Photographs. Everywhere in your home – dangling from nails on the wall in silver frames, perched on shelves beside snow globes and porcelain angel figurines, tucked inside albums with flowery fabric covers. You and him, wet sand squelched between your toes, water glittering – a blue blanket sewn with diamonds. You and him, circled by flowers with smiling colors, a hibiscus nestled in the crook of your ear, gaudy pink petals tickling your cheek. You and him, leaning on the banister of the balcony, as if to fall into the sky, a splattered array of pink and orange and blue and clouds.
On his bedside table is one of you, framed in wood, captured in time. I was your captor.
That day, I watched you in the jewelry store. You wore a charm bracelet, adorned with beads and metal pendants. Your eyes flitted like butterflies, flower to flower, face to face, but you failed to notice mine.
You cupped your right hand and dipped it into the drawer of glass beads to scoop a handful, then sifted through to withdraw red. The other beads spilled back into the drawer with the whisper of a clatter, indistinguishable from the rest. The red, pinched between your thumb and forefinger, snatched shards of tinted light from the ceiling and tossed them haphazardly in all directions.
A furtive final glance. The trinket fell into your palm. A slight of the hand, a twist of the fingers – so graceful and quick – red disappeared into black, the pocket of your jacket. You sauntered out the doors, confidence clinging to your heels, poise in every step. I followed.
You stopped at the park and stretched out in the parched, yellowed grass. It was a summer day where sunshine flooded from the heavens and gilded all its fingertips touched like Midas, so that the world was at once dazzling and blinding. You reached into your pocket and began to play with the bead, tilting your right hand so that it rolled into the left and then back into the right once more. A tennis rally of sorts. You noticed me and waggled your finger.
I answered your summons. My knees bent and I collapsed into the grass across you.
Stolen, I had said, gesturing to the bead. You smiled. No denial. You dropped the bead into my hand. Weightless, a faint brush, a tickle against my skin. I had asked you why, for it only cost a dime. You told me that it was not for the money. I asked if you were a kleptomaniac.
Maybe, you said with a smirk. Maybe not.
You stretched out your hand, and I returned the trinket.
I steal because my hands need the skill.
I did not understand.
I bet you’ve never noticed how beautiful hands are. You smiled at me; it danced across your cheeks and into your eyes. Watch, you said. My eyes followed, as the bead, catching and throwing sunbeams, tumbled over the rivers and valleys of your palm. You threw it into the air, snatched it with your fingers, flicked it skywards once more, and caught it gently in cupped hands. Nimble and swift, delicate as butterfly wings.
Dexterity, you said. All the things hands can do.
You tipped your wrist and let the bead fall into the grass. It glittered under the sun’s rays. You swept it from the ground into the cradle of your hand. Pick up interesting things. Another flip of your wrist, into your pocket once more. Hide things. You moved closer, your fingertips grazed over my palm. Touch you. You took my hand in yours, traced the lines with the edge of your nail, told me their names. You were a prophet, you divined their messages. Heart line. Head line. Life line. Your heart is broken easily. Your thinking is clear and focused. Vitality. Perhaps they were true. I did not know. You dipped your hand into your pocket and took the bead again. You held it up to the sun. Another smirk. Your fingers folded neatly into your palm and then constricted, little snakes. I heard the subtle crunch, and when you unfurled them, the specks trickled into the ground below like glimmering red rain. Crush and destroy. Soft, yet brutal.
You told me that stealing was the most beautiful use. That it required the most skill and craft. How the fingers needed to be clever and light, confident and certain. Elegance. A clumsy hand could not steal.
We lay beside each other then, under the sun’s sweltering fist, when I felt you rustle beside me and then sit up, gazing into the horizon. You asked me what my hands could do. I had laughed. They were not as deft as yours, I told you, for I was a photographer, and it was my eyes, not my hands, that held my power.
And in that instance, I caught you. You, with the toothy grin splitting your lips. You, with the sparkle of mirth waltzing in your eyes. You, with the sunlight spilling over one side of your face. But the most enchanting bit of you, those long, slender fingers, curled against your cheek, tangled in your hair. You peered into the shutter and I had caught you for one precious moment.
I wonder if he knows who the photographer of this photo was. I wonder if he knows about your hands. I wonder if you told him what his heart line said.
When you call me into the kitchen for tea, I am dismantling the frame. The glossy photograph trembles as it slips out of the glass. Dexterity. A sleight of the hand, a twist of the fingers, into the pocket of my coat.
Claire Zhang is a young college student, still uncertain about the future. She enjoys reading and social networking sites and is a dog person. Her no-longer-guilty pleasures are Taylor Swift and The Notebook. She very recently started a blog: http://modalityblog.wordpress.com.