No Hands

She had pink hair one of the times I talked to her a few years ago, at a different coffee shop. She hadn’t been extra careful with the hair dye. Her fingers were also stained pink – her hands too, probably. I couldn’t see her hands. The sleeves of her sweater were pulled over her hands, only her fingers were poking out. Her mug of hot cocoa was smeared with swirls of pink fingerprints. I turned into a jittery bundle of nerves as soon as she came up to me, just as I had the couple of other times I’d talked to her.

Today I wasn’t certain that it was the same girl at first. It had been a couple of years; she looked different – longer hair, glasses, a little older. I was standing in line at the counter trading light conversation with an acquaintance and when she looked up I gave a sideways wave hello. She reacted with a look of discomfort and confusion and my wave withered into a vague directionless pointing gesture. I sat down with my tea, humbled. She came over a few minutes later to chat. It was her and I turned into that same stuttering bundle of nerves from three years ago. We had a short conversation, both of us pretending to have forgotten the details of our confusing past correspondence – though it seemed like we both remembered everything. (We remembered each other’s names and the details of our couple of email exchanges.) She went back to her seat, where she was perched over a chessboard, and I sat and wrote for awhile. When I looked over at her again, she was leaning back in her chair with a chess book open in front of her. The sleeves of her sweater were pulled down over her hands, just like before.

I wouldn’t have remembered the way she stretched out her sleeves if it hadn’t been for the pink fingerprints on the hot cocoa mug.

Categorized as Before

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