On Hands

When I walk by a pretty girl, I look at her face. If she looks back, I usually look away furtively. Don’t want to get caught looking now. I’ve been trying to get in the habit of maintaining my red-handed glance, smiling and saying hello. The times I’ve done it, it’s worked wonderfully to a warm response.

I’ve never done the male look-back-at-her-ass-after-she-passes-by move. I mean, that’s just sleazy. And I don’t look a woman up and down either. I just look at the face. It’s all in the face for walk-by encounters, isn’t it? To see that smile that makes your whole day?

But I’ve noticed that looking at someone’s face as you pass by is not a very reliable indicator. Me personally, I sport a mean, unfriendly, insulated look when I walk places. Expressionless and cold. It’s not that I’m doing it on purpose. I just naturally do it. A lot of other people are busy in their own thoughts, worried about something, distracted.

I’ve been finding it more interesting to look at peoples’ hands. What are they holding? Do they wear a ring or rings? Wedding rings? Are they holding a box? A piece of paper? A bag? Some people like to play with things in their hands while they walk, and it’s almost always a personal item to them. Other people spend countless dollars manicuring their nails. Others fidget with their fingers, peeling their hangnails or cracking their knuckles.

People are much better at controlling the emotions of the face than the emotions of other body parts. Since people assume their faces are being inspected, they try to keep it dead-pan. Like in no-limit hold ’em, it’s better to look at posture, or even the hands, in order to discover the clues to someone’s pocket cards. Peoples’ hands shake, or their hands tighten or release objects. Or they sweat and don’t move at all.

On the street or in an airport, I look at peoples’ hands now. You can see what’s on their mind, whether they have a sense of urgency or not. You can tell if they’re a threat, if they’re confident or unsure.

Walking down the street, trying to play it cool. Quick glance upwards away from the pavement in front of me shows a gorgeous woman coming my way. Look at her face, observe the character built into the features and wrinkles of her visage, thin-slice and intuit her temperament through brief one-frame-per-millisecond facial expressions. She’s caught my eye — look away furtively. Don’t want to get caught looking now. Or should I? Last time I smiled and held eye contact as I walked by, the young woman’s posture and expression warmed up to me like sunlight on a cold, wintry day. It was one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on a woman.

Never done the whole male look-back-at-her-ass-after-she-passes-by move. Seems fucking sleazy to me. Seen guys try it though. Must be trying to impress their buddies. Had a guy do it to my girlfriend right in front of me. When I was younger and less fiery. (yes, less fiery) Never looked a woman up and down either. Just look at her face. That’s the only part that really counts. The rest of the body is for show. Her smile can light up my day. Is she paying attention to me? Will she say, “Hi” in a bashful, shy manner? The face is the door to a woman. Or is it?

I should get caught in red-handed glances more often. I can get away with it. Not that it’s a crime. But the mischievousness feels like it when the woman and I share that partnership of curious smiles.

Been to Iraq, been on patrols. Been through some training. Learned that the face, my door to another’s personality, is not as practical to pay attention to or as interesting as looking at the hands. The face can hide things if its owner only slightly tries — my faceless demeanor being a perfect example. What good is a twenty-four hour poker face? What good is being cold, expressionless? I’m not an emotive person. I don’t change facial expressions a lot. I often have a monotone.

Other people do it too. On the subway. Or in line. They turn off their faces and tinker and putter away deep within themselves, thinking of things they have to do, secret desires yet unleashed, guilt and worries they do not want the world to know about. The face becomes a veneer. Defusing that veneer with a smile is pleasurable, but what if they refuse to submit to guile? As babies we looked at our parents’ faces and fed off their expressions. We knew when something wasn’t quite right. As we get older, we learn to pay attention to other body tics and signs.

But the hands stay constant. They are our interface to the world. Our direct interaction with physicality.

The hands rarely lie their intent except by the most practiced and trained. Is she holding a letter? Who’s it from? Does she have a ring, two rings? Multiple rings? Bachelor-repellent rings? Does she have something in her hand to fidget with? Does she spend time and money on manicures? Does she pull her hangnails, chew her nails? Does she have soft, gentle hands? Are the hands moving agitatedly or are they being restrained against the body? Do they curl, clench?

Is that Iraqi on the street fidgeting underneath his jacket because he’s nervous, because he’s about to run into a crowd with an explosive belt on? If that woman wearing a business suit in the airport is holding a book, what kind of book is it that she chose to read? Does she carry it in her hand to subconsciously show that she reads or because she’s that dedicated to reading? Is that man’s hands shaking as he pushes his chips into the pot because he’s nervous about bluffing or about concealing a good hand? Old men’s hands shake while the rest of their bodies may not.

Hands show true intentions in all but the most disciplined people. The face is a magician’s diversion.