Some palms are like walls. Too spackled and hidden to read. But when she let me grab her left and right and sit it in mine, I could have read for hours. She held novels within each crease. I traced each finger as though I had never seen one before; hers could have lead me to believe in anything.
She told me mine were artist hands. You’ve crossed borders on your knuckles, haven’t you? she said. I called her fingers pianos. I forgot to ask if she played any instruments. Maybe because I already know.
Around us, poetry. Occasionally, we would stop to listen. But I would not let go of her hand. I could not call her beautiful because that word describes days or meals. It is used everyday on too many things. She is more like a mountain. Difficult. High. A rubble of lives. Impossible to leave behind.
I pressed my fingers into her back. Rubbed at her energy. Yellow. Dim. Glow-in-the-dark.
I asked her to hold her gaze into my left eye for two minutes. I needed time to untwist the tether of her mind. 52 seconds, I taste salt. One minute 7 seconds, she drips fourteen yesterdays. One minute seventeen seconds, I see why she flinched when I touched her chest. One minute thirty one seconds and I feel what she feels. One minute forty nine seconds and I see green and owls and can taste the elephant in her.
Two minutes and I ask her what that led her to see or feel.
She smiles and I want to be homeless. She smiles and I want to be homeless so that I can beg her for the shelter that lives inside her smile.
I can’t…I can’t speak, she said.
Her face is contagious. I tell her to pause.
A poet walks on stage and she tells me that he is her friend. We watch and my knee touches hers and her shoulder leans against my forearm and all this touching should never have to end. Should never have to be named.
After our palms become instruments to honor the poems left on stage, she turns to me. I let her move my hair, which is far longer than hers but more masculine.
She whispers: Cement. I felt and saw cement.
I laugh because this is what I do. I touch people. I heal. I read. But I’ve never heard this before. I want her to clarify, but I also just want to leave that word alone.
It is getting noisier, but our pitch remains the same. We are now reading each other’s lips. Hers are small and she bites down on the bottom as though she is reeling it in like something she has just caught. Her teeth are crooked and charming. I whisper into her left ear a paragraph from Fear and Loathing. I ask her what she has memorized. When she leans in and presses her breath up against my hair and neck, she softly slurs: my name.
When midnight arrives, the chairs are put away and the lights tell us it is time to go home. I ask her to drink tequila with me because earlier she called this the liquid that causes her self to be left behind. We walk across the street and drink it on ice with sour mix. We both leave our straws behind as I hand her my passport and go page by page, reading out each stamp. She listens, creating poems in her head that I’m sure will be read on tomorrow’s stage. I want to kiss her but I am indelicate with my mouth and instead I press my chest to hers and we embrace. Tomorrow, her palms will be hungover and I will wonder about the three identities I located inside her. I will try to place the name of the forest her smell reminds me of while finding the remains of her salt still swimming in my skin.