Become a Fan
Hands That Will Not Work Together
By Susannah Carlson
Friday, December 20, 2002
The end of the line
Jack puts his big hands over his face and drops his elbows down on the table. His shoulders shake and he moans and snuffles like a little kid. I put down the glass I was wrapping and pull a chair up beside him. I sit down and stroke his hair. “Hey,” I say, trying to turn his face toward mine. “Hey, Jack, if you didn’t want me to go I wouldn’t be.” I tug at his hand but Jack’s strong. He holds his face, his lips wet and working under the heel of his palm. Tears drip off his chin onto the Formica table. He nods his head in assent, then shakes it hard. His breath comes in little whiney hiccups as a fresh bout of sobs overtakes him. “Do you remember Jack? A month ago, I said I’d stay if you said the word. I said ‘All you have to do is ask.” He’s nodding again and crying even harder. His long, scarred fingers reach up and wrap around mine, pressing them flat against the side of his head. His hand is damp and so is his hair. My hand looks like a child’s wrapped up in his. My skin is smooth and pale against his leathery tan. “You never asked, Jack.” I pull my hand out from under his, stand, and go back to packing. His fingers reach out, wave in the air, then clamp down again on his face. This is pathetic, I think, as Jack looks up at me, his eyes swollen and brimming. There’s a look on his face that I have never seen before, somewhere between resolve and despair. He takes my hands in both of his and pulls me toward him. And I realize why I’m doing this. The thing that isn’t going to happen, the words that won’t be said, the hands that will not work together, unpacking and unwrapping, and putting things back where they belong.