Handle with Care

Holding hands. It's very nice.

She looked at her hands. They were holding each other, restless in her lap. Her long fingers on her right hand tried to comfort the fingers on her left. Her signature well-groomed nails were now some long and some short. Her cuticles were encroaching. She needed a cotton ball and some remover to clean up the chipped polish. She hadn’t for a while, so there was fairly little left to remove.

Her right hand and her left hand rolled around themselves in her lap. She was unsettled–to look at the ring or to look away? She turned her left hand so she could see the stone. The diamond was much bigger than she should have. It was long and tapered at the ends–a fancy marquise cut diamond. It was slightly yellow but with so many surfaces it could always catch and reflect light. She wanted light to reflect on her. The reflections in her head were not light.

She was tired, she thought, but that wasn’t it. Yes, she was tired, but it was like she was a little stupider than she was before. Maybe not stupider, but certainly very much less sharp. She couldn’t hold onto thoughts that could become a plan. She needed a way forward. The only thoughts she could hold were the thoughts that she wanted to lose. She held the thoughts about the press of debt from medical bills and the services–and the income void. But she didn’t think of the void as nothing. She thought about her youngest. How to make prom happen? She needed a plan. She needed her partner.

Yes, her crazy enterprising partner of decades. The one for whom everything was possible. The one who led their roller coaster adventure. The one who would figure out how to take care of things–sometimes three or four things at a time–while she used her smarts and her heart to home school the babies. The one who had infinite energy and who made the most outrageous asks and would not hear “No.” The one who shared her strong faith. The one without life insurance.

* * * *

She looked at her hands. She held them under the faucet. The warm water rinsed off the soil and the soap. She looked at her cuticles and saw that there was still some dirt. There was dirt under the nails on the last three fingers of her left hand. She picked up the vegetable brush to dislodge the lurking loam.

He wouldn’t like her washing off the gardening in the kitchen sink. Even though strawberries and rhubarb and bibb lettuce and even carrots pulled from that ground would be washed in that same sink. He had a lot of rules for her to follow. He stopped her from painting the dining room because he didn’t have time to select the right shade of blue-gray. He didn’t like the one with too much green undertone and the other seemed too purple. He didn’t make time. He just stopped her.

She scrubbed the fingers on her left hand and stopped at her empty ring finger. She left the ring in a box in her dresser upstairs. Looking at the ring made her sad. Looking at where the ring was made her sad.

She was worried about her baby-girl’s choices for school. He was supposed to pay, but based on his rules. He wouldn’t say what his rules were. They seemed to shift, at least to her and the baby-girl. He said he was being clear. He didn’t have time to explain. He knew he was supposed to pay. It was part of the agreement. He wouldn’t actually agree to the agreement, though. It was all like the paint.

* * * *

She looked at her hands. There was a burn on the back of her hand where she brushed the top rack in the oven when she was shaking the roasted cauliflower. If she was smarter, she would have removed the top rack before she started. If she was smarter, she would have pulled the bottom rack out before tending the cruciferous veg. Maybe it wasn’t smart she needed. Maybe she should be less lazy.

Her hands were full of scars from sloppy cooking and scars from lazy cooking. The nail on her left index finger had a nick from a misplaced knife blade. Two knuckles on that hand had burns on the way to being healed.

She sat down at the table. She adjusted her ring that was always sliding around her finger. She righted the stone and put her hand on the table.  He put his hand on hers. They said grace.

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