Waking up with cold feet is the first sign of fall. The rest of me is warm. I walk upstairs—my hamstrings feeling every movement—to pour my first cup of coffee from the pot. My legs find kitchen tile where the sun hits the floor. I curl my toes for temporary relief, my clammy feet sticking ever so slightly to the ceramic stone.
There is slight resistance from the fridge as I pull on the door—the adhesive plastic resenting my allowing its cold air to escape. I reach for the whole milk in a large glass container with a red top. I can grip it with one hand, only because the canister is indented with ridges for tiny hands like mine.
I had just read in Patti Smith's M Train that you can't see your own hands in your dreams. I had picked out the book in an airport in Eugene, hardly noticing the author's name, but was pulled to the title. The M is my favorite train in New York City. For two years I lived four blocks from the JMZ Marcy stop, and took the M almost every morning, graced with an above-ground stop that carried us from Brooklyn to Manhattan over a bridge, instead of underground. I would squeeze into a seat with my morning coffee, huddled into a book like Zoli or The Lowland. Yet I'd always peek to see the enormous Peter Luger sign, or the collection of bike lanes, running lanes, and car lanes over the Williamsburg bridge, or the projects and gardens that line the outer, eastern line of lower Manhattan. Most complained about the M, but I loved it.
Like Patti, I inspect my own hands, wondering if I could ever dream of them. There's dirt under what's left of my finger nails. I've been a nail biter since as long as I can remember. I only grow them for the occasional wedding, so I can get the occasional french manicure (I can count five in total) but I always hated how nails felt as I typed on a computer. They get in the way of the keys.
My hands are also full of tiny scars that remind me of my childhood—my left index finger has a vertical scar between my knuckle and nail, from when I slammed it in a cabin door in the Adirondacks. My left thumb, right where you bend it, has a perfect little circular scar from the time I flipped off an alpine slide in the 3rd grade. My body dragged down a cement slide and sliced open the skin on my legs, elbows, and hands. Wrapped in bandages, an old man in a 7-11 asked if I had been attacked by a shark. The scar on my thumb is the only one I have left from that day.
There are also tiny, almost microscopic scars from random bug bites and scrapes that I incessantly didn't let heal—picking each small scab as an unconscious way to ensure each moment left some sort of mark.
I search for the last scar—from when I sliced my finger open with a razor, and then went to basketball practice, leaving a trail of blood on the court—but I can't find it. Maybe scars do disappear.
So yes, Patti says you cannot dream up your own hands. I'll try tonight, but she might be right.
I add a splash of whole milk into my empty coffee mug before pouring in the coffee. I watch the midnight liquid swirl into the milk, almost confused as to where to settle. I move over to the office, which has an oversized, circular couch next to the window. The chair is a velvet, forest green. Pockets of sunlight dance on the fabric; my still cold feet find solace under the pillow, and then on top of patches of sunlight. They warm up almost immediately, but I still feel a remembrance of temporal ice, a reminder of transitions from summer to fall, transitions into unknowns.
This is one of the first mornings where I can spread out, hear silence, and let the natural sunlight warm my feet. I slowly examine my hands. I take a sip from my mug—it's navy blue, and says "Desktop Mapping Authorized Var." I open up my seafoam colored notebook. I feel a shift in my breath, in the pale air around me. It feels foreign and exciting. I have no idea what's to come.
My healed hands take my pen, and I begin to write.