For A Man With Hands I Know

FOR A MAN WITH HANDS I KNOW
BJ Crisostomo

Hold the skin of cat’s forehead.
Make a cross incision with your scalpel.
Clip.
Snap.
-Cat Anatomy, Dissection Manual

I feel like a cat— a cat on a metal bed.

You stand by the phone, a man I don’t really know, with rough and shaking hands. You look at me and smile— a sad knowing smile of sorts. “Hi,” I try to say but you walk towards me, and the sound of your footsteps sound like thunder against my throbbing baby ears. “Ahr you u-k?” you stoop down to whisper, actually a shout more than a whisper, with an accent I’ve only heard in TV. I want to answer. I really do but my lips no longer move and my tongue sleeps content in my mouth. I’m sorry. Then I notice that your hands are quick to shiver as you carefully pull the skin of my face down to my chin. I feel like a cat— a cat on a metal bed.

Again you smile, but this time a tear slowly follows down to your beard. You’re a sad man aren’t you? “No matter. Don’t think about it too much,” I try to say but words swell like apples inside my throat.

Now you go through your little chores: stand and check the video camera propped in front of me, look out the windows and check the phone. Never forget the phone. Like a little bee, you move. Buzz. Buzz. Your hands still shaking, I see you sit to a stoop. Then…

You cry.

“Don’t cry,” I again try to say. Please don’t cry.

I know your hands so well, I think. Your hands are the only hands I know so well. They are big and calloused here and there. A scar lays somewhere by the pinky. Your burnt and pink enormous pinky, I remember. Those hands I know so well were held above my forehead just moments ago. Just moments ago, I heard a clip, and a snap. And finally I saw the shadow of my face being pulled down like a Halloween mask. The spectacular thing is there is no blood, and no pain. So it’s ok, I think. I would have thought there would be blood and pain to this face-pulling business.

A ring, thundering volcanic ring, stops everything in the room. For a moment, this black little room with newspaper-covered windows and doors falls silent. The phone! You answer it and slam it down.
“It’s ok,” I try to say in my mind. This time I smile at you but I don’t know if my smile still looks like a smile with my face hanging by my throat.

I know your hands so well, the hands of a man who I’ve seen hold guns in TV. Your hands held guns against my brothers and fathers in the jungles of Mindanao. You held guns for something I don’t fully know. Use me, a boy of fourteen. Use me like a cat with skin you can pull down, but never hold your gun again.

Remember man, with hands I know so well: for you, I’m just a cat on a metal bed.

(499 words)

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