24 January 2010

Steer your life by these stars

Years ago, as a gift, my late aunt sent me a porcelain dish made from a cast of the author George Sand's hands. She had dainty hands, though they were a little plump, but overall quite tiny for a woman who so rocked the literary world in her time.

I like hands, and I always find myself examining others', their shape and the length of the fingers, how they attach at the wrist, the way they move when a person talks...or don't. Hands tell stories; hands can talk even when their owners aren't. I like to watch hands at work, whether playing a musical instrument, gardening, writing or communicating. Some people (like me!) still actually write with pens, and I find it instructive to see how people hold their writing instruments.

When I was very young, I would sit with an elderly neighbor on Sundays while her daughter and son-in-law went to Mass. Mrs. K. was quite near 100, and I was there mainly to make cups of tea and ensure that she didn't fall down. Most of the time she dozed while I was there, being a very, very old lady, but sometimes she felt quite chatty and would tell me stories of her youth in late Victorian England.

"A lady is always known by her hands," she told me, and she would demonstrate how to properly apply lotion so that one's hands would be nice. She also told me that she never got arthritis because she was careful to massage her fingers every day, and indeed, her hands were very supple and youthful looking.

It was probably about the same time period, I remember admiring another aunt's hands, after she commented on how very long and thin my fingers were. She dismissed my compliment, stating her hands "had been through the meat grinder," and she ordered me to safeguard my own.

I admit I largely disregarded the advice of those two ladies. My own hands are scarred and rough, but strong with use. In high school, I worked in an Italian restaurant, and my fingers were covered in tiny knife cuts from slicing pepperoni, peppers, and onions. The narrow pizza ovens left burn marks all over the backs of my hands. Even now, I occasionally feel the sting of a hot pot, and it's not unusual for some part of one of my hands to be covered with a band-aid. I worked my way through college, and the work often entailed cleaning houses, my hands busy, reddened like Cinderella's, while my head was a thousand miles away dreaming of a thousand more interesting things I might be doing. These days, I have a terrible tendency to forget my gardening gloves and I go rootling after weeds with my bare hands, which leaves them stained with dirt and grass. Still, my hands are strong, and I beat bread dough with glee and my fingers are adept at finding and prodding sore muscles.

I can dress my hands nicely, though, when I remember Mrs. K.'s injunction to swath them in lotion, and I shape my nails and paint them with a lightly with polish. I have a couple of pretty rings that show off my long fingers, and if I don't think too hard about the vast quantities of onion and garlic that pass between my fingers and my long kitchen knife, I can almost imagine my hands as elegant.

When I employed by Big Entertainment Company, Halloween was always a huge celebration at the division in which I worked. Employees came to work in costume, and there was often a small party in the morning. One of the gentlemen who'd been with the company since practically the beginning of time would dress himself in rich satin robes, purple and white, and was resplendent, a large satin turban perched on his elderly head.

"J. is a swami. You have to let him read your palm," my friend AK told me with excitement the first year I worked in that division. "He's really good, and everything he's told me has happened."

I demurred, of course, but AK dragged me by the arm, and cried out, "J! J! Tell A. her fortune!"

He smiled at me, a perfect old gentleman twinkle in his eye.

"You'd like to consult the Swami?" he asked, theatrically.

"Yes," said AK, yanking on my hand.

"Alright then," he replied, taking my left hand, palm up. He smoothed its wrinkles with his thumb, turning my hand this way and that in the light. He looked at it for a long time, and I imagined he was formulating his spiel.

"You've worked so hard," he murmured, dropping his swami voice. "This is a hand that's worked hard. But you'll have an interesting life because of it. This, though, this..."

And he turned my hand to the side, his thumbs framing two deep and distinct lines there.

"You'll have two great loves in your life. Two grand passions. Both will last a very long time. See how one line starts farther back from the other? You may not even know him yet," he looked at my face to see if I was following along. "This is real love, true love, the kind most people are lucky to get once. You're very lucky. Your heart is big enough to love them both."

I resisted the impulse to pull my hand from his grasp, a little alarmed by the intensity of his demeanor, but as quickly as he'd dropped his swami persona, it returned.

"And don't worry," he said, sotto voce, all theatrics once again as he patted the back of my hand, twinkling. "If your second suitor never shows, I'd be happy to step in."

As I walked away, a bit dazed by the unexpectedness of the encounter, J.'s wife patted me on the back.

"He's a rascal," she laughed. "He just likes to hold the girls' hands."

J. died a few years ago, well into his 90s, and in my time at Big Entertainment Company, I did get to know, a little bit, the kind man who was quite a raconteur, in addition to being our resident fortune teller. I never offered my hand to him again, yet I couldn't help but remember his odd prophecy and funny little offer, a bit saddened that he wouldn't be there if my second suitor never shows, the one he'd seen written on my hand.

Go listen to some good music: "Constellation of the Heart" from the album The Red Shoes by Kate Bush. All is well, and I am ready--past ready--to go.

No comments: