He couldn't sleep the on other side still. It was foreign for him, to not feel her, to not feel her hands at his stomach, hers against his back; her head leaned into his shoulder. He would not lie in the bed. He could not lay in it, underneath the covers for her legs wouldn't be there. He could not hear his son's footsteps in the night. He was a demon. He had driven her away. He thought of her, but she would not come back. Her hands left echoes resonating in him, imprints of her being against him. He had never let go of her, but she did. She had let go, she stood at the edge of the water, and let him float away like petal upon the air. Here he lie floating.