The Wall of Handprints

i stare at my hands a lot.

it’s an old and admittedly annoying habit of mine. every spare minute of the day, i’m staring at them.

you would think that i would have some philosophical sort of explanation as to why I do this but I don’t-

it simply budded off from biting my fingernails raw when i was little; as i grew up, i decided that that was a disgusting thing to do to myself and i quit it, cold turkey- switching it instead for the less self-deteriorating act of staring. 

it’s simple, really. starts from-

my fingernails, 

 palm lines, 

the wrinkles at my knuckles, 

the dot-sized mole on my pinky finger. 


staring at them has made me realise that having hands like mine is the truest form of a blessing. 

hands that do not tremble, 

hands that do not sweat. 

maybe this realisation came to me when I saw an old man in ripped winter clothes, sitting on the curb, shaking his coin box asking for more- only, his feet were clasped around the box. 

no hands. no thumb, no index, middle, ring or little finger. no palms, or wrinkles or foldings. how does he live?


the earliest memory that i have of my hands is probably the wall of handprints in kindergarten. I’d dipped my palm into vibrant red paint and had placed it against a white wall. in the sea of handprints of other kindergarteners, i still knew where mine was. despite there being other red ones, i still believed that mine stood out the most.

i still knew what mine were capable of.


all of these years, my hands have held a completely different meaning to me. they were far more meaningful than the common taking-out the trash or holding someone else’s hand.

my hands were meant to play instruments. whether it be a guitar, a piano, a needle, a pen, or a scalpel. my hands were my instruments. they were what defined me. 

i was the creases on my fore-finger and its wonky little nail. 

i was the palm-line running from the space between the index and the middle finger, fading into my wrist. 

i was the visible bones of my knuckles.


i speak in past tense because my opinions had changed. things changed for the worst in the past month and in a moment of self-doubt, i lost all possible understanding. 

i stopped staring at my hands.


for eighteen years, these hands have been the centre around which my life revolves but suddenly, they seemed useless to me. i google “acupressure points on the palm” and stimulate the life out of it, hoping that maybe i would realise what they were meant for again. 

but in my head, the palm lines had already begun to disappear.


in that moment of self-doubt, i asked myself if my hands were meant for something else, something other than performing sutures or a solo piano piece. I sing, I write, I draw, I speak, I run. but none of these prove to be good enough for my hands. 


in that moment of self-doubt, i asked myself:

if not for my hands, what am i? who am I? am I destined to sit at a desk, typing on a computer for hours on end? or am I destined to stand in an OR, cutting up a human body for hours on end?


in that moment of self-doubt, i think of the wall of handprints. I think of a particular red one on the lower wall and i think to myself, ‘its amazing how I still remember where it is‘. 


in that moment of self-doubt, i think that maybe, just maybe my hands really were my instruments, meant to play other instruments- musically or medically. 

so, I stare at my hands. I stare at 

my fingernails, 

my palm lines, 

the wrinkles at my knuckles, 

the dot-sized mole on my pinky finger. 


because old habits die hard.

[ i do not own the picture ]

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2 thoughts on “The Wall of Handprints

  1. I’ve missed reading your posts, you’re one of the few people who can write about simple things so eloquently. Your hands may be made to cut and craft and create, but your head’s capable of making magic.

    Liked by 1 person

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