My hands look old today. Well, when I glanced at them about 40 mins ago they did.
The nails are bitten too far down, I keep trying to stop but it’s not worked yet. There are small, irritated patches on each of my middle fingers, where my ring has worn at the skin. I’ve had to stop wearing it. The veins on the back of my hands seem darker, the skin covering them a little more translucent, the skin around the knuckles is seeming more wrinkled. My wrists look thinner. I’m not sure that they are. Looking at the palms there are more lines. I must have changed the way I use them as the patterns of tiny ridges and valleys have morphed and adapted over the years.
I’ve always had warm hands, no pastry making for me. Warm and a bit moist but these days they are drier, sometimes the skin on my fingers and thumbs crack from dehydration. I have hand creams but they don’t help.
In the heat of summer, tiny blisters push themselves to the surface along the side of my fingers and itch and irritate until I have to scrape and scratch them to find relief. Of course this is short lived and the broken skin torments me until it heals and starts the cycle again.
In the winter, I lose feeling along the tips of my fingers, the cold biting into the nails, far further than my teeth could and extending along my fingers before rocketing through my body. I now have two sets of gloves to protect me from this onslaught. The first were hand made by a stranger who left them behind in a corner, in a tent, in a festival, in the Australian autumn. The yarn the stranger used has a myriad of colours but is mildly scratchy. There are no fingers, no yarn finger tips, it’s simply a knitted tube with a side shoot for the thumb and yet they are remarkably warm. The other pair fill me with joy each time I see and touch them. I have just re-discovered them, sitting in a bag by the side of my bed. They are a dark khaki green. The colour of fresh pine tips, of basil, of a rocket pesto freshly made. Bought from a shop instead of collected from a gathering of lost things, these were made by a stranger in China. The yarn is thick and soft, I thought wool, but really acrylic. The gloves fit my hand snugly, again with no tips to the fingers, instead a hinged mitten fastens back towards the wrist, presumably to allow the wearer to swipe a screen as it is impossible to read a paper whilst wearing them. They bring warmth, comfort, a feeling that takes me back to being 9 and searching for conkers or interesting fallen leaves on the school playground. They remind me of making snowballs – with latex gloves over my woolen ones, Dad’s idea to stop getting soggy and cold – the noise of the crunch of the snow and scrape of fibre on fibre as I shaped the icy missiles, ready to throw.
My hands ache by the end of the day, they’ve been put through so much. Typing, writing, clapping, clenching, clasping, grasping, signalling, holding, folding, working. Touching objects, but rarely people. It’s a little sad really.
Earlier, my hands looked older. They seem to have come back to life now.