I would watch you as you lit and smoked a cigarette out on your deck, standing in that proud, cocky way you did, and I’d watch your hands fiddle with your cigarette, lighting it, ashing it on the ground near my feet.
I’d watch you wind your hands around a steering wheel or a martini glass or around me, watch you do laundry and drinks and chop vegetables and flip steaks. I’d watch you shave so meticulously on hazy mornings in your big fingerprinted mirror, watch your hands bring me my tiny cup of coffee with one ice cube just the way I liked it.
I was always watching your hands.
I would watch them move along my skin from ankles to eyebrows and back again. I would watch them do their part as you made me laugh and gasp and come. I knew the jump and dance of your veins and muscles just as well as I knew my own. I would feel them in the night while we slept in your low white bed under the windows, feel them reach for me, pull me in as close as you possibly could and keep me there till morning. Your hands made me feel like a gift, like a Christmas present you were continually unwrapping.
And then you left and the feel of your hand twining into mine was just a phantom pain.
But your hands don’t forget. It’s funny how, even almost ten years after I stopped my piano lessons, I can sit down at the bench and bang out bits and pieces and entire Chopin waltzes from memory. I never know if it’s my brain or my muscles that remember, but my hands never forget where to go. They pick back up right where they left off as though no time has gone by at all. I’ll play those waltzes till I die, the sharps and flats intact.
For weeks after you left, I felt you next to me even though you weren’t there. I’d reach for you and find nothing. It took my body a long time to adjust to a bed without you in it, to fix itself to the patterns a single body creates without the warmth and bends of another. It took my hands even longer to reconcile themselves to the fact that they might not ever touch you again.
It’s like how your body never really forgets how to ride a bike or drive a car, how dogs will walk back to the place they were born, how babies know every nuance of their mother before they’re born. The familiar engraves itself on your mind and your body, your muscles and your heart, and your nerves and each breath that passes through your system. And then they pick back up where they left off as if they’re saying, “Oh, this is what I was doing before I was interrupted!” You never forget the things that impact you that hard.
That’s how it went when I saw you again, when I crashed into your new Brooklyn apartment with the scratchy brick walls, fell in in a haze of cheap beer and Jameson and our hands didn’t forget, we both knew just what to do. I had memorized the slope and the twists and the muscles of your face and your bones and your skin and both of us just came together because we knew, because your hands don’t forget.