I’ve seen a lot of boys with dirt under their fingernails. Dirt made of grease and shit and flaky skin. Dirt made of blood and gravel and the wetness of some girl.
I never much liked those boys. I didn’t want those fingernails anywhere near me. I feared I’d catch something, or worse, that the dirt would end up smeared across my skirt. I didn’t dare think about the state of their beards, their hair. What was crawling there (surely), was bound to have several legs and bodies you could see straight through. Just thinking about it, I can see their insides, the milky white of their bellies and the coffee with cream shade of their brains. Intelligent little things that could very easily see the benefit of jumping ship from this dirty boy onto me where my perfume smells slightly of lilacs and my teeth are filled with fruit.
So I would keep my distance from these boys. Keep my glance down and my hands in my pockets. Be sure to cover any small razor nicks on my knees.
Until I saw you sitting on a sidewalk, that is. In the city all alone, you sat back against a pile of books outside of a bookstore. There were tattoos on your arms and there, of course, was the dirt under your fingernails.
I began to turn my head but something pulled me back to you. I paused and began scanning (not truly looking, not registering) the titles lined up on the concrete. I pick a large hardcover. It’s Whitman and I flip to page 104. I read a line on the page and then the ones on your face. They’re similarly interesting and poetic so I say hello, ask if you like Whitman, because he’s pressed against my chest now.
Days later, you are running your hands along the curves of my spine and I grab your wrists, kiss them, and then plant my lips against the pad of each of your fingertips. You run them through my hair and I feel the rough brush of your beard on my neck so I know your ear must be close to my mouth now. My eyes are closed when I whisper that I love a man who knows how to use his hands.
And you do. With them, you plant us a garden and chop garlic. You wipe my hair from my face in bed and you pull my hips closer to you. You squeeze lemons and limes into my liquor, you pull weeds.
Suddenly there are callouses on on your palms that look like diamonds to me, mined from hard work, and they shine brighter from knowing where they’ve come from, and from thinking of all the places they’ve yet to leave their mark.
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