She said it would not take too long, all the make-up and the clothes and the hair, but it took too long.  Forty five minutes too long.  The barbecue would not miss us, but I would miss the first chance at the bacon-wrapped hot dogs.  Those don’t last very long at one of these barbecue events and they certainly wait for no man who waits for his girlfriend.  All I can do is idle in despair from the kitchen to the living room, occasionally glancing at the clock on the mantle to see if it matches the clock on my wrist.  Patience is not one of my virtues.

Nor, evidently, is memory.

Sylvia finally walks out and I’m reminded of why I never mind that she takes so long to get ready.  Her unusually shimmery brown hair (byproduct of a costly kitchen skylight) is tied back and away from her shoulders in a simple ponytail, which allows the purple sweater-blouse thing to show off what she knows she has in ample supply.  The black denim wrapped around her legs stretches and creases to the point of vulgarity.  As she nonchalantly approaches I note that her demure eyes and steady, low-heeled step show no sign of remorse.  Barbecue, even bacon-wrapped barbecue, mean less to her than the presence and air of a beautifully tardy woman.

And yet, no matter the depth of my observations, I have to ask.

“What took so long?”

She smirks and picks up her oversized wallet.  “I could not find the address that you lost, and then I had to get directions online.”

I’m certain the humility on my face is missed as I turn away in a faint toward the door.  “It’s what I get for writing things on matchbooks.”

“Spending time at the bar, are you?”  More curiosity than accusation in her tone, but too much experience with the latter puts me on the defensive.

“Just passing time with the boss.  It got us invited to his house for this didn’t it?”

“Yes,” she says.  “It did.”  I hold the door for her and pretend not to notice the glare as she steps out into the sun.  The afternoon wanes and almost beckons us to the car for more moments of awkward bliss.

Car silence is unlike any other kind.  The space only allows for so much lack of sound to exist before it is echoed back, worsened by the proximity of sounds outside the car.  The honk of a horn is all too loud and the reverberation of every engine creates a very small space in which to sit silently and avoid speaking.  To prevent agitation at what should be a pleasant gathering I decide to burst the bubble.

“Do you suppose President Bush could have defeated the Batman during his presidency?”

She turns to look at me and I can feel the retort building, but being in our ripe old twenties we have learned to avoid the argumentative pitfalls that young couples fall into.  She gets my meaning and turns back to the windshield.

“Only if Bush conscripts Batman and fiendishly masterminds a plot in which Batman believes he is fighting a foreign enemy and unknowingly defeats himself.”

I tell her that I don’t believe Bush could have done that on his own.

“What did he ever?”  I see her smiling in the windshield.  My day is suddenly dramatically improved.  The sun’s rays are therapeutic, the honking horns are music, and the barbecue, bacon-wrapped or otherwise, will be that much sweeter.

My hand rests on her thigh as we sit in traffic and watch the backs of other cars.  She looks to the side, where fields of rooftops appear beyond the concrete banks.  Her eyes dart from one to the next, searching for one that could be like the one that will someday be ours.  Sylvia's eyes behind darkly shimmering glass.  I squeeze the coarse black denim beneath my hand.  Her muscle flexes responsively.

The sun stares at us in the million-mile stretch.  More waiting.

“Give me your hand for a second.”

She turns to look at me, hesitates.  “Why?” she asks.  I still surprise her.

I tell her I'm curious.

Sylvia's hand rises and hangs in the air, limp fingers pointing to the silent CD player.  Her hand is small, light.  Nails are manicured, crafted by a Korean artisan of local renown.  Tiny lines and wrinkles where the joints meet.  As I run my hand along the surface the fine hairs act as conduits, bring a series of moments into view.  A dip in the water before she dives in.  Holding a purse.  Gently nestling a glass between the fingers and cradling it on her palm.  A smile through orbed glass.  A fine hand, with many memories to its credit.

“Your hand is the start,” I say, moving further along her arm.  Slightly thicker hairs line her forearm.  Soft wrinkles on the inside of her elbow.  “It's the start of the path.”  Up along her bare arm, toward the purple fabric that begins at her shoulder.  Her eyes follow my hand until she moves.

“No, no,” says Sylvia.  “We're on hands.”  She takes me and moves me back down to the start.  Holds me still.  “We're at the starting line.”

“Why?” I ask.  She purses her lips, and thinks.

I wait.

“To get a sense of where we are,” she finally says.

“To torture me,” I tell her.  I hold her and feel her palm with my thumb, gently kneading.  “Your hand is too enticing.  It pulls me into you, into your heart.”

She chuckles at me then. It only hurts a little, and I don’t allow it to show.  “You are too preoccupied with the heart,” she says.  “Right now, right here, just focus on my hand.”  She brings my hand back down to her thigh, placed over hers.

I tell her I'll try.

Holding her hand I look at it, swaying forward as the car stops again.  It is then that I catch a glimpse of my hand over hers.  It is a worn hand.  Marks along the surface.  Veins.  Hair and tendons moving at the slightest twitch of a finger.  My unevenly colored hide in stark contrast to her smoothly pale skin.

“Look at my hand.”

“What about it?” she asks.

“Look at it.  There are wrinkles.  Hair.  Ridges and dents and scars.  It's the ugliest hand I've ever seen.  How could you possibly allow me to touch you?”

She looks down at my hand and pulls away, repositioning her own hand over mine.  Most hands are warm.  Hers is searing.

“Because it is your hand,” she says.  “I don't allow you to touch me.”  She turns and her lips brush against mine as she kisses the side of my face.

“I want you to touch me,” she whispers.


She returns to her side and looks at me.  Several feet of asphalt pass underneath as we sit in pleasant silence, quite unlike the beginning of our drive.  A 65 MPH sign moves from the front to the side to slightly behind.

She holds me in her silence until she finally speaks.  “Your hand is yours. I've watched you use your hand.  I've felt you.  It is rough, and wrinkly, and hairy.  Your hand is yours, and after all this time it’s also mine.”  She brings my hand up to her chest.

“I could do whatever I want with my hand,” she says.

I nod.

She raises our hand to her mouth.  A gentle press of lips on hairy, dented skin.

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