If I could not touch, could I be touched?

This morning I lay in bed, looking at my hand. I extend the web, I turn it over, I hold it up to the sky. It is tanned and fleshy and the freshly laundered sheets are very white again.

I grind coffee beans with my hand mill. I put the spoon into the bowl, then into the front of my mouth, pulling it away as the food settles on my tongue. I steady the coffee mug with two hands, bringing it up to my mouth. I pick up and move out of the sun a bucket smelling of sea water. I roll the pencil between my fingers, look at it intently, press my thumb and forefinger into the yellow flesh, and watch the pencil make delicate and not so delicate marks on the page.

What would it be like not to have a hand? Not to have two? Without a hand, I could not pull the Zen bow tautly back into its home. I could not squeeze my bicycle brakes before a car crushes me with my knee caps. I could not take simple joy in smoothing loose strands of hair out of my face, putting them back behind my ears. I could not touch a woman’s arm, her shoulder blades, the side of her cheek just so. I could not touch. And if I could not touch, could I be touched?

Could I live without a hand?

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