In Hawaii, my grade school teachers taught me that people’s hands match the size of their heart. I’d stare at my fist in childish wonder, imagining a red muscle of the same size trapped in my chest. Sometimes, at night, I’d fall asleep to the steady rhythm of blood streaming through my fingers. It matched my heartbeat, a built-in rattle.
He pokes my shoulder. We’re sitting side by side, The Dark Knight playing on the TV in front and between us.
“Am I allowed to be curious?”
I grin. It’s around seven-thirty, a Tuesday. The wooden chair digs into my back, blue felt cushioning my bottom. “Of course.”
“Can I see your hand?”
I hold up my right. In the background, Rachel angrily corners Batman on the balcony. The screen fills with one ex-girlfriend, one superhero, and a handful of villains and drama.
The florescent lights cast shadows on the dark blue carpet as he holds up his hand. I nearly laugh; I even open my mouth to say, “Me Jane, you Tarzan.” But I stop as his palm nudges mine, hot flesh meeting at the protruding indentions of our knuckles.
My ninth grade biology textbook described, drew and analyzed every inch of the human “manus.” A single hand houses at least 29 major and minor bones, 29 major joints, 123 ligaments, 34 muscles and 48 nerves. But like the fingerprints that dance on our thumb pads, every hand is different. If I squeeze his hand tight enough, could I discover the extra bones and ligaments hiding under his skin?
“Geez, your hands are small!”
“See it at this angle.” I push my palm harder against his, angling them perpendicular to the ground. My fingers and wrist disappear into his. For a second, our hands hang in the air, gravity negated by pure force. Then his drops.
“How tall are you?”
I grin. “Five three.”
He shakes his head. “I guessed five feet flat.” A hand runs through his hair. I can’t see it without craning my head, but I know it’s black and curly, tamed with gel. “My friend’s roommate is 4′ 10″.”
By now, I’ve lost track of the movie plot, but I don’t mind. “A friend of mine from Virginia Beach was 4′ 11″, but she wore six-inch heels, so I was always shorter.”
During my freshman year of college, the lab in Dr. Sevenbergen’s biology class claimed that the human wingspan is equal to a person’s height. Mine’s not. It also said the height of a face is about equal to the length of a hand. My face is ten inches long but my hand is only eight. No matter the small inaccuracies, maybe hands are the body’s Braille, general translations of the human self through the tracing of a finger.
Silence. Vague echoes of speakers from the dorm below us crawl in through the window. Rachel’s yell on the TV is a startling soprano in the dubstep chorus. “What do you think you’re doing?” she shrieks.
“I’ve only met one other girl with hands smaller than mine,” I say lamely. The fan buzzes by me, but the air tastes hot and dry on my tongue.
He pauses, eyes jumping from the TV screen to my hand. “The cool part of me wanted to hold your hand, but the nerd part of me was nervous. So I did that.”
Blood swims to my cheeks. “You can hold my hand. You’re allowed.”
His hand creeps back to mine, fingers and palms weaving a blanket of skin. They’re perched awkwardly on the edge of his reclining lawn chair, but I just squeeze tighter.
Today, the Internet told me that when I grip Nick’s fingers between mine, I’m using the “fascia,” the connecting layer of tissue between my skin and the bones swimming underneath. According to a trivia page with blue hyperlinked text, the skin of the palm is glabrous, or without hair; neither colored nor tanned; tough yet sensitive.
We finally return to the movie, quiet except for the odd sarcastic remark at a character on screen. Suddenly, he says, “Thanks for letting me steal it.”
What no one ever told me is that the rhythm of two entwined hands and heartbeats sounds better than one.
Casey Cromwell is a 20-year-old writing major at Point Loma Nazarene University. Her poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in Driftwood, PLNU’s literary magazine, winning first place for creative nonfiction twice and third place for poetry once. She also writes a successful blog.