I look down at my hands as I type. The hands of a writer. Short, sinewy, and square, tipped with nails long enough to be attractive, but short enough to avoid impediment on the keyboard. Knuckles covered with callouses and scars from my cats. A faded white slash across my palm—a scar from the time my knife slipped while pitting an avocado. These hands aren’t special, they aren’t very pretty, but they can type like a motherfucker.
I always told myself I would never be happy doing things on anything smaller than “Oprah scale.” My father was a software programmer, my mother, a housewife. They were both behind-the-scenes types who never understood my need for doing things on such an expansive stage. My ex-husband was equally meek: once he got out of the Army, he didn’t seem to care what he did, so long as he could pay the bills and have a family. A family that he wanted to start working on immediately. How could I settle down and give up my career before it had even started? How could I put down my work when I still had so much more to do?
My hands have been through a lot. They played clapping games with my little brother every evening: Patty Cake, Say, Say, Oh Playmate, Miss Mary Mack (Mack, Mack! All dressed in black, black black). They stuffed scraps of paper with bits of stories written on them deep inside my backpack—smothered them with books and clothes to smuggle them out of the house when we left my dad. On a chill November evening several years later, they helped me pack a suitcase before walking out the door of my mother’s apartment for the last time. A suitcase filled not with clothes or toiletries, but books, and pages upon pages of journal entries and writing exercises.
They helped me sling burgers at the local diner after my divorce (three dollars a day for food, not counting the occasional book splurge at Goodwill). Move after job after lover after loss after victory—my hands kept moving across the page, cataloging, never letting me forget, so that, in the future, others would know that they are not alone.
These hands sculpted these words for you! So that you could see. So that you would not feel so alone, late at night, when your mother is crying and your father slams the door. When bills are due and you have to choose between turning on the electricity or buying your dog’s medication. When your car is repossessed. You will have these words for your own.