I look down at my hands. The hands of a writer. Long, 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 streak across my palm from when I burned my hand baking a chicken dinner at 14. A dinner I had failed to cook all the way through. A dinner my father had sneered at—made cutting remarks about—before turning back to the computer to indulge his secret, sick fantasies.
* * *
I always told myself I would never be happy doing things on anything smaller than “an Oprah scale.” My father was a software programmer, my mother, a housewife. Behind-the-scenes types who could never understand my passion 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 had been through so much. They stuffed scraps of paper with bits of stories written on them deep inside my backpack—smothered them with books and clothes to save them from my father’s immolation of all things “devilish.” They played games with my brother every evening to distract him from our parents’ fighting. Years later, they helped me again—this time, to pack a suitcase with whatever I could carry and flee my mother’s house on a chill November evening. A suitcase filled not with clothes or toiletries, but books and pages upon pages of journal entries and writing practices. They helped me sling burgers at the local diner after my divorce (three dollars a day for food, plus the occasional splurge on books at Goodwill). Move after job after lover after loss after victory—my hands kept moving across the page, cataloging, never letting me forget. Never letting me forget so that I could let others remember. So I could relate, empathize, show them—see these hands? 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. You will have these words for your own.