Hejira

holding hands

August 9. 2000

"Can I hold your hand?"

Such a simple, easy sentence, but it would not come out of my mouth. I'm not normally one to be at a loss for words, but certain people had that effect on me, and he was one of them.

I almost said it so many times. I kept looking for the right break in the sparse conversation, opened my mouth, and then abruptly shut it again. I tried to read his expression and mood, but as usual, his face and body language belied nothing.

The lights of Times Square still burned the back of my eyelids. I stared at the pavement studded with sparkles. We were passing by some sort of park, and then the library. I opened my mouth and tried to ask again, but this time was stopped by the sneaking suspicion that if I did I would only be making a fool of myself.

When we were in bed, the darkness and silence finally gave me the courage I had lacked before. "Hey," I said to his back. "You know something funny?" I found his hand under the pillow and threaded my fingers through his, palm against palm. "I wanted to hold your hand, but I was too afraid to ask." I squeezed his hand tightly, and waited for him to tell me how stupid it was that I should be afraid to hold his hand. He didn't return the squeeze.

"You know we can't do that." he said flatly.

This is the point where I should have let go of his hand. But I kept hanging on, longer than I should have, holding onto some feeble hope that we would work out. The only reason I did was because I needed someone to hold onto. Even if he didn't want me the way I wanted him, an illusion of something was better than nothing.

*

She impulsively grabbed my hand as we were walking down the street to the diner. I looked down and part of me panicked...two girls, holding hands...what would people think? Then I looked up at her smiling face, red hair and peasant skirt, and I realized it didn't matter. So what if someone thought we were lesbians. So what if we were? It was the first time someone had actually took my hand, and I basked in the glow of someone wanting to touch me like that.

We filled that day with eating penny candy, listening to Joni Mitchell on vinyl and an Ani DiFranco concert that night. I held her hand, hugged her, put my arm around her, and kissed her on the cheek during the concert. She was one of those people that, when I was around her, made me feel better about myself. At one point she looked at me and said, "Bethany, don't you realize how amazing you are?"

*

I don't remember conciously grabbing onto his hand that day, I just looked down and realized I had, and it felt so right. It was cold outside as I threaded my fingers through his, palm to palm, feeling his soft skin on mine. I felt warmer. From then on, whenever I extended my hand, his was there to meet mine. Knowing that was a comfort I had been looking for for a long time and never dreamt that I would actually have. Someone always there to catch me and keep me safe, and all I needed to do was extend my hand.